Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 World Finals at Charlotte

The Headline(s)

Brad Sweet capped a solid World Finals weekend with his fourth consecutive World of Outlaws championship, joining Dennis Erb Jr. and Matt Sheppard on the year-end podium at Charlotte.

How it Happened

2022 World Finals
Where: Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, N.C. (streamed on DirtVision)
Winner’s Purse: $25,000 (Saturday, each series)

In the highlight feature of the weekend, a top-five finish by Brad Sweet allowed him to clinch his fourth consecutive World of Outlaws title Saturday night in Charlotte. Capitalizing on a pole start, Sweet led the first 10 laps and stayed ahead of points runner-up David Gravel for the rest of the feature, which was won by Donny Schatz. Schatz ended up bookending the 2022 WoO season; he won the first race of the year at Volusia back in February.

In the late model ranks, Jonathan Davenport used the high side of the track to take the lead and run away with a $25,000 win, his second consecutive finale triumph in World Finals competition. The win marked Davenport’s 22nd of the 2022 season and pushed him closer to a $2 million total in annual winnings with a big-dollar trip to Las Vegas still on the schedule for the No. 49 team.

Lastly, Mat Williamson ended his 2022 campaign on a tear, scoring Super DIRTcar feature wins Thursday and Saturday night to score his third five-figure payday in a week, adding to his Short Track Super Series Elite win at Georgetown last weekend.

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Melvin Joseph Memorial at Georgetown

Success Stories

Erb Jr., Sheppard and Sweet were all crowned champions of the World Racing Group’s three major touring series Saturday night, all three were storylines worth telling. Erb’s title was his first in a national touring series after 30-plus years of late model racing and was universally respected throughout the dirt racing community. And though Erb didn’t win a heat race or feature over the World Finals week, his No. 28 was running up front all three nights the late models were on track. Erb is absolutely a national ringer.

As for Sheppard, his historic run in Super DIRTcar competition got only more distinguished, as he became the series’ first nine-time champion ever as icing on a cake that saw the driver rack up 40-plus feature wins in a campaign that could well garner driver of the year honors from any dirt racing body. 

And that leaves Sweet, who was the only eventual champion who actually had a title to clench on the racetrack this weekend. And clinch, he did. Sweet posted top-five finishes in all three World Finals feature and secured a clutch Dash win Saturday that put him in track position to keep Gravel’s final charge for any shot at a points crown at bay. No doubt about it, the No. 49 team was the best in the WoO ranks in 2022.

As mentioned, Williamson ended the 2022 campaign by earning the “money” in his nickname. A $25,000 win at Georgetown, then a $15,000 win Thursday and a $25,000 win Saturday night. That’s a great week for any dirt driver.

Schatz didn’t factor into the 2022 title race the way he or Tony Stewart Racing hoped after winning the season opener at Volusia back in February, but ending the season with consecutive feature wins was a surprising achievement. 

Hudson O’Neal took his first checkered flag as a driver for the Rocket Chassis house team Thursday night, winning the fourth heat race.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Carson Macedo may have been the fastest sprint car in Charlotte during the World Finals, but never could capitalize. Macedo lost a sure-fire win Wednesday night to Logan Schuchart after his engine sputtered coming to the white flag. Then on Saturday, Macedo got collected in a dash-race incident involving family member Cole Macedo that took some attention off what was a controversial slide job on Gravel for position.

World of Outlaws regular Bill Rose failed to advance even out of the non-qualifiers race Saturday, having to use a provisional to make the start in Saturday’s World Finals feature.

The worst wreck of the weekend belonged to Anthony Macri Friday night, who not only flipped but then had the carcass of his car run over in the aftermath. Fortunately, Macri was uninjured and rebounded for a top-10 finish Saturday.

The DIRTcar modifieds had to have a flip count of their own started on the first lap of the first heat race Thursday night, with Keith Flach going for a tumble.

Perhaps the ugliest incident of the week occurred after the checkered flag waved on Friday in the C-main, involving Jacob Dykstra and Dylan Westbrook. The video speaks for itself.

NASCAR Regulars

Truck Series regular Stewart Friesen made forward progress both in his heat race and last chance qualifier feature but failed to qualify for Wednesday’s late model A-main. 

Truck Series regular Carson Hocevar lost three spots in both his heat race and last chance qualifier feature, failing to qualify for Wednesday’s late model A-main.

Former Cup Series regular Kasey Kahne qualified for two of three World Finals sprint car features, finishing in the top 10 Wednesday night and 19th in Saturday’s finale. 

Fanning the Flames

James Essex opening the World Finals late model heats celebrating Johnny Gibson’s music choices Wednesday night was as money as dirt racing commentary comes. It’s a shame it took the awful circumstances surrounding Rick Eshelman to make it happen.

Speaking of music, hearing “Eye in the Sky” play for the DIRTcar and late model features while the sprint cars continued to have their four-wide accompanied by a nondescript guitar riff highlights how ridiculous the “Whiskey Myers” 4-wide salute is. Here’s hoping the band’s “major news” that was teased all week long on DirtVision in November isn’t continuing that program.

The audio on DirtVision Wednesday night was horrendous. In two years as a subscriber I’ve never had such an awful experience on the service. Apparently turning Wednesday into an actual race-day for the World Finals had some practical consequences for the staff putting on the event.

This is a pet peeve at more racetracks than Charlotte, but any track that’s going to use a two-seater racecar for fan rides needs to do the rides before or after the racing program ends. Interrupting features, heats, whatever for those hot laps, especially at a program like the World Finals that runs 6-7 hours a night is ridiculous to put fans in the stands through.

It was announced well before the end of World Finals week that the 2023 finals will again utilize a four-day format, with ticket renewals available throughout the program. This seems like it’ll effectively be the death knell for Cherokee Speedway’s attempts to run a race program in unofficial conjunction with the Finals; the track canceled their scheduled Sunday “Party After the Finals” weeks ago after the 2021 “Party Before the Finals” drew a paltry car count. The track stated they’ll keep looking for a way to make the event work, but asking teams to tow even further south after a four-day residency is a tall order.

Numbers Game

32

Points Sweet gained on Gravel over the three World Finals feature races.

41

Big-block modifieds entered for the Super DIRTcar Series program of the World Finals.

70

Super late models entered in the World Finals at Charlotte.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give the weekend a solid four Bud Lights. Two of the three championships being decided headed into race weekend robbed the suspense from much of the World Finals, especially given this was a four-day event that was a marathon. Fortunately the dirt surface at Charlotte proved racy more often than not. 

Up Next: The Flo Racing Night in America tour ends its 2022 campaign with a $53,000-to-win feature Saturday night at the Senoia Raceway in Georgia. Coverage can be found on Flo Racing. Shocker.

About the author

Senior Commentator at Frontstretch

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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