NEWTON, Iowa — Kody Swanson’s ARCA Menards Series debut has been a long time coming.
After several years of keeping his nose to the grindstone, dominating the short-track world and hoping something would materialize for him to try and take a step up the motorsports ladder, Swanson will get his shot in a stock car with Chad Bryant Racing on Saturday afternoon at Iowa Speedway.
Swanson will pilot the No. 22 Fatheadz Eyewear Ford at the seven-eighths-mile oval, a track the five-time and defending USAC Silver Crown Series champion is extremely familiar with.
The 32-year-old native of Kingsburg, Calif., holds the Silver Crown track record at Iowa Speedway, and boasts three podium finishes at the track.
While he’s hoping his past Iowa experience will help shorten his learning curve, Swanson admitted there will be some nerves when he steps into the national spotlight aboard a stock car for the first time.
“It’s a lot of emotions in a lot of different directions, you know?” Swanson said during an ARCA teleconference. “It’s something I’ve been working toward and something where I’ve been trying to branch into new things in racing. I’m really excited now, and really thankful that I have a chance to do that, but I’m also very nervous about the things I don’t know yet. I’ve been fortunate to race at Iowa Speedway before, so at least that’ll be a little familiar, but obviously the type of race and the car and the format and the procedure is all different.
“It’s a lot of everything, really. I’m definitely excited, definitely nervous, a little bit terrified, but I’m looking forward to making that first lap and seeing how it goes from there.”
Swanson noted he sometimes had doubts he’d ever get the chance to race stock cars.
“In life and in racing, you really never know what the next day will hold,” Swanson said. “I’ve been working on this for a while and there’ve been times that I thought I might’ve caught a break … where maybe a test was scheduled and something was going to happen, and that team ended up having to sell out and reform, or whatever the case happened to be. So each one of those things ended up becoming near misses.
“There was even a chance that I might fill in for Chase Briscoe in a practice session at Lucas Oil Raceway a couple of years ago and we had the most consistent rain in Indianapolis that we’d had in 10 years for those three days, and everything got rescheduled and I had to start over,” he recalled. “So it’s been tough to keep after it this long, yeah. At the same time, I feel like you have a lot of those thoughts (in general), whether it ranges from highs to lows.
“In racing, it’s no different trying to get something going as it is once you’re on the race track.”
That said, it was a continued relationship with Chad Bryant — sparked through the substitute role that never actually materialized — that helped lead Swanson to his driving opportunity for the CBR team.
“I met Chad Bryant at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2017; it was the year after Chase (Briscoe) had won the title and Chase was in the area with the sprint cars for Indiana Sprint Week,” Swanson recalled. “I wasn’t even driving that night; I was just helping a buddy, but I got to talk to him a little bit and Chase said, ‘Hey, you need to get in touch with these guys.’ We were there (at LOR) with the Silver Crown and the ARCA cars the following week and I got in touch with him then, and I’ve stayed in contact.
“In most of my near misses before, it’s been times that Chad’s been trying to help me get that break to get started,” Swanson continued. “It’s really nice that this is all finally coming together the way it is.”
Knowing that Saturday’s race will pose new challenges for him, Swanson said he has “zero expectations” going into the race, particularly since he’ll have only one hour of practice to learn the car before the green flag waves.
“It’s another one of the things I really don’t know yet,” Swanson said when asked about his goals for the race. “I’ll have a better gauge after we get started with practice, but I mean, any race car driver or any team’s ideal is that that somehow you’re in position to contend for a win. But I know that I’ve got so much to learn that I don’t know where the reality bar is just yet. Whether that’s making all the laps and getting good experience or what that looks like, you know?
“I’ve been there before in fast and high horsepower cars, so my biggest thing is just trying to figure out how to adapt with that and what my comfort level will be,” he continued. “At this point, I don’t know that I’ll have any better gauge on it until we make the first lap and find out if it’s something comfortable to me or if it’s something that I really have to work at to learn the differences between the car types.
“I’m excited, though; I really am. It’s going to be fun to get started.”