KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Five years ago, Kevin Swindell’s life changed forever when he was paralyzed as a result of a sprint car crash at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway.
But Wednesday night, with the help of a hand-controlled iRacing simulation setup, Swindell took a little chunk of normalcy back from the half-mile Marion County Fairgrounds oval.
Live on FS1, Swindell stormed to the win in the fifth round of the World of Outlaws iRacing Invitational for sprint cars, returning to victory lane at the virtual iteration of the very track where his career-ending crash happened.
The son of sprint car legend Sammy Swindell endured a mid-race duel with NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson before taking the top spot for good on lap 28 of the 35-lap main event.
From there, Swindell opened up a 2.809-second margin of victory over Christopher Bell, who inherited the second position in a late scramble after Larson got up over the cushion and into the outside wall.
“Tonight was awesome,” Swindell said. “The last couple of these (invitationals), I’ve been lapped and I honestly, probably choked last night (Tuesday) in the DIRTvision race … so this is pretty sweet. The one last night, I just didn’t get my car near tight enough and Logan (Seavey) killed us.
“I learned a little bit there and didn’t make that mistake tonight,” he continued. “I think that played pretty big into making sure my car was where it needed to be at the end there.”
Swindell’s victory may have only been worth $1,000, but he classified it as one of the biggest personal wins of his career.
“With the way these hand controls are, I can’t hustle (the car) like I could when I could use my feet, so it does make it a little tougher and forces me to really put myself into situations where I can be smooth,” he noted. “I’ve shied away from the top somewhat anyways, but that was what it took tonight. If I had a bit better throttle, I think I could have even done a better job. Tonight was good, though.
“I was pumped to drive away like we did and to win at Knoxville, it’s such a great feeling.”
Bell crossed the line as the runner-up ahead of Austin McCarl, with Balog and Logan Schuchart crossing the finish line fourth and fifth, respectively.
Larson faded to sixth, while David Gravel, Max McLaughlin, Brad Sweet and Carson Macedo completed the top 10. Polesitter Brian Brown never led a lap and fell back to 16th at the checkered flag.
A pair of guest drivers – NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya – also participated Wednesday night and finished 15th and 17th, respectively.
Two caution flags – one at the end of lap nine for a spinning Logan Schuchart and the second on lap 22 for contact between Aaron Reutzel and Bill Balog that sent Reutzel flipping wildly – slowed the pace for seven laps in total.
Swindell is the fourth different series victor so far, joining Logan Seavey (March 25, April 7), Jock Goodyer (March 29) and Christopher Bell (April 1) as a winner during the sprint car portion of the World of Outlaws iRacing Invitational Series.
1. 39-Kevin Swindell ($1,000), 2. 21-Christopher Bell , 3. 17a-Austin McCarl , 4. 17b-Bill Balog , 5. 1s-Logan Schuchart , 6. 57-Kyle Larson , 7. 41-David Gravel , 8. 17-Max McLaughlin , 9. 49-Brad Sweet , 10. 2-Carson Macedo , 11. 55-Robbie Kendall , 12. 88-Trent Ivey , 13. 28-Ron Capps , 14. 7bc-Tyler Courtney , 15. 76-Bubba Wallace , 16. 21b-Brian Brown , 17. 6-Juan Pablo Montoya , 18. 2c-Wayne Johnson , 19. 5b-Chase Briscoe , 20. 87-Aaron Reutzel , 21. 87w-Ryan Bernal .
Lead Changes: Four among four drivers
Lap Leaders: Brian Brown Grid, Robbie Kendall 1-14, Kevin Swindell 15-17, Kyle Larson 18-27, Kevin Swindell 28-35.
Laps Led: Robbie Kendall 14, Kevin Swindell 11, Kyle Larson 10.
Hard Charger: 17b-Bill Balog (+11)
Caution Flags: Two for seven laps
Time of Race: 13 minutes, 6.823 seconds
Average Speed: 80.069 mph