by Ron Rodda
(LINCOLN, Calif.) Rachel Jacobs was not a race fan. Despite living within earshot of Placerville Speedway, she did not have any interest in racing. Yet it was through the races that Jacobs met Brad Sweet and they were eventually married.
Jacobs’ mom would try to get her to go to the races but to Jacobs, they were “too dirty and dust gets in our eyes and it’s loud,” so her mom and grandfather would go. “In 2003 he (her grandfather) passed away and Jimmy Trulli did a memorial lap for him at Placerville,” she recalled. “My entire family was there and Brad’s family was sitting behind us.” Jacobs and Sweet’s sister, Katelyn, became friends and three years later she and Brad started dating.
“At first I did not understand why people would like this stuff, you are getting dirty, mud in your hair, but when I met Brad I got to see a different side to it. Now I get it”, she said. “The people are so passionate no matter where you go. There is no being a casual fan, you either like it or you don’t.”
Brad Sweet had moved to Indiana for a season and upon his return, he started racing for Gary Perkins and Jacobs and Sweet soon began dating. But Sweet was not around very long as a Keith Kunz call saw him return to the Midwest to race a midget. “All my friends at that time had boyfriends and they were all going to movies and other teenage things,” she remembered. “I told them I had a boyfriend but for a while my friends were like, yeah right, because he was never around. Brad would be gone much of the summer and then when winter arrived he was off to Australia.”
That was how their relationship was until the call from Kasey and Willie Kahne. That led to Sweet moving to North Carolina, getting him even further away from home. “The entire group was so welcoming. I knew from Brad’s reaction that this was his big break,” she said.
For a period of time Sweet was racing in NASCAR and driving sprint cars, but eventually he went the open wheel route. Sweet and Jacobs bought a motorhome and traveled the circuit.
During this time Jacobs learned how, “Mentally and physically exhausting it is. The drivers, crew, wives, and everyone involved don’t get the credit for what they do. The Pittmans kind of took us under their wings and they were a huge blessing our three years on the road.”
Before the years on the road, Jacobs had graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in health information management. She went from college to full time travel, which ended after buying a house in Placerville. They signed the papers for their eventual home while at the Knoxville Nationals in 2016. Jacobs and Sweet got married in March of 2016 during the Outlaw swing through California so their friends could attend. The following year she stayed home to monitor the house being rebuilt and their daughter, Savannah, was born.
She has stayed home coming up on three years, but her husband flies home between weekends when there is not a midweek race. Savannah’s first race was at Knoxville when Sweet won on a preliminary Knoxville Nationals feature. The 8 month old at that time also got to see Sweet’s championship win on Saturday.
“Brad is someone who works so hard and he is so focused so to see him win that it was like all his hard work paid off,” she said.
She has noticed that Sweet is recognized when among the public more than before, something that may be due to DIRTVision and other streaming services. Sweet has younger fans than she has seen in the past, important because the lack of youth at races is a growing concern.
As Savannah gets older, mother and daughter may travel with Sweet more to lessen the time apart. This year has been better since there are fewer midweek races to keep Sweet from being able to fly home for a few days. “I try not to get too nervous,” she said when asked how she handles Sweet’s racing endeavors. “I know Brad is in control and he is doing what he wants to do. Now Eldora, that’s a different animal. I learned this at Manzanita, do not sit on the front stretch. It shows you how fast they are going.
“I remember sitting next to Patty Haudenschild one night at Eldora and Jac and Sheldon were both racing. I asked her how she does it and she said that she trusts Sheldon’s ability and just watches Jac. I know that Tony Stewart has done all he can to make that place as safe as he can.”
She admits that being a wife of a World of Outlaws driver isn’t easy, but she respects the lifestyle her husband has chosen. “You have to understand and appreciate the lifestyle,” she said. “If you can’t do that, it’s not made for you. They are doing their career and their passion. I tell Brad that he is so lucky he found something he is good at that he is passionate about that can be his career.”
It seems that Sweet is also lucky for having an understanding and supportive wife.