THE JUICE: The Legacy (Series) Of Nick Sweet
PHOTO: Nick Sweet carrying a checkered flag is nothing new, but it's awful strange to see him do it in an Allison Legacy Series car. (Alan Ward photo)
-by Justin St. Louis
It’s hard to believe that Sunday will be our first Oktoberfest at Lee USA Speedway. We love the open-comp shows with cars from all kinds of tracks running all kinds of rules and setups. From everything we’ve heard over the years, the Oktoberfest is one of the best open shows in New England.
Plus, there’s a bit of a soft spot in this full-fendered heart for the open-wheeled machines of the Modified Racing Series and the winged Super Modifieds of Lee USA.
We’ll take in 360 laps across 11 divisions, all on a $30 front gate ticket (or $45 for the pits), and that’s only Sunday’s action. Each division has heat races on Saturday and practice on Friday, all for the $30 stub. Hard to find a deal like that in New England at any time of the year, especially in October.
It’s real weird to see Kasey Kahne in something besides a red No. 9 car. If you can believe it, he had run 247 races (already?) in the same red 9, whether the team was owned by Ray Evernham or George Gillett, Jr.
And good luck to Aric Almirola, by the way.
So what if the Habs got shut out on Thursday night? Let’s see you beat Martin Brodeur. We’re Stanley Cup-bound this year, you watch.
There are more than a few people scratching their heads over some recent results with the Allison Legacy North Race Series. It’s not necessarily a surprise that the guy winning all the races lately is winning. Rather, it’s a surprise that he’s even there.
It’s Nick Sweet. You know, the Late Model racer.
The 2010 Thunder Road champion and a driver regarded as one of the better Late Model drivers in the northeast, Sweet has made three starts with the Allison Legacy tour since wrecking his own car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. Driving a car owned by Ellery Packard of East Montpelier, Sweet finished third at Monadnock Speedway in his debut, then won at Waterford Speedbowl and Twin State Speedway. All this with top American-Canadian Tour crew chief Neal Woodard calling the shots.
So why would such a powerhouse team drop down to a series that, in essence, was designed for children to learn how to drive on a race track?
“Ellery asked me to help his daughter Emily learn how to race, so I’ve been helping them out,” said Sweet.
With Woodard’s guidance and setup know-how throughout the summer, 12 year-old Emily Packard has done a respectable job in her first season, with a pair of heat wins and eight top-five finishes in 16 races.
But she -- not Sweet -- is the driver prototype for whom the Allison Legacy Series was built. Dylan Smith, for example, spent a couple of years in the division before turning 16 and graduating to the Thunder Road Late Model division. Sweet, an ACT winner, should have no business competing in the series, and says that he knows that his experience level is a huge advantage.
Sweet winning an Allison Legacy Series race is akin to Juan Pablo Montoya going back and dominating a youth karting tour in Colombia.
But Sweet says he doesn’t pick and choose when it comes to being offered a seat in a race car.
“I don’t care what kind of car it is. If it’s got four tires and steering wheel, I’ll drive it,” he said. “I’d drive a [NASCAR] K&N car if I got a ride, and if someone offered me a Street Stock and I was allowed to drive it, I’d do that, too.”
Sweet says he’s taken some criticism for his participation in the races.
“People ask me if I’m worried about my reputation by being in that series. I don’t care, I’m not ashamed. It’s still a race car,” Sweet said. “Sometimes it feels a little unfair; most of the drivers are either kids like Emily or they’re forty or fifty years old with no experience, but there are a couple of them that are pretty good. James Logan is a really good racer. I start out back in the heat races, but [my] car is so much better and Neal is so smart that it’s almost easy.”
Sweet doesn’t expect to have a long stay on the Legacy tour, and says his only purpose there is to coach Emily Packard to become a better race car driver -- Sweet has joined the team at multiple test sessions, in addition to the actual race events -- and Packard hasn’t finished worse than fifth since Sweet joined the team.
“She’s doing pretty well,” Sweet said. “She has a lot to learn, but then again, she’s 12 and she doesn’t get to drive a car every day, she only gets to at the race track.”
Sweet will be at Lee USA Speedway this weekend with the Packard team, trying for his third-straight win.
“I’d be there with my Late Model if I could,” he said. “The last time I went to Lee it didn’t go well and we crashed. I want to go back there and race some day with my own car, but for this weekend I’m in Ellery’s car. I could win, but I could also screw the whole thing up, too. Hopefully there’s enough cars this weekend that it’s a challenge.”
We hope so, too.
AROUND THE REGION:
Time to take a look at the Vermont racing scene from the past week...
Albany-Saratoga Speedway (Malta, N.Y.): Hunter Bates of Middlebury was the runner-up in Sunday’s 30-lap Sportsman Modified race, and Kevin Boutin of Swanton finished second in the 50-lap Renegade feature.
Modified Racing Series: Ascutney rookie Joey Jarvis finished fifth at Twin State Speedway on Sunday, while his uncle, Dwight, finished tenth. Jon McKennedy of East Chelmsford, Mass., was the winner.
Pro All Stars Series: Steven Legendre of St. Johnsbury finished 18th in Saturday’s PASS South Mason-Dixon Meltdown 200 at Newport (Tenn.) Speedway. Justin Wakefield of Woodstock, Ga., was the winner.
Riverside Speedway (Groveton, N.H.): Dan Sidney of St. Johnsbury finished seventh in Sunday’s PASS Sportsman/Riverside Outlaw Sportsman event and clinched the Riverside championship. Jesse Switser of West Burke finished fifth in the Frost Bite 250 Enduro with Craftsbury’s Joel Hodgdon eighth and Troy Randall of Wheelock ninth.
Twin State Speedway (Claremont, N.H.): Mendon’s Chris Wilk won Sunday’s Pro Stock and Super Street features. Dallas Trombley of Rutland won the Late Model feature, and Don Miller of Wells won the Dirt Modified feature with Ryan Dutton of Bradford third. Chris McKinstry of Thetford won the Northeast Mini Stock Tour event and was third in the Super Street race. Kris Grout of Waterbury was fourth in the Strictly Stock race with Hydeville’s Bill Duprey fifth. Nick Sweet of Barre won the Allison Legacy North Race Series event, and Jeremiah Losee of North Springfield won the Wildcat race over Rob Leitch of Cavendish and Dickie Houle of West Brattleboro.
Saturday, Oct. 23
Lee USA Speedway, Lee, N.H. -- 2:00pm (Oktoberfest qualifying)
Sunday, Oct. 24
Lee USA Speedway, Lee, N.H. -- 12:00pm (Oktoberfest features/Modified Racing Series)
Modified Racing Series: Sat./Sun., Oct. 23/24 -- Lee USA Speedway, Lee, N.H. (2:00pm/12:00pm)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Sat., Oct. 23 -- Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va. (SPEED/12:30pm)
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Sat., Oct. 23 -- Gateway Int’l Raceway, Madison, Ill. (ESPN2/3:00pm)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sun., Oct. 24 -- Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va. (ESPN/1:00pm)