BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Feb. 14, 2014 - In a race where three drivers exchanged the lead five times, it was Brad Sweet who led the final two laps to win the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season opener during the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
Paul McMahan was in contention for the victory much of the night, but Sweet was able to drive to the front late, relegating McMahan to a runner-up finish. Kerry Madsen pushed to a late-race third-place finish while Tim Shaffer, who led 26 of the 30 laps before fading late, and Dale Blaney rounded out the top five.
Dash winner Shaffer jumped out to the early lead after starting on the pole. Behind Shaffer the battle was for second between McMahan and Sweet. McMahan held the position for two laps when Sweet took the spot. Sweet held the position for six more laps before McMahan took it back.
McMahan pushed forward and caught Shaffer on lap 15. Two laps later McMahan made the pass for the lead. Seconds later the lone caution of the feature flew for a spin in turn three. McMahan chose to restart on the bottom with Shaffer on top.
On the restart Shaffer used the momentum on the top side of the racetrack to take the lead back in turn one. Shaffer gained a small lead while Sweet got around McMahan with Sweet powering around the top and McMahan patiently working the bottom of the track.
Shaffer's lead began fading on lap 22 with Sweet, McMahan and Madsen slowly reeling him in. Shaffer's lead continued to dwindle and on lap 26 as McMahan slid past Sweet for second, then made his move to lead lap 28. The lead did not last long as the top four were separated by less than a straightaway. Going into turn one Sweet and SureTestSupplies.com Kasey Kahne Racing #49 made the move and took the lead for the fifth and final lead change.
Sweet held the lead and took the checkered flag for night one of the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series season, replicating his teammate Daryn Pittman's effort in 2013 after rejoining the tour full time.
"We made a lot of improvements from last night and it showed," said the Grass Valley, Calif., native Sweet. "The bottom was a little better, but if you got too close behind a car you got bad air and it would take away the nose. That's what happened getting into one with Tim and I about hit the wall. I knew I had one more chance and Paul [McMahan] snuck up on me, but I never gave up on the top. We got lucky the bottom gave up a little and we were able to bring it home."
McMahan ran second much of the race and after a late race battle with Shaffer and Sweet, that's where the CJB Motorsports car finished for the second night in a row at Volusia Speedway Park.
"It was a solid run for us and it was a hell of a race," said the Nashville, Tenn., resident. "The laps wound down too fast for us. We ran him back down, but Sweet got under the checkered flag first. I got on the bottom, and that's where I made up all my ground when I started running him back down.
McMahan knows it wasn't a perfect race, "It was my own mistake on the restart trying to run the bottom. I should have got up on the top to get the car to turn left. Driver error cost us the race tonight."
Heat race winner, Madsen, moved past Shaffer for the third position on lap 28 to earn the final podium position for the American Racing Custom Wheels /Keneric Racing #29.
"I had a ball," admitted the St. Mary's, N.S.W., native. "Tyler Swank gave me an unbelievable race car. It was so much fun to drive. I just thought at some point I was going to sneak past them, but it just never happened. Honestly we're excited and we hope we can keep this momentum swinging."
Shaffer held on for a fourth place finish after fading late in the race while Blaney ultimately finished the event in his starting position of fifth place.
Sweet leaves the event with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championship lead with Madsen in second after earning four qualifying bonus points. Paul McMahan holds third place after opening night in the championship standings.
2013 World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Champion Daryn Pittman finished the event seventh while five-time champ Donny Schatz finished 12th after transferring through the Last Chance Showdown.
Steve Kinser kicked off his "Salute to the King" Tour with an 11th place finish.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to the Volusia Speedway Park tomorrow for the second night of the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment alongside the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds. Grandstands open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7:30.