Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Unbuckled: Getting To Know Nick Sweet

Unbuckled: Getting To Know Nick Sweet

Driver of the St J. Auto Buick

Hometown: Barre, VT

2012: Won second Track Championship at Thunder Road.

What are your favorite hobbies in the off-season?

Working on racecars and hanging out with my family. My kid is going to be playing t-ball this year, so I’ve been trying to teach him the fundamentals of how to throw but mostly he throws it anywhere and I have to go fetch the ball. I’m like a dog. It’s funny, but I do enjoy being a sort of coach to him and spending time with him.  I got out once this year to play hockey.  I used to play hockey a lot but I just didn’t have much time this winter. 

What do you do for work?

I work for Eric Chase at Mad Dog Motorsports working on racecars full time.

What is your biggest life accomplishment?

I’m going to have to say getting married and having my children and being a good family man. It’s tough thing to do in this world and time, especially with the career I’ve chosen. That makes it even harder. 

Big Plans for 2013?

As of right now planning on running Thunder Road, and we’re talking about running the Vermont State Championship Series again. I’m an optimistic kind of guy, it’s hard to plan cause you never know what will come your way. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of support throughout my career and you just never know.  Last year I got a great opportunity to race down south, and I’m not necessarily planning on it this year, but I’m keeping my eyes open. We moved the shop this offseason, so I’m very busy getting Eric’s stuff ready for the ACT Opener at Lee.  That’s coming right up!

What is the state of your car currently?

Getting ready to reassemble it.  We’ve done the first teardown, we’re just cleaning stuff up and making sure things are up to speed.  We’re quite a ways away from being race ready.  We’ve hung the body on it, but the way I build racecars is that I put them together and take them apart 15 times before it’s done.  Racecars are never done in my eyes.  It will look like a racecar soon, but it’s never done.

What race are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

Probably just opening day.  I love the smell of racecars and I just want to get back in the seat.  We’re very hungry, we haven’t done anything with racing since the end of the year, which kind of ended on a sour note for us. Last year we were hot all summer, but once we got the title, we fell off. At least with myself, it ends up being like quicksand: you can’t get out until you hit rock bottom. We went from winning the title to wrecking in practice at Rockingham. Now it’s time to get ourselves out of the rut, stay optimistic, and start right where we left off when we won the title. Bad streaks hit home for me, especially since it’s not just a hobby but is my career.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well.

What was the highlight of the 2012 season for you?

Definitely winning the King of the Road title, but another highlight honestly is what we did with Troy Kingsbury and Race to Read.  He has gone above and beyond what most racers would do with that program.  It’s really more of a highlight than the championship.  I remember opening day he came up to me with a green sticker, I knew very little about it, and he told me I was the picked by the Race to Read winner Avery Murphy that night. I went out and won the race and she got to come down to victory lane and you should have seen the smile on her face while she celebrated with us. It meant a lot to me.  I have kids that I want to be well-educated, along with all the other kids out there. They are our future. It just feels great to do something so good with my racing.  That whole concept really hits home with the family guy I try to be.  Hopefully those good feelings come again. 

Do you have a hero? Someone you idolize as a racecar driver or try to emulate?

I don’t really take everything out of one person.  I want to be myself, but I try to take good out of everybody.  Nobody’s perfect.  Take Kyle Busch for example. He was a young brave racecar driver that could drive it off the apron and win the race.  That’s something to look up to, but the way he deals with media and his public relations not as much.  He wasn’t a great spokesman for himself.  Everybody can be heroic, and everybody has good traits and bad traits, myself included.  

Who is your biggest fan at the track?

I have a lot of people who come to support me. I’m very fortunate.  Most of the time my wife is probably my biggest fan as long as she’s watching.  Besides that my crew guys are always rooting me on cause they want to have success. I’m fortunate to have grown up in Barre and met so many great people.

What is something about you that most people don’t know?

Most people probably don’t know that I hate the fact that I’m balding.  I go to the hairdresser and tell her to glue on hair.  It’s starting to drive me crazy. I don’t want to be a cue ball, but it’s going to happen. 

How did you start racing?

I got involved with it with my Dad working racecars since I was a baby. I went to Thunder Road and watched.  I wanted to drive, but I never imagined I would.  In high school I was still interested in doing it, and my Dad let me race the Enduro.  Just before the Enduro I wrecked my parent’s personal car, you know, getting my feet wet for the enduro.  My parents weren’t super impressed. I had a girlfriend at the time and I was trying to break the sound barrier to make up for the two hours I was late.  But I knew I wanted to be a racecar driver then, I was never scared. I’ve always been very driven.  My parents were telling me, “You need to work towards getting a vehicle and getting an apartment and going to college.” But I knew I wanted do this.  I was 16 years old when I raced that Enduro.  I chose the number 50 because it was halfway to 100.  Then when I got to Late Models I had to change it, and I picked 88.  I pretty much just liked the bubble look, and it was a number nobody had, so when we went to other places we didn’t have to change it.  Now four other cars have 88 so that theory went out the window.

Tell me about your family?

My son Isaac is five, my daughter Ava is 2.  They are beautiful kids and I’m very fortunate and blessed they came out the way they did.  They require a lot of patience though, but it helps me with my patience on the race track!  My beautiful wife Kristen puts up with me everyday, and we have a cat named Allie and a dog named Abby. Abby has not been potty trained yet, she’s just a puppy. She tests my patience too, I’m sort of the local janitor of my house.  

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

You know I try to live life day to day. Five years ago I never would have thought I would be at this point now.  I had just purchased a late model then, and I really didn’t think I would make a career out of it, so we’ve done a lot in five years.  It’s a great accomplishment.  Who knows what will happen in another five years.  I want to be the best dad I can be, though.  I really want to work on that and make sure my kids grow up right. Sometimes when I’m not always making great decisions my wife will say sarcastically “Oh, Father of the year again!”  I still have a lot to work on.

How did you feel going into your first Late Model Feature?

My first Late Model feature was at Lee USA Speedway in 2008. I went there very optimistic, not confident, but I made the show.  It was sheer luck, basically everybody fell out.  I started on the outside pole for the feature, and I should have elected the rear.  On the third lap I spun out in front of the whole field, and two laps later I lost the front and rear clip of the car.  I learned how to wreck a racecar.  Going in I was so excited, I had a lot of butterflies.  The more I race, the butterflies don’t leave me, but you can control them much more.  Sometimes I wish I could still get it like the first time.  It’s just so exciting.  Still get there on certain things but not all the time. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing! 

I’ve noticed you swerve your car more aggressively than others at the start of the race, Why do you do that? Tires?  Feel for the car?

I like to build heat in the tires. I’ve wrecked racecars before because I didn’t do it. On a cooler day, which in Vermont is every Thursday night, tires don’t have the heat like you have 2-3 laps into the race. If you work it in, you build that up and you clean them off. I run it my car by the seat of my pants, right on the edge, and if your tires are cold, I might make a lot of people mad.  That’s why I do it.  It’s not as much for a feel of the car.  If you hear a bad noise that’s an educated assumption that something is wrong, but very seldom do we have something like that.