OREGON, Wis. — It was a patient Kody Swanson who won Friday night’s USAC Silver Crown Series Dairyland 100 at Madison Int’l Speedway.
Swanson led the first 12 laps from the pole but fell back to third where he’d run for the first half of the 100-lapper as David Byrne, then Kyle Hamilton took turns at the front. Swanson wasn’t sure a win on this day was in the cards. However, the Kingsburg, Calif., native kept grinding and working until he put himself in a position to pounce.
“Earlier, I didn’t know if I’d have anything for Kyle and David,” Swanson admitted. “Not only were they faster than me, they were able to do it with ease. That’s a disheartening feeling, but I love that they’re 100 laps. The track changes and your car changes. I just stayed with it and kept moving around. I like what dirt teaches you, that you need to move around and follow the racetrack so that you’re prepared for a position like that when you’re in traffic.”
At midway, though, the complexion of the race was altered. On the 51st lap, fourth-running Justin Grant’s car went up in smoke, dumping liquid and turning the surface in turn three into a skating ring, sending sixth-place Derek Bischak and eighth-place Travis Welpott sliding uncontrollably at the entrance of turn three.
After the unplanned mid-race break, Swanson knew he had been able to preserve his equipment in the first half. The timing was now right to make a run, he felt.
“One of the biggest factors here is when you’re on the brakes,” Swanson explained. “No matter how fast you are, if you run out, you’re sunk. I felt like once we got in the second half, it was okay to try what I could to keep pace. I felt like the longer it went, the better we got.”
On lap 57, the timing was just right to set the first domino into motion. The top-three of Hamilton, Byrne and Swanson ran nearly nose-to-tail. Swanson hustled and forced Byrne into pressuring Hamilton, which opened the door on the bottom at the exit of turn four, where Swanson pulled even with Byrne near the end of the front straightaway before Byrne shut the door, albeit momentarily.
Byrne couldn’t quite hold the bottom line, drifted up off turn two, which allowed Swanson to stay the course underneath to drive away with the second spot on the backstretch with Hamilton now the only contender left in his sight as the pair began to encounter lapped traffic.
“When catching lapped cars, you never know what can happen at the end, or anytime,” Swanson reiterated. “You never know when you might be in a position to win one or not. With 12 to go at Williams Grove (two weeks ago), I thought I had a shot, but I made a mistake. We were battling issues. We all are. That’s what I love about Silver Crown. Nobody gets a perfect game. You’ve got to figure it out, but I didn’t. I missed it.”
On the 77th lap, Swanson was amidst this very situation heading down the back straight, but was sort of in the bystander role, waiting to see what Hamilton does and counter that move. Hamilton chose the high route and got clogged in by a group of three lapped cars at the exit of turn four. Hamilton was stuck, but Swanson had an open space on the bottom to stick his nose in and forge forward with the lead.
“I love when you catch them in a group like that…in second place,” Swanson clarified. “It’s a huge advantage there. It’s your job to take care of it. When you’re trying to decide whether to go high or low, you pretty much get to pick the lane he doesn’t. I was hoping he’d pick high personally just because the way I felt my car was rolling the bottom really well. I was able to make a move and get alongside and, from there, you have to capitalize on things like that. He’s good enough, if he gets back out front, there may not be enough time left to get another opportunity.
Swanson was more than eager to put this one on ice, where he opened up a near four-second lead by the closing laps. That is, until Austin Nemire slipped sideways to a stop in turn four as Swanson was eying the checkered flag, necessitating a green-white-checkered finish.
“Here, we were within coasting distance of making it happen, but they say, ‘no dice,'” Swanson recalled. “On the radio, I was just quiet. What a bummer it really was, but I had to get focused and it’s like ‘hey you got to let it go.’ It is what it is. It’s our job to do the best two laps we can and finish this thing.”
Swanson had no trouble on the final two lap sprint, opening up a 1.678-second gap at the finish to score his 27th career series win.
Hamilton hung on for second despite getting clipped in turn three by Byrne in a battle for the runner-up spot. Hamilton maintained the grip and hung on for second over Byrne, Bobby Santos and Eric Gordon.
To see full results, turn to the next page.