Who can challenge Brad Sweet for the WoO Sprints title?

Brad Sweet

Brad Sweet and his Kasey Kahne Racing team have won the last four World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championships. It has been a remarkable run for the No. 49 machine and its crew. But as dominating as winning that many consecutive titles may sound, none of those championships have been earned in blowout fashion. There has always been at least one driver nipping at the heels of the Grass Valley, California driver over each of those four campaigns.

The largest margin of victory in the final standings achieved by Sweet since his run began four years ago came in 2021 when he topped David Gravel by 80 points. The 37-year-old pilot captured his first title by besting Donny Schatz by a mere 4 points in 2019. He topped Logan Schuchart by 46 in 2020 and Gravel again last season by 48 markers.

Sweet has compiled a very impressive total of 79 career feature wins with five of those victories coming in 2022. Equally impressive and vital to his success in the standings each year has been the way this veteran racer has piled up top-5 and top-10 finishes on his way to those titles. Even the KKR team’s “bad” nights are not actually that bad.

Taking all of that information into consideration, one has to wonder who the strongest challenges to Sweet’s attempt to hoist another trophy will be in 2023.

Anyone who plans to challenge Sweet’s supremacy in the WoO standings will have to combat his amazing consistency. Over the past four seasons, the former winner of both the Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville(IA) Raceway and the King’s Royal at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway has finished inside the top-5 in an astounding 63% of the races entered while coming home in the top-10 a mind-blowing 86% of the time.

Beating out Sweet will not be easy if that same type of consistency remains in place. That said, the first two nights of competition earlier this month held at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park did not go as well as the KKR No. 49 team would have liked. Only one top-10 finish(6th on the first night) was forthcoming leaving the defending champion 10th in the overall standings at this extremely early stage of the season.

If any are to dethrone Sweet in 2023, who are the most likely challengers?

David Gravel

David Gravel: The first name likely to come to mind for followers of this form of motorsports is that of David Gravel. The driver of the Big Game Motorsports No. 2 car certainly got off to the start a serious championship contender would want by winning both features held at Volusia to place himself at the top of the series standings at this early point in the new campaign.

The 30-year-old driver has demonstrated that he can produce the type of results necessary to contend for a championship. The Watertown, Connecticut racer has claimed 76 career feature winning trophies. Furthermore, Gravel has finished second in the standings behind Sweet in each of the past two WoO Sprints seasons.

Like his championship rival, Gravel has shown the ability to amass good finishes. In the 69 events contested in 2022, the No. 2 machine scored seven wins along with 39 top-5 and 60 top-10 results. That kind of performance and more will be needed if Gravel is to seriously threaten Sweet’s position on the top of the heap.

Carson Macedo

Carson Macedo: The winningest driver in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in 2022 was Carson Macedo. The Johnson Dietz Racing No. 41 ended their night in victory lane on 11 occasions during the most recent season. Their 37 top-5s and 55 top-10 efforts were good enough for a 3rd place result in last year’s final standings.

The 26-year-old driver has been a constant contender for the past several seasons and will almost certainly continue that in 2023. Macedo can definitely win races evidenced by the fact that he has scored 28 career victories at this level. The challenge will be to minimize failures and to match or exceed the number of top-5 and top-10s of Sweet, Gravel and the other title hopefuls. He did finish the two early season Volusia races in the top-10 which has him currently placed 5th in the standings.

The Lemoore, California native has finished out the last two seasons in the third position of the final standings. Can Carson Macedo step up and be a serious contender for a championship at season’s end?

Logan Schuchart

Logan Schuchart: Perhaps the team that showed the greatest amount of overall improvement in 2022 was Shark Racing as both drivers Logan Schuchart and teammate Jacob Allen proved themselves to be serious threats to win feature races throughout the campaign. But it is the driver of the No. 1s who has proven himself to be more of a championship threat during his career having placed second in the standings back in 2020.

The 30-year-old earned five wins along with 26 top-5 results and 44 top-10s in 2022. Schuchart has been a steady winner over the past few seasons, but his number of top-5s and top-10s will need to improve if he is to step up as a title contender. And he did get off on the right foot in terms of doing exactly that on the first weekend of the season at Volusia where he earned a pair of top-5 finishes.

The Hanover, Pennsylvania driver is no stranger to victory lane having earned 35 career WoO wins over the course of his career. But there is more to contending for a championship than just winning features. This team made great strides in 2022 and if that continues they could go to the World Finals in Charlotte with a chance for season-ending glory.

Sheldon Haudenschild

Sheldon Haudenschild: Easily one of the most exciting drivers to watch on any race track is Sheldon Haudenschild. This is a driver who can win features. At the same time, his highest finish in the final WoO standings has been a fourth back in 2020. There’s no doubt the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing team can frequently produce speed.

The 29-year-old driver has won 31 WoO races during his career. But there have been times of inconsistency over the course of his career. A top-5 and an additional top-10 were the results posted at Volusia to begin the campaign which could serve as a good sign for this operation.

The Wooster, Ohio driver and his team have the potential win numerous races, as they have shown. But as said with every other driver on this list, it isn’t just feature wins that earn championships. If Haudenschild is to contend for the WoO title, more consistency is essential. His 30 top-5s and 50 top-10s compiled in 2022 will need to increase in order for the No. 17 team to have a shot a upending Sweet and the other contenders.

Donny Schatz

Donny Schatz: How can there be a conversation about contenders to win a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series title that does not include a 10-time champion?

Despite the ending of his run of championships, Donny Schatz has not just simply faded away into the recesses of racing history. Since losing out to Sweet by just four points in 2019, he has not finished outside the top-4 in points in any of the past four seasons. Last year, the Tony Stewart Racing No. 15 went to victory lane five times and also scored 28 top-5s and 55 top-10 results.

The legendary racer from North Dakota who has amassed over 300 WoO wins knows better than anyone how to earn a championship trophy. At the end of last season, Schatz was running very well as he showed by winning on the tour’s final weekend in the World Finals at The Dirt Track in Charlotte. However, a couple of poor finishes to start the year at Volusia have him currently buried deep in the standings.

All that said, the 45-year-old driver pilots a car for one of the best teams in the sport and he has the experience and skill as a driver. Those factors make him an obvious contender for an eleventh title.

Will Brad Sweet make it five World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championships in a row? Will one of the drivers mentioned above or even another contender such a Jacob Allen, Buddy Kofoid, or James McFadden rise up to unseat the current king of the hill? It is a long season with much still to play out.

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