Six races into the 2015 Late Model campaign at Thunder Road International Speedbowl (VT), Nick Sweet finds himself in an unfamiliar position. The 2013 “King of the Road” and 14-time winner at the Barre, Vermont oval has yet to visit victory lane at his home track. He enters this Thursday’s 36th Vermont Governor’s Cup 150 looking to turn around his season in a big way by tying Robbie Crouch’s record of four wins in the prestigious event.
“I hope so,” Sweet told Speed51.com powered by JEGS when asked if he has what it takes to win on Thursday. “We’re definitely making gains on our race car. We were missing something all year long and then a couple races ago we hit on something and definitely have it going better. Hopefully we can put it all together for 150 laps.”
Sweet’s season got off to a rough start during the American-Canadian Tour Merchants Bank 150, the season-opening event at Thunder Road. The two-time winner of the race struggled throughout the weekend and failed to qualify for the race for the first time since 2008.
He bounced back with a third-place finish in the Memorial Day Classic, but the hometown favorite from Barre, Vermont struggled to find the speed and fire power he is accustomed to having at the quarter-mile Vermont oval.
While on paper he has recorded five top-five finishes in six races, Sweet simply hasn’t been dominant in his No. 88 like he has in recent seasons. He believes that his team has made progress in recent weeks, but is still itching to get his first win of the year.
“The lack of a win this year, I’m definitely getting hungry to get that,” said the 30-year-old. “We’ve come close but we just can’t seem to capitalize on a win yet. That’s not where I want to be at this point in the year, but you have those years. You’ve just got to keep pushing forward. I’m just more excited about the fact that the car is making gains and when you’re making gains with your product it makes it a lot easier to get some good finishes in there.”
Despite being confident at this point in the season, Sweet admitted that his early-season struggles were certainly frustrating to deal with.
“You hit it right on the head. I was very frustrated,” said Sweet. “We were just trying to figure out what was wrong. We were just missing it. When you’re struggling like that, you struggle long enough and you start second guessing yourself as a driver and everything else just snowballs.
“I’ve found that racing is kind of like the heartbeat machine there, you have your really, really highs and you have your really, really lows. We were kind of at our low.”
Although he was at his low compared to recent seasons, consistency so far this year has Sweet sitting second in the “King of the Road” point standings. He trails his rival and two-time defending champion Derrick O’Donnell by 12 points entering Thursday’s race, which will be the third points-counting race at Thunder Road in just seven days.
“It would be really nice,” Sweet said about picking up a win on Thursday. “It should be good. I think we’ve finally hit on something, so it feels good to feel like you’re racing again and not playing defense the whole race. This is terrible to say but I’m looking forward to the time off after this recent stretch.”
In addition to preparing his own car for competition, Sweet works full-time out of Eric Chase’s shop in Barre. He prepares Chase’s cars, as well as cars for Late Model competitor Joey Laquerre on a regular basis.
To add to his busy schedule, Sweet has also had to play “Mr. Dad” recently. As he made his way to the race shop on Tuesday night, he did so with his two children in tow.
“That’s another chaotic thing going on in my life,” said Sweet. “My wife is at the hospital on bed rest so I’m playing ‘Mr. Dad’ on top of trying to keep all the rest stuff going, too.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51