PLOVER, Wis. — It’s very rare when a race car driver struggles more before the race than he does during. On a day when a few rain showers gave him some more time to contemplate, James Swan took advantage.
Swan and his team made wholesale changes to their machine throughout race day, and smoothly sailed through the 50-lap Kim Parsons Memorial feature event at Golden Sands Speedway Monday afternoon. The win was Swan’s first of 2012 and his second at GSS since August of 2006.
“We tried adjusting on the car all day long to try to make it go straight,” Swan explained. “Finally we just gave up on that and just made it turn better. Once we made it turn better it was half throttle most of the time.”
Normally a threat to top the charts, Swan qualified seventh on the afternoon. A nine-car invert placed him behind front row starters Frank Slabenak Jr. and Jeremy Spoonmore. Swan was flanked to the outside by another former Golden Sands MASCS winner, Lyle Nowak.
At the drop of the green the outside line quickly took the advantage. Spoonmore pushed into the lead around Slabenak and Nowak had an early jump on Swan. However, as Nowak and Swan approached Slabenak in second, he drifted to the high line. An opening was left for Swan to secure second on lap four.
Over the next six laps Swan chewed away at the lead built by Spoonmore. By lap ten Swan was able to swing to the inside and overtake the top spot. Behind him, a mad scramble including Nowak, Adam Bendzick, Marv Flick and Bill Prietzel left the other top five positions in heavy dispute.
Perhaps the biggest scare of the race for Swan came on lap 23 when Jack Stern’s engine let go just a few car lengths in front of the leader. Stern spun in his own oil in turns three and four, and Swan somehow came through unscathed.
“I was getting ready to turn in and I saw his car smoking a little bit,” Swan said. “Sure enough I cut straight across the oil when it came out and it saved me. Had I turned in when I saw it I probably would have spun in myself.”
At the conclusion of the clean up the decision cone was placed. Swan, Spoonmore and Nowak in succession chose to start on the bottom. Adam Bendzick decided to be the first to jump out of line and moved from fourth to the outside row. Flick and fast qualifier Ryan Gutknecht tested the top, as well.
On the restart Swan was again too strong for his challenger. Bendzick hung on as long as he could, but soon relinquished spots to Spoonmore and Nowak. Nowak immediately worked the back bumper of Spoonmore, but could muster no more than getting to the left-rear quarter panel before being forced to tuck back in line.
The final laps went without incident for Swan who proved that he remembered a thing or two since his victory at GSS almost six years ago.
“It is a very slippery race track. There is a lot of throttle control, and you don’t want to spin the tires,” Swan said. “With these Hoosier F75 tires if you spin them a couple times they get greasy and lose grip.”
As Swan drove off into the sunset, Bill Prietzel made a late-race push. He cruised past Mike Lange and Adam Bendzick over the final circuits to finish fourth. Following in his tire tracks was Rockford winner Ryan Farrell, who in his first visit to Golden Sands, left with a share of the point lead. He and Swan are unofficially tied at 263 markers a piece.
“That is just awesome. Ryan Farrell and I have so much fun,” Swan said. “It’s pretty cool to have my protégé racing with me for a championship. He’s really tough and he adapts really well.”