Sweetest victory; Auburn's Brad Sweet earns biggest win in Placerville Civil War PLACERVILLE, CA 7-31-04 - Although he won a feature event in Marysville last season, 18-year-old Brad Sweet has been awaiting the day he could visit victory lane at the track he calls home, Placerville Speedway. Saturday night the Auburn resident achieved his goal in a very big way. Not only did Sweet score a win at his favorite track, he did it during one of the biggest races of the season and held off a pack of talented colleagues to earn it. Climbing from his #83v owned by David and Debbie Vertullo of Elk Grove, Sweet threw his arms in air and screamed in celebration to the capacity crowd that was on its feet screaming as well in one of the most emotional, energetic victory lane celebrations in recent history at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.
"I can't find the words to describe how this feels right now, I am almost speechless because this feels so awesome to finally be standing here doing this," said Sweet. "I have to thank the Vertullo's for giving me the opportunity to drive this car this year, my crew chief Larry Shelton, my parents and everyone involved with this team and especially all these fans that stayed to cheer for me like this. This feels so incredible."
After graduating from dirt go karts approximately three years ago, Sweet previously piloted cars fielded by both veteran driver Duane Scott and his his father Don before signing with the Vertullo camp earlier this season. After a few weeks of adjusting to the new ride as well as learning to communicate with one of the sports best crew chiefs in the sport (Shelton), the last month has been one of great improvement for Sweet. Saturday was no exception from the first green flag of the evening.
In qualifying, Sweet turned a time of 10:657 good enough for fourth quick behind fast qualifier Chuck Gurney Jr. of Livermore who clocked a 10:502. Following a third place finish in his heat race, a straight up inversion for the A-Feature resulted with a second place starting position outside of Gurney for the 30-lap event. Gurney was by far not the only force Sweet was faced to contend with at the green flag. Starting in third was Sweet's employer, Mr. Excitement Andy Forsberg of Auburn who won the B-main event to transfer into the second row along with Trulli while the next two rows held the likes of Greg DeCaires, Billy Wallace and Ray Rust.
The waving of the green flag saw Sweet power off the top of the track and dive low into the lead ahead of Gurney in a bold move that virtually set the stage for one of the most intense battles at Placerville all season as Forsberg and Trulli jumped into the mix. As early as the fifth lap those following Sweet were awaiting an error by the leader as he entered lapped traffic, an expectation that simply never occurred. With very few caution periods, Sweet sliced and diced his way through lapped traffic with both Gurney and Forsberg in tow. Gurney, driving the Brian Sperry owned #51, repeatedly made effort to pass Sweet on both the high side and the low side of the track, pulling beside him several times with little success.
Meanwhile the game of cat and mouse continued one position back as Forsberg, piloting the Family Auto Service #98, put the moves on Gurney lap after lap . For the first 29 laps of the event, the top three drivers kept the fans on the edge of their seats in the near capacity filled grandstand. As the white flag waved the final set of turns saw Sweet become trapped in traffic behind point leader David Robinson Jr. as Gurney and Forsberg slipped down low and began to pass for the lead just as Robinson jumped the cushion of the track and flipped over the draw a red flag rather than a checkered. "I can't believe this, that flag saved me" said Sweet from the cockpit from his car while waiting for the restart that would ultimately award him the pole position again for the final dash to the finish. "I went in there behind Powerfeed (Robinson) and when he caught the cushion In lost the lead. That flag saved the lead for me."
Once Robinson's latest display of hard luck was cleared from the surface and he returned to the two-lap race, the battle was far from over for Sweet, a driver who is often teased by his colleague for his height. At the green flag the two lap sprint to the finish became a game of "get shorty" for both Gurney and Forsberg and both drivers gave it their all. Gurney nearly passed Sweet with a low line pass on the green flag lap until Forsberg dropped the hammer in the final set of turns to overtake Gurney and make one final swing at Sweet to the line where Sweet finished ahead of Forsberg, Gurney, Stephen Allard, Trulli, Ray Rust and Billy Wallace.
"I had no idea what they were going to do on those last laps," said Sweet. "I knew Gurney was fast down low and had him covered but it was Andy I was worried about. He is always fast here and he can usually run high and low. Since he almost took the lead at that red flag I was pretty stressed out there. This was by far the toughest race I have ever driven." After finishing second, Forsberg announced he would return to Placerville next week with the #98 team for regular point racing and tipped his cap to his employee and racing colleague Sweet for his success.
"Well, he's a good employee for me and I can't really fire him or deduct from his pay for beating me. But I know one thing, I better bring some ear plugs to work with me on Monday because I'm sure he's going to be reminding me about this one all day long, he drove a great race and I'm happy for him though. " said Forsberg. "We had a great run tonight, this track was different, it was tacky in spot, slick in others and kind of a rough and tumble deal. It was hard to predict but we gave it our best and are happy to be here."
Point leader Robinson recovered from his crash to finish 14th Saturday. Other notable advances include defending champion Mike Henry who was penalized at the start for a late arrival to the grid. Henry then drove from the 22nd position to finish eighth. Second place point runner Mark Hall placed 11th to gain a trio of points on Robinson towards the title. The next Civil War event is Wednesday, September 8 with the big Pacific Sprint Cup Invitational at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico.