Kody Swanson has quietly assembled an impressive racing résumé and the three-time USAC Silver Crown Series champion is on his way to becoming the most prolific winner in the history of USAC’s premier division.
Swanson, a 29-year-old native of Kingsburg, Calif., has 19 series victories. He needs only five more to move ahead of Jack Hewitt on the all-time list and solidify his spot among the best drivers in USAC history.
Like so many in the sport, racing is a family tradition for Swanson.
“I grew up watching my dad (Mike) race. We’re originally from central California, so he raced on the West Coast — a little bit of everything,” Swanson told SPEED SPORT. “In the 1980s and ’90s, he drove supermodifieds out there mostly under the USAC and SMRA banners. My younger brother, Tanner, and I went to a lot of his races until we got started in micro sprints, which was in 2000. We both started at the same time in the junior sprint class — he was 9 and I was 12.”
The Swanson brothers were immediately fast on the track, but there were some strings attached to their racing endeavors.
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“As we got started in racing, we had some rules from mom and some rules from dad,” Kody Swanson noted. “On dad’s end, his comment was that this wasn’t going to be his hobby. He wasn’t going to work on the cars and do everything only to have us goof off and think we were just going to show up and drive. If it was time to work on the cars in the shop, he would help us but we were going to be there helping him, too.
“That was part of it and the other part was that mom said, ‘Your grades are going to stay up. This racing thing isn’t going to adversely affect your education and what you are doing in school.’ So that was the deal. If we wanted to keep racing, the other things had to go along with it.”
Kody Swanson excelled in both the classroom and on the track as he quickly advanced through the open-wheel ranks on the West Coast.
“I came to the Midwest for the first time in 2006 and I drove a sprint car a few times for Dick Meyers,” he said. “In 2007, I was 19 and I started coming to the Midwest more regularly. I was driving Steve Lewis’ midget on pavement. I was in a third car as a teammate to Dave Steele and Dave Darland. At that point, I was just running a few pavement races only and was still kind of going back and forth.
“It was 2008 when I turned 20 and came to the Midwest to run the USAC midget series full time for Steve Lewis. That was the first time I came for the entire summer, but I was still commuting back and forth to the West Coast,” Swanson added. “I had an academic full-ride scholarship to Fresno State. I wasn’t paying for school, so I could buy some plane tickets to go back and forth and finish what I started.
“I studied engineering for a year at Fresno State and I had to have a 3.5 GPA to keep my scholarship. My buddies were going to school full time, meanwhile, I would miss weeks at a time due to racing. So I did engineering for a year and before I really got in jeopardy of losing anything, I switched to agricultural economics. It was something I grew up with in California and it had always been an interest of mine.”
Swanson eventually graduated magna cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a degree in economics.