Sweet fired up for home debut at Fontana

By Dave RodmanĀ  (NASCAR.COM, Mar. 20, 2012).

Northern California native Brad Sweet, who was an up-and-coming short-track open-wheel racer before connecting with NASCAR standout Kasey Kahne several years ago, is on the verge of his latest career milestone this weekend.

Sweet, 26, from Grass Valley, Calif., will make his second career Nationwide start but his first at his only home state speedway, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Sweet, who’s splitting the schedule in Turner Motorsports’ No. 38 Chevrolet with Kasey Kahne, is set for his first of 18 starts in the car tended by crew chief Mike Shiplett.

“It’s awesome for me, but even more for my family,” said Sweet, who grew up several hours north of Fontana. “Most of them have never had a chance to actually see a NASCAR race live, never mind having me racing in it.”

Sweet, who’s won a pile of races since joining Kasey Kahne Racing’s multi-faceted USAC and World of Outlaws open-wheel program in 2009, only has 21 stock car starts on his resume, with 18 of those coming the past three years in the Camping World Truck Series.

So far this NASCAR season, Sweet’s taken a crash course, spending a lot of time up on the spotters’ stands at all four venues, listening to his Turner teammates in the Nationwide races and to Kahne in the Sprint Cup events. He wouldn’t trade it for anything except, obviously, seat time.

“I’ve learned so much — patience and good feedback are some of the biggest things I’ve learned,” Sweet said. “I’ve learned a lot about the difference in driver feedback and how to manage a race. You need to get yourself in position in the top 10, to make a run with 30 or 40 laps to go.

“As long as you’re giving good information to your crew chief, you can make your car better. I’ve learned not to get frustrated because it’s a long race. Keep it simple for your crew chief and try to understand what your car’s doing and get yourself in position for the end of the race and even if you have a couple bad runs, you can overcome all that if you get your car right.”

Kahne’s season-opening races have been miserable, to say the least, but he’s enthused about Sweet’s debut.

“I’m just trying to help Brad,” said Kahne, who’s been an integral part of every facet of Sweet’s stock car development, including his ties to sponsor Great Clips. “He’s a good driver. He’s won a lot of races over the years, and we’ll kind of see how he takes to the Nationwide cars. They’re not easy cars to drive, so we’ll see what he does.

“But I feel like he’ll do a really nice job. As he gets enough laps and kind of gets comfortable with his surroundings and the way that those races happen and restarts and pit stops and things, I think he’ll do a really nice job.”

“I’ve been watching a lot,” Sweet said. “Now it’s time to put it all to work.”

Story at NASCAR.com.

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