Kody Swanson
Kody Swanson in victory lane at Toledo Speedway. (Chris Pedersen photo)

Kody Swanson Is Still Toledo Dominator

TOLEDO, Ohio — During his first six USAC Silver Crown victories at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway (2012, 15, 18, 19, 21, 22), Kody Swanson led 611 out of a possible 650 laps (94%) in an absolutely dominant stretch at the half-mile paved oval.

Saturday’s running of the Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic Fueled By Marco’s Pizza was a quite different story.

Nonetheless, when seemingly backed against the wall for the majority of the distance, the Kingsburg, Calif., native still managed to pull through and prevail in the 100-lapper, leading 23 laps to score an astounding seventh career Rollie Beale Classic victory, and his fifth-in-a-row at Toledo with the champ cars dating back to 2018.

Toledo Speedway’s all-time winningest USAC driver also equaled a series record set by another series dominator, the late, great Dave Steele. Swanson’s performance marked just the third time in which a driver captured five consecutive USAC Silver Crown race wins at one track. Steele grabbed five straight at Phoenix Raceway between 2002-’06 while Swanson scored five-in-a-row at Indiana’s Salem Speedway between 2016-20.

Swanson’s third win of the season on Saturday was Swanson’s third series victory in a row, making it the fourth occasion in which he won at least three consecutive main events with the series. No other driver has more than one such streak.

Furthermore, Swanson’s 40th career USAC Silver Crown triumph came after gaining his 45th career pole award with the series during Honest Abe Qualifying where he joined Tanner Swanson as just the second driver to win seven career USAC Silver Crown poles at a single track, which his younger brother has achieved at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Aboard the Doran-Binks Racing/Mission Foods – Glenn Farms/Beast/Lanci Ford, Swanson endured a hellacious side-by-side battle for the lead with outside front row starter C.J. Leary during the first three laps.

Swanson edged Leary by a car length at the stripe to lead lap one before the duo swapped lanes when Leary wedged underneath Swanson exiting turn two on lap two then surged into the lead as they crossed the line separated by a half car length. Leary escaped the throes of Swanson on the third lap to gain a little bit of breathing room, which he’d enjoy for quite a while.

However, on lap four, the race’s only caution flag was displayed when fourth running Davey Hamilton Jr., making his debut for the Legacy Autosport team, saw his ride go up in smoke on the back straight. The Idahoan quickly stopped and hopped out, ending his day prematurely.

Leary continued to be a force up front throughout the first third of the event while, further back, 2017 Rollie Beale Classic USAC Silver Crown winner Bobby Santos had gained eight spots by lap 28 to advance from his 20th starting position to 12th. 

Santos was relegated to the tail for the start due to a driveline issue suffered during practice, and later, raced his way into the top-10 on lap 57, but dropped to 11th in the final running order during the waning laps.

Simultaneously, Leary began to work lapped traffic, but managed to extend his lead to more than four seconds over Swanson as the race neared the midway point. Mired in traffic on lap 48, 2020 series champion Justin Grant found himself lodged in-between the lapped machines of Nathan Byrd and Matt Westfall. 

Spotting a lane all to his own, Derek Bischak moved up a groove and drove around the outside of all three to move into second but remained a full five seconds out of the lead.

By lap 56, Leary had his hands full with a huge throng of cars in his path, including Santos, Billy Wease, Kyle O’Gara, Trey Burke, Mike McVetta and Taylor Ferns who earned hard charger honors by advancing from 17th to 8th. All the traffic managed to slash Leary’s lead from four seconds down to a mere 1.8 with just 40 circuits to go.

On lap 75, the gap was zilch as Leary and Swanson raced around the joint nose-to-tail. By that point, Leary was hanging on by a thread as his right rear tire grew, which increased his stagger, making the car very loose in the corners. All Leary could do to keep Swanson at bay was to just make it as hard as possible for him to get by.

However, off the fourth turn on lap 77, Swanson was able to get a nose under Leary, yet Leary managed to maintain his lead for a full lap longer. However, at the exits of turns two and four, the rear end kicked out just a bit on Leary, pushing him off the bottom and allowing Swanson to get a nose in edgewise.

Ultimately, lap 79 told the tale as Swanson pulled even with Leary on entry into turn one for the first time. Swanson hugged the bottom and cleared Leary by turn two to take over the lead, a position he’d never surrender.

Swanson immediately opened up his lead to a full second in the ensuing laps, but soon found himself amidst a gaggle of nine lapped cars running high, low and middle in front of him with 10 laps to go. Yet, Swanson played it smart and those in front of him kept it clean while also racing for position inside the top-10 as Swanson completed the 100-lap distance in a blistering time of 28:35.61, which was slowed by just one caution with the final 91 laps going clean and green.

At the checkered, Swanson had lapped all but the top-10 and was 1.158 seconds ahead of Leary with Bischak in third and Grant in fourth while Logan Seavey rounded out the top five.

USAC Silver Crown Series, Toledo Speedway, Toledo, Ohio, Aug. 5, 2023

HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran/Binks-15.129; 2. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-15.179; 3. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-15.265; 4. Davey Hamilton Jr., 19, Legacy-15.292; 5. Derek Bischak, 131, Bischak-15.294; 6. Dakoda Armstrong, 5, C & A-15.368; 7. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice/Abacus-15.374; 8. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-15.390; 9. Mario Clouser, 92, Kazmark-15.416; 10. Kaylee Bryson, 26, Pierce-15.475; 11. Billy Wease, 60, Wilson-15.488; 12. Kyle O’Gara, 67, SFHR-15.537; 13. Nathan Byrd, 88, Byrd-15.544; 14. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-15.615; 15. Matt Westfall, 81, BCR-15.660; 16. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-15.702; 17. Taylor Ferns, 555, Ferns-15.852; 18. Trey Burke, 11, Hamilton/SRG-15.879; 19. Mike McVetta, 94, RAM-16.312; 20. Tom Paterson, 111, Paterson-17.385; 21. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-NT; 22. Bobby Santos, 98, DJ-NT; 23. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams-NT.

FEATURE: (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kody Swanson (1), 2. C.J. Leary (2), 3. Derek Bischak (5), 4. Justin Grant (3), 5. Logan Seavey (7), 6. Kaylee Bryson (10), 7. Mario Clouser (9), 8. Taylor Ferns (17), 9. Russ Gamester (8), 10. Dakoda Armstrong (6), 11. Bobby Santos (20), 12. Billy Wease (11), 13. Kyle Robbins (14), 14. Kyle O’Gara (12), 15. Matt Westfall (15), 16. Nathan Byrd (13), 17. Trey Burke (18), 18. Mike McVetta (19), 19. Travis Welpott (16), 20. Davey Hamilton Jr. (4), 21. Tom Paterson (22), 22. Dave Berkheimer (21). 28:35.61