SWEET TURNS THE TABLE ON POOR QUALIFYING RUN TO CAPTURE KINGS ROYAL
Wins Heat from Deep in the Field then Dominates 40-lap Finale; Long Takes NRA Crown
ROSSBURG, OH (July 13, 2013) — Brad Sweet has been knocking on the door multiple times this season at Eldora Speedway with strong early race leads that ultimately resulted in let downs and disappointing finishes, but Saturday night that was put way behind him, as a solid 40-lap run netted him the biggest win of his career. Brad Sweet accomplished what only 15 other drivers have done over the past 30 years; he captured a Kings Royal Crown and a $50,000 pay check. After a lengthy drought, Darren Long remembgered how to get around Eldora to win the companion K&L Ready Mix National Racing Alliance Sprint Invaders feature.
In victory lane, Sweet revealed his secret. “You run every lap like a qualifying lap pretty much,” he said. And it was that revelation that provided bold and daring moves throughout the 40-lap chase around Eldora’s famed .500-mile clay oval.
Sweet, though, picked up the pace for one of dirt racing’s winged Sprint Car crown jewel events. His night started by qualifying 35th and blowing an engine. He ended it by kneeling down to have the coveted Kings Royal crown placed atop his head by Royal Sovereign Charlie Fiahser and climbing those three steps to claim his spot on the oversized throne as king of the winged Sprint Car world.
“Those were the longest 15 laps. That’s a long heat race, basically, so I was just counting them down,” Sweet said. “I knew if I got out in clean air I could pull away because my car felt really good. As long as I didn’t mess up I wasn’t going to put myself in jeopardy of getting passed.
“To win the Kings Royal after being 35th quick and with a blown engine is a testament to my crew. To be able to come from sixth in my heat to win it, it’s not unheard of, but it’s definitely doing something here.”
Sweet, who started on the outside of Row 1 alongside Brandon Wimmer, jumped out front on the green flag and rode high on the cushion along the intimidating concrete walls. He caught up to lapped traffic six circuits into the race, but couldn’t shake Brandon Wimmer and Schatz. They made it a thrilling three-wide race with 11 laps complete, but no one had enough to slip past Sweet.
The field bunched up behind the leaders on lap 16 when track owner Tony Stewart flipped after making contact with teammate Steve Kinser coming out of Turn 4. Stewart wasn’t hurt but his car was done. Sweet picked the high line on the restart and held off a furious challenge from Schatz as Kaeding and Wimmer staged an equally action-packed battle behind them for third.
Sweet eventually increased his lead to 2.5 seconds over Schatz, but that was erased with a second red flag stoppage when Paul McMahan and Chad Kemenah tangled on lap 25. This time Sweet picked the low line and had an easier time holding off Schatz.
“Those double-file restarts made me really nervous. It’s pretty unbelievable. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Sweet said. “I felt like Donny had me beat on the first restart, he just didn’t realize it. … He had me beat and my engine wasn’t taking off that great really. I felt like I could control my destiny better if I restarted on the bottom. That way if Donny was side-by-side with me I could slide up in front of him.”
A final caution came on the restart, forcing a single-file restart. That helped Sweet stay out front for good. He quickly extended his lead to 1.3 seconds over Schatz (the length of a turn). Schatz, meanwhile, had his hands full keeping Kaeding from slipping past him. Kaeding finally pulled it off with a slide job on the final lap coming out of Turns 3-4 to claim second.
“Brad’s from California and I’m from Cali, so let’s keep it that way,” Kaeding said. “I wish it was the other way around but congratulations to Brad. I was kind of hoping these guys would start pulling off slide jobs on each other. It didn’t happen. It’s great to run second here.”
Schatz, Wimmer and Jac Haudenschild rounded out the top five. Kraig Kinser, Kerry Madsen, Steve Kinser, David Gravel and Dale Blaney made up the top 10. By making it into the feature, Steve Kinser became the only driver to qualify for all 30 Kings Royal races.
“A good night would have been a Kings Royal victory,” Schatz said. “Brad was just a little bit better than us. We had a third place finish tonight and we’ll have to rebound from that. Our car was a little bit better at the beginning than it was the end. That’s typically opposite of what it usually is. That caught us off guard a little bit. We’ll learn from our mistakes.”
Paul McMahan set fast time in the two-lap qualifying session. He turned the quickest lap in 13.131 seconds (137 mph) to edge Joey Saldana’s 13.210. Dale Blaney, Joey Saldana, Donny Schatz, Tim Kaeding, Brad Sweet and Brandon Wimmer won heat races. Sammy Swindell won the Last Chance B-Main and was followed by Danny Holtgraver, Shane Stewart and Greg Wilson as the final four drivers to qualify for the Kings Royal.
In Sprint Invaders feature, Long ended a drought at Eldora with his first victory since Oct. 3, 2009. It was his ninth 360 sprint victory overall.
He wrestled the lead away from Kyle Sauder after the duo traded a pair of crowd-pleasing slide jobs with nine laps complete, then drag raced to the start/finish line. Long bravely guided his car to the line for first, then set sail for the final 16 laps. He established a lead of 0.946 seconds in span of two laps and stretched it to a winning margin of 4.885 seconds.
“Wow. We’ve been struggling a little bit, the last three years actually. We had a win at Plymouth, Indiana, a couple months ago which I thought was really big but this takes the cake by far with all the fans out here,” Long said. “What an awesome car my crew gave me.”
Long piloted his ride high around Eldora’s intimidating banks and easily dispatched traffic, much of which went low out of his way. Sauder, who led the first nine laps, settled for second. Randy Hannagan, who set quick time in qualifying with a lap of 14.603 seconds, finished third. Dustin Daggett and Robbie Stillwaggon rounded out the top five.
A caution after nine laps complete bunched up the field behind race-leader Sauder. A wing adjustment also helped Long chase down Sauder.
“I pulled the wing back about another two inches and it locked the car down,” Long said. “I could tell it was really good on the initial start. The rest was up to me at that point because I had to screw up to lose the race.
“I gotta tell you right now my legs are shaking a little bit because I pretty much had the hammer down and the pedal on the floor so I got a little quiver in my legs. Sprint car fans are awesome. Just for being a 360 racer and getting to run in front of the Outlaws guys tonight, it may be the biggest win I have in my career. I thank you all for coming out, I hope you have a great time and don’t forget you have to go to work Monday morning.”
Eldora Speedway returns to action July 23-24 for the inaugural Mudsummer Classic featuring the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Complete event information may be obtained by visiting the track’s website www.EldoraSpeedway.com, or by calling the speedway office at (937) 338-3815. Additionally, race fans and race teams can get behind-the-scenes access by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, hitting ‘Like’ at Facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and view video highlights at YouTube.com/EldoraSpeedwayInc. The new Eldora Speedway app for the iPhone, iPad and Android is now available for download via iTunes and Google Play.