TOLEDO, Ohio — Kody Swanson became the second driver to reach the 20-victory mark in the USAC Silver Crown Series with solid run to victory in the Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic at Toledo Speedway.
Swanson’s 20th series victory puts him three wins behind long-standing series leader Jack Hewitt, who has 23 victories.
Swanson’s performance came just five days after a topsy-turvy, tumultuous outing during the Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
“It’s hard to believe we had to make such big changes after practice,” Swanson reflects. “We were pretty speedy, but knew it just wasn’t right. I thought I screwed up and gave it all away. I had to start behind eight very good racecars and drivers. At Toledo, that’s pretty tricky. We made even more changes after qualifying. I’m not sure if we were going too far or if it hadn’t come in yet. We were kind of in the dark. We all huddled around and gave it our best shot. The consensus was, right, wrong or indifferent; I was going to have 100 laps to figure out how to get whatever we could get.”
By the end of the first lap, Swanson had already advanced three positions to the sixth spot, taking evasive action when Kyle Hamilton’s ride was hesitant to take off. causing the inside row to check up momentarily. Meanwhile, outside front row starter Jerry Coons Jr. bolted to the lead at the start to lead the opening laps for the second consecutive race.
Swanson steadily moved forward to fifth on lap five and fourth on lap 15 where he maintained position for the remainder of the first third of the race as the first caution of the night came out on the 33rd lap for the stopped car of sixth-running Hamilton. If the Swanson/DePalma team had any chink in its armor in recent years, it was restarts. But for the lap 37 restart in Friday night’s race, this was where the team won the thing.
“Something we’ve struggled with at times is taking off on starts,” Swanson acknowledged. “Tonight, this thing took off the best it has in four or five years. We got a couple spots and some good runs on restarts because of the effort these guys put in at the shop.”
Second-running Santos didn’t quite launch on the restart, so Swanson went where they weren’t. By turn two, Swanson had muscled the banks to take third from Byrne and second from defending race winner Santos in the snap of a finger.
Just three laps later, Swanson had roped in the race leader, Coons, and sped around him for the top spot exiting turn two on the 40th circuit.
“I don’t know if it was the motivation or driving angry or whatever you want to call it, but whether that was a good move or bad, I went to the top,” Swanson justified. “It happened to work out and I kind of got a run on the outside and got into second with a two-for-one in one turn. I don’t know why it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought, ‘well, I’ll just go for more.’ Bobby almost got back to the inside of me and that pretty much solidified that it’s now or never. You’re either first or third at that point.”
Moments later, Coons had his race end abruptly when he began to slow before steering his ride back to the pit area. Swanson, though, was on complete cruise control, ramping up his lead to a half-straightaway by midway. Swanson continuously extended his lead throughout the second half as he checked off a succession of lapped cars until the final yellow flag fell with three laps remaining when Austin Nemire and Travis Welpott made contact in turn four, sending Welpott into a spin.
On the final restart, by rule, the lapped cars would be removed from the equation and start from the tail.
“Bobby (Santos) and David (Byrne) were second and third and are really good racers,” Swanson said. “They’ll both race you really hard and really clean, but you’re not safe with them behind you. They’ve proven they can pass anybody at any time. It’s just one of things where you must focus. I’ve got my wife on the radio, and we had the best car during the race. It was my job to hit two good laps.
“The engine took off great on the restart and got me a little bit of a gap, which is huge into turn one knowing that they’re not already on your bumper,” Swanson detailed. “If you make any sort of mistake, you can run it in there and try to build some momentum. Luckily, the thing re-fired up really well and we were able to pull away in the last two laps to seal it. What a wild night, what a wild weekend it’s been. It’s all the reasons why I love Silver Crown racing.”
Swanson won his third career Rollie Beale Classic by just a tick under a second over Santos, Byrne, Eric Gordon and Aaron Pierce.
To see full results, turn to the next page.