Kody Swanson in victory lane Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway. (David Sink Photo)
Kody Swanson earned more than $77,000 in one night at Lucas Oil Raceway. (David Sink Photo)

The Top Storylines Of The USAC Season, Part No. 2

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Today we continue our look back at the many amazing moments that took place during the USAC season in the Silver Crown, National Sprint Car and National Midget divisions. 

Check back tomorrow for the third and final part of our look back at the many amazing USAC moments that left fans in awe last season.

Kody, The $77,100 Man

On a night in which he pocketed a total of $77,100 in total prizes, Kody Swanson saved his best for his last in an encore performance during August’s inaugural Hoosier Classic USAC Silver Crown feature at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.

After winning the Sprint Car feature and finishing third in the midget earlier in the evening, the Kingsburg, Calif. native wrapped up the evening with a dominant, picture-perfect Silver Crown performance at the .686-mile paved oval, leading all 100 laps in his Doran Enterprises ride.

By winning two of the three features throughout the program, Swanson netted the Fatheadz Challenge $50,000 bonus and, added in with his $12,500 Silver Crown victory, $1,100 pole award courtesy of Fatheadz Eyewear and PJ1, along with his winnings from the sprint car and midget events, it totaled the richest day for any driver walking out of a Lucas Oil Raceway USAC event, surpassing the $60,280 captured by Dave Steele following his sweep of the Mopar Twin 25 Midget races in 2002.

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The start of the USAC Silver Crown race at Winchester Speedway. (Randy Crist photo)

USAC Returns To Winchester

In the first USAC sanctioned event at the famed eastern Indiana venue, Justin Grant had to muster every ounce of grit, determination and moxie on the last lap of Thursday night’s 100-lap Rich Vogler Classic presented by The Pallet Builder USAC Silver Crown National Championship race at Winchester Speedway.

Driving that point home is the fact that the driver chasing Grant on the green-white-checkered dash to the finish, Kody Swanson, posted his fastest lap of the race on the 100th and final lap in his pursuit of the win.

Simultaneously, Grant answered the bell by laying down his fastest lap of the entire race on the 100th and final lap to keep Swanson behind him.

At the line, Grant finished just a miniscule half car length ahead of Swanson in a dramatic ending to the heavyweight slugfest in the series’ debut on the 37-degree banked, three stories high oval. For Grant, it was his first pavement win with USAC and a triumph that he considered surreal after thinking it was the gnarliest thing he’d ever seen as a kid.

Brian Tyler celebrates his victory at DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds. (Neil Cavanah photo)

Brian Tyler Joins New team, Wins First USAC Race In A Decade At Du Quoin

In his storied USAC Silver Crown career, which has spanned three decades and 199 starts, perhaps none were more improbable than his performance on Labor Day afternoon at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in southern Illinois.

For instance, it was his first run in the BCR Group, taking the reins of the ride exactly two weeks earlier following the parting of ways between the team and longtime driver Shane Cottle.

Secondly, it had been two years since the Parma, Michigan driver last sat in the seat of a USAC Silver Crown car, keeping the fires burning in the meantime by winning in a Gold Crown car at several of the most famed road racing circuits in the United States.

Tyler returned to the series in grand fashion to “steal their lunch money” so to speak, by charging from 11th to 1st to win his second career Ted Horn 100, and first since 2008, at the Magic Mile.

With a mid-race snooker of Kody Swanson for the lead, then thwarting repeated challenges from Logan Seavey down the stretch, Tyler’s performance put him in the win column with the series for the first time in more than a decade, since a victory on the Springfield Mile in 2011.

Furthermore, Tyler’s stretch of 10 years and 17 days between USAC Silver Crown wins is the second longest gap in series history. Cottle set the record in 2020 at 12 years, 11 months and 7 days, and achieved the feat in the same BCR Group No. 81 that Tyler won with at Du Quoin on Monday afternoon.

In doing so, at 53 years, 10 months and 10 days old, Tyler became USAC Silver Crown’s oldest race winner, surpassing the record of Chet Fillip, who was 51 years, 2 months and 25 days when he won at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in 2008.

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Kevin Thomas Jr. in victory lane at Perris Auto Speedway. (Steve Himelstein photo)

From 0 To 9 In 365 Days: KTJ Has Career Best Year

Kevin Thomas Jr. earned a series best, and career best, nine USAC National Sprint Car victories in 2021 following a winless 2020 season. En route to a runner-up finish in the standings, Thomas scored the opener in February at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park, then added an April win at Bloomington and a June triumph in the series debut at Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg Fair Raceway.

Moving into July, Thomas added an early July victory at Putnamville, Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway after starting all the way back in 14th, then tabbed a second career Indiana Sprint Week championship in late July.

In August, KTJ notched a victory at Indiana’s Paragon Speedway, the first series race held at the track in 23 years. A daytime prelim Sprint Car Smackdown win followed at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway in August, as did a $12,000 Haubstadt Hustler victory at Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway in September, a $10,000 win at the Lawrenceburg Speedway Fall Nationals in October and a third Oval Nationals victory lane celebration worth $10,000 at Perris in November.

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Justin Grant in victory lane at Placerville Speedway. (Devin Mayo Photo)

Around The USA In 93 USAC Races For Grant

The 93 combined USAC National Sprint, Midget & Silver Crown events collectively held in 2021 were the third most all-time and the most since the 1977 season. Justin Grant was the lone driver to compete in all 93 USAC national features during the year, blowing away the former all-time record of starts in a season, 77 set in 2010.

Jumping between the Hemelgarn Racing Silver Crown car, the TOPP Motorsports Sprint Car and the RMS Racing Midget, Grant won a series-best-tying 12 times between the three series in 2021 – seven sprint, four midget and one Silver Crown.

Furthermore, Grant is also just the sixth driver to finish inside the top-three in all three series in a single year, joining Rich Vogler (1980, 1981 & 1989), Ken Schrader (1983), Tony Stewart (1995), J.J. Yeley (2002 & 2003) and Chris Windom (2020).

Along the way, Grant added a ProSource Passing Master Award, passing 230 total cars in feature events throughout the season and also captured a second career Mike Curb Super License after scoring the most combined points between the three series.