NCAA Football

David Gravel: ‘It is what it is’

Brad Sweet (right), David Gravel (left) and Carson Macedo completed the top three in the 2022 sprint car championship. (Photo by Frank Smith)

As the lights dimmed on The Dirt Track in Charlotte on Saturday night, signaling the end of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series season, David Gravel had only one thing to say: “It is what it is.”

Gravel walked away from the World Finals 48 points behind his title rival, newly crowned champion Brad Sweet. And while Gravel fought to the end, there was nothing he could do to end Sweet’s championship streak, which has now lasted four years in a row.

“It is what it is,” Gravel said. “I feel like we are one step away from being champion or winning the Knoxville Nationals.”

Gravel was in a unique position for most of the year as he was close enough in points to contest his first World of Outlaws championship. After his victory during the opening weekend of the season at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park, the Big Game Motorsports driver took the points lead at the start of the season and continued to flourish as a favorite.

2 Gravel and 17 Haudenschild
David Gravel (2) fights Sheldon Haudenschild in the World Finals. (Photo by Frank Smith)

Since February, Gravel has racked up six more wins and 39 top-five finishes.

Even without the championship, it was a remarkable season for the full-time 30-year-old Outlaw.

“Obviously being close to the championship is definitely something really cool and different for me,” said Gravel on the opening day of the World Finals. “There were only a handful of races that we would have liked to resume, but other than that it was a very good year.”

Gravel’s win column this season includes tracks like Eldora (Ohio) Speedway, Weedsport (NY) Speedway and I-80 (Neb.) Speedway. His near-miss happened at the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, when he finished in second place behind Donny Schatz.

In the final stretch of the season, Gravel accelerated in his No. 2 sprint car and was diminishing Sweet’s points lead.

A bit of luck fell in Gravel’s way at Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania two weeks before the World Finals when Sweet suffered a DNF, closing the points gap to 16.

When the Outlaws reached The Dirt Track, Gravel and Sweet were 16 points apart.

“Try to get some wins. Try to get some fast times,” Gravel said on Wednesday. “Our goal is to try to beat Brad every night.”

Gravel took sixth place on opening night, while Sweet finished third. It was a similar story on Friday night, with Gravel crossing the finish line six places behind Sweet.

With track wear and tear throughout the week, Gravel’s main concern for the final was the tyres. He had already relegated thoughts of the championship to the back of his mind, realizing it would take another DNF from driver #49 for Gravel to win. When the green flag waved Saturday night, Sweet did what he did best this season and took a top five spot, securing the title.

Gravel struggled with tire wear and finished 11th.

“I think I’m lucky just to finish,” Gravel said after Saturday’s race. Raindrops began to fall as race car #2 was loaded onto the truck, but it was evident that Gravel had a newfound fire that could not be extinguished.

“I definitely want to be a champion,” Gravel said. “There have only been 10 in the history of the sport, so it’s an elite company. It would be an honor.”

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