Nick Sweet has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish on the race track in his hometown of Barre, VT.
He’s won the prestigious Milk Bowl three times. He captured the King of the Road title at Thunder Road (VT) in 2010 and 2012. He’s been victorious four times in both the Vermont Governor’s Cup and the Labor Day Classic 200. He’s won the Merchants Bank 150. He’s won the Memorial Day Classic. He’s literally won everything there is to win at the high-banked oval on Fisher Rd. in Barre.
Now he’s gearing up for a new adventure in 2017.
With help from his car owner and boss Eric Chase, Sweet will be piloting a Super Late Model during the 2017 season. The team has purchased a brand new Super Late Model chassis from Distance Racing and will be putting the car together at the Mad Dog Motorsports shop owned by Chase.
At this point in the offseason, Sweet is unsure of whether the team will compete in one race, two races or 22 races, but he does know he’ll be driving the car at some point next season.
“I’ve got to talk to Eric. It’s Eric’s race car, not mine. It’s really what he wants to do,” Sweet told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m assuming he’ll want us to do some shows, it’s the straight rail car and Jeff Taylor is building it.
“We pretty much just get it as a cage and tin. We’ll assemble it, put the body on it and do all the wiring, the motors, rear end and all of that stuff. It’s one of those things that even if we don’t get it done until the middle of the summer and only race it once or twice, who knows plans could change. Eric might all of a sudden want to go do the PASS tour, who knows with Eric. I usually don’t meet with him until usually February and then we make a plan and obviously plans change.”
Although Sweet doesn’t know the Super Late Model events the team will compete in, he does have a personal wish list of his own that includes the prestigious Oxford 250 and the PASS North race on Memorial Day at his home track of Thunder Road.
“I’d like to target as many as we could,” Sweet said. “Targeting Thunder Road is one that definitely entices me. I’d like to do the Oxford 250. Ultimately it’d be fun to go down south and try some race tracks., but we should probably this year stick to tracks we are familiar with so that we can try to learn the race car. The good thing with that kind of car is that it really opens up the door to a lot of different places you can race. You can pretty much go anywhere in the country with a Super. Not that you can’t go anywhere with your ACT car, but there’s a lot of changes you need to make to race against other guys. They’re kind of their own little beast.”
Sweet, the defending American-Canadian Tour (ACT) champion, is also unsure of whether or not he’ll defend his title driving Chase’s No. 40 ACT car.
“That’s up in the air, I don’t know. I know Eric will want to support ACT because he has in the past,” Sweet explained. “Tom (Curley) has always done good by Eric. I really don’t know, it’s really up in the air with Eric. All I know is we’re building a straight-rail Pro Stock and we don’t have any plans as to what we’re going to race and what we’re not going to race. He could all of a sudden say, ‘Nick, I only want you to race the Super Late Model once this year and race the ACT Tour, and I’ll do Thunder Road.’ You just don’t know where he’s going yet.”
Although he doesn’t know what his 2017 plans will look like driving for Chase, Sweet has announced tentative plans for his family-owned No. 88 that he’s had so much success with at Thunder Road.
“I’ve actually somewhat started announcing what my plans for my personal deal are. I am not, as of right now, planning on racing there (at Thunder Road) weekly,” Sweet stated. “Eric needs to have some crew, so I’m planning on crewing for Eric on those Thursday weekly shows. I am going to try to race my personal car probably four or five times. One at the Governor’s Cup, Milk Bowl, Labor Day race, basically the bigger shows because they entice me a little bit more than the 50 lappers. I think helping Eric on those regular weekly shows will really help his program quite a bit. He’s my boss, so I want to try to give him a better experience.”
While Sweet works to give his boss a better experience on Thursday nights, he’ll also be working to gain much-needed Super Late Model experience. Now considered a master of the ACT Late Models, Sweet knows that making a Super Late Model go fast will be a completely different animal.
“I believe it will be a learning experience,” he admitted “You always have the hope to go out and be competitive and do really well. I don’t know if that’s reality yet. I think we’re definitely going to have a learning curve because there’s a lot of aspects in the ACT car that in a way shelter us. There are no bump stops allowed in ACT, as well as shocks; you have to run a Koni shock. It’s an area that is unknown to us. Obviously the lockers, the weight, it’s just a whole different animal. There’s so many different variables with the motor packages and all that stuff. It’s going to be a whole different beast. I hope you have to write about us, but I’m not going to hold my breath at the beginning anyway.”
Being located in Barre, Vermont — an area not necessarily known for being a hotbed for Super Late Model racing — Sweet and the Mad Dog Motorsports team won’t have a lot of people to lean on during their initial foray into Super Late Model racing. He believes that could be a disadvantage initially, but eventually he’s hoping that it will help the team keep some of their secrets close to home.
“The only nice thing with being in your own area is that when you do find something there’s not a whole lot of people to really talk about it. We just have to get to that point,” Sweet explained. “With my own racing, living in Barre, Vermont, when you’re good it’s like that kid on the playground that has the candy; everybody wants a piece of it so they’re all your buddies hanging around. The good thing about doing the Pro Stock stuff is that you won’t have that, hopefully we get to that point where we’re good enough that people are scratching their heads wondering what we’re doing. But like I said, in the beginning I think we’re just going to go in trying to learn. I’ve driven one or two cars that are similar to it and they’ve never been to the caliber that I’m trying to build this one.”
In between working at the race shop preparing cars for Chase, Sweet has been busy trying to gain knowledge about Super Late Model racing. He recently made the trip to Indianapolis for the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show to look at some of the products he may be putting on the team’s new car.
“I went to the PRI Show and looked at products for the Pro Stock stuff. PRI Show involves all sorts of racing, but it definitely relates to the (Super Late Model) a lot more than the ACT car when you go there. There’s a lot more open variables that you can go there and look at. With an ACT car, you know when you go to a PRI Show that you have a Koni shock package, so there’s not much you can look at there. Same with the rear ends, you know you’ve got a spool so there’s no lockers. It really limits you on that kind of stuff.
“To build the next step of race car is quite a bit more money, where as ACT has kept it spec enough that it makes it affordable so that you can do it and people like me can race them. ACT has done such a good job at making it affordable for the racer and that’s kind of why you don’t see it anywhere else.”
With less restrictions comes more costs, and Sweet is well aware of that. That’s why he’s thankful to have a team owner and a boss that is giving him the opportunity to go on a new racing adventure.
“It’s a new experience. I have Eric behind me as of right now helping to support it, so without him I wouldn’t even be able to be in this situation. I’m pretty happy that I even have the opportunity to do this at this point.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com