CONCORD, N.C. — The most grueling campaign in motorsports concluded earlier this month as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series wrapped up a 74-race schedule.
From Florida in February to North Carolina in November, with two west coast trips, plenty of Pennsylvania weekends, and all sorts of Midwestern fun in between, traveling up and down the road with The Greatest Show on Dirt isn’t for the faint of heart.
A total of 380 competitors raced with the series in 2022 with 18 finding victory lane – 13 on multiple occasions, nearly a record. The series sanctioned four, six-figure paydays from Huset’s (S.D.) Speedway ($100,000), Eldora (Ohio) Speedway ($100,000 & $175,000), and Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway ($175,000) with a million-dollar points fund to top it all off.
Brad Sweet was the champion for the fourth consecutive year, but it still came down to the final race in a season-long title fight with perennial contender, David Gravel. There were new winners, familiar faces, and intense action all year long, so let’s look back on the 2022 season.
ROAR FOR FOUR
Although it came down to the final race for the second time in four years, Brad Sweet still completed his chase for a fourth consecutive World of Outlaws championship – moving him past Sammy Swindell for the third-most titles in Series history. It was a much different path to the $200,000 points triumph this year compared to 2019-21, as “The Big Cat” only collected five wins and utilized the consistency of a 5.87 average finish to grab the trophy.
Victories included in the series’ debut at New Mexico’s Vado Speedway Park, a Williams Grove Speedway breakthrough in his 53rd start, a first-career Ironman 55 title, a return to the top at River Cities (N.D.) Speedway, and his maiden score at Sharon Speedway. Beyond the glory was the trials and tribulations that were overcome in 2022, making this hard-fought 48-point war over David Gravel a bit more special.
The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 visited the work area more than ever this year, but with Eric Prutzman, Joe Mooney, and Andrew Bowman on call, they sent the Grass Valley, Calif. native back out almost every single time. There was a brutal week at Huset’s Speedway – going through three cars in four nights – and of course the rear axle at the National Open, which ended their streak of 166 races and 5,000-plus consecutive laps completed.
In the end, the calm, cool, and collected attitude of the Mooresville, N.C. dynasty paid off with runs of third, third, and fifth at the World Finals to fend off a last-minute charge from Gravel. The roar for four is complete, and the drive for five is next.
Brad Sweet in victory lane at River Cities Speedway. (Trent Gower photo)
CLOSER THAN EVER
While Sweet won it for the fourth-straight year, it was also the fourth-straight year that the championship was decided by less than 100 points – something that has never happened in the history of the World of Outlaws. Along with that, the championship podium – Sweet’s Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49, Gravel’s Big Game Motorsports No. 2, and Carson Macedo’s Jason Johnson Racing No. 41 – remained the exact same in back-to-back seasons for only the fourth time in history.
For Gravel, the Watertown, Conn. native used a sensational October (3.6 AVG) to cut the points deficit and set himself up for a chance entering World Finals. He started the season strong with a DIRTcar Nationals title and held the points lead through March, but a DNF at Bakersfield took it away from him. The Tod-Quiring owned team, backed by Cody Jacobs, Trey Bowman, and Zach Patterson found victory lane on seven occasions, including twice at Eldora Speedway, once at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway for $25,000, and nearly at the 61st Knoxville Nationals.
Macedo, in his second year with Phil Dietz, Clyde Knipp, and Nate Repetz, shined even brighter with Albaugh on the No. 41. He was again an 11-time winner with the World of Outlaws, this time leading the Series in the W column thanks to triumphs in Texas, California, Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington.
BATTLE FOR FOURTH
The championship fight wasn’t the only one to come down to the final race as Donny Schatz and Sheldon Haudenschild battled for position as well.
Schatz, who ended the season better than anyone else – with back-to-back wins at The Dirt Track at Charlotte – finished fourth in the championship for the second-straight year. The 10-time Series champion started the year with a season-opening win at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park, but a grueling 43-year drought following him until Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway in July. After losing his legendary father this summer, the Tony Stewart Racing No. 15 pilot honored him with an emotional 11th title at the Knoxville Nationals. Now, an 11th World of Outlaws championship is the goal in 2023.
Haudenschild put his Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink No. 17 in the top-five of the championship chase for the second time in his career by placing fifth. The Wooster, Ohio native topped a career-best nine races in 2022, including spectacular showings at Volusia, Bridgeport, Atomic, Lawrenceburg (Ind.), and Huset’s, all events that featured late-race heroics from Sheldon. With crew chief Kyle Ripper by his side the whole way, look for the 29-year-old to crack that championship podium in 2023.
In total, Hanover, Pa.’s Shark Racing triumphed on nine occasions with the World of Outlaws in 2022, a career-best mark for the team led by Hall of Famer Bobby Allen. With his son Jacob Allen (9th in points) transitioning into a consistent winner and grandson Logan Schuchart (6th in points) continuing to compete at the highest level, the No. 1A and No. 1S enjoyed more success than ever as a group.
Allen jumped from only one career win to five this year, thanks to a “perfect night” at Lake Ozark, a hometown win at Lincoln, an exciting score at Cedar Lake, and finally the biggest win of his life – a $25,000 photo-finish victory over his teammate at Silver Dollar’s Gold Cup Race of Champions. For Schuchart, he tacked on five W’s this year with checkered flags coming at Bristol, Jackson, Skagit, Hanford, and Charlotte.
Jacob Allen (1a) edged his teammate Logan Schuchart to win the Gold Cup by inches Saturday at Silver Dollar Speedway. (Devin Mayo photo)
Simply completing the World of Outlaws tour from start-to-finish is a grind – no matter your second or 10th attempt – but that first year on the road is often the toughest of them all. In 2022, two brave and exciting young souls finished that task as they battled for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award all season long.
24-year-old Spencer Bayston, of Lebanon, Ind., will go down as the winner, joining a list of seven drivers to be named top rookie and win multiple races in the same season. Driving the CJB Motorsports No. 5, Bayston exceeded expectations with spectacular wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Huset’s Speedway to go along with 40 top-10 finishes and an eighth-place points finish. With veteran Barry Jackson on the wrenches, along with Scott Vogelsong and Aydin Lloyd, the team brought on big sponsorship including a multi-year deal with camo titan, TrueTimber, which sets them up for a bigger and better run in 2023.
19-year-old Noah Gass, of Mounds, Okla., felt like many didn’t believe that he, his father Randy Gass, crew chief Cody Cordell, and car chief Robby McQuinn would finish the entire season, so he set out on a mission to prove them all wrong – and he did just that. Only starting 13 World of Outlaws Features prior to this year, the formerly-inexperienced teenager showed immense growth in 2022 with 32 starts and two top-10 finishes, including a career-best ninth at the Ironman 55. With the rookie stripe removed, Noah is officially an Outlaw and ready to continue proving people wrong in 2023.
While the aforementioned two drivers checked off their first year on tour, another pair of competitors finished up their second.
James McFadden did so with a new gig this season, joining the iconic Roth Motorsports No. 83 team. The Australian native was solid all season long and maintained a seventh-place position in the points, but victory lane haunted him all spring, through the summer, and into the fall. Finally, that first win came at Kansas’ Lakeside Speedway, a sigh of relief as Dennis & Teresa Roth claimed the 99th of their career as World of Outlaws owners. They’ve already announced they’re bringing J-Mac back in 2023 for another full-time run, this time with Toyota Racing Development power under the hood.
Brock Zearfoss, of Jonestown, Pa., showed plenty of growth from his rookie to sophomore seasons as he consistently contended at the front more often, adding more top-five finishes, and improving his average result. The No. 3Z pilot, on his way to a 10th-place points finish, earned his second-career win with the World of Outlaws and first since 2017 when he beat champion Brad Sweet on the final restart at Wisconsin’s Cedar Lake Speedway.
THE POSSE STRIKES BACK
After several years of dominance displayed by the World of Outlaws, the Pennsylvania Posse fought back in a big way this season. A combined 10 wins came via Myerstown, Pa.’s Brent Marks, Fayetteville, Pa.’s Lance Dewease, and Dillsburg, Pa.’s Anthony Macri.
For Marks, all five of his World of Outlaws wins came on half-mile venues in 2022 starting with Devil’s Bowl, Williams Grove, Knoxville, and eventually Eldora, where he produced the richest week in the history of Sprint Car Racing by sweeping the Historical Big One and 39th Kings Royal to take home $275,000.
For Dewease, the Kreitz Racing No. 69K dominated Williams Grove when it mattered most. The 57-year-old legend earned all three of his World of Outlaws wins this year at the Mechanicsburg, Pa. half-mile, including the 60th National Open as he earned his fifth title at the prestigious event.
For Macri, the 23-year-old “Concrete Kid” finally added his name to the World of Outlaws all-time win list with his first-career victory coming in a dominant run at Port Royal Speedway in October. The winningest driver in the country the year quickly followed that up one night later, by winning at “The Speed Palace” again to sweep the weekend in his family-owned No. 39M.
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (74 Races):
1. 49-Brad Sweet (9,282 PTS); 2. 2-David Gravel (-48 PTS); 3. 41-Carson Macedo (-114 PTS); 4. 15-Donny Schatz (-240 PTS); 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild (-264 PTS); 6. 1S-Logan Schuchart (-436 PTS); 7. 83-James McFadden (-524 PTS); 8. 5-Spencer Bayston (-624 PTS); 9. 1A-Jacob Allen (-788 PTS); 10. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss (-1014 PTS)