Aaron Pierce (26) races under Bobby Santos III during the 2019 USAC Silver Crown Series Rollie Beale Classic. (Jim DenHamer photo)

USAC Silver Crown Takes On Toledo

TOLEDO, Ohio — During last fall’s Rollie Beale Classic at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway, it became clear that Kody Swanson possesses the rare and unique talent to make the extraordinary seem commonplace.

He made that happen again in the last round of the USAC Silver Crown season in July as the six-time series champion took over possession of the point lead. Swanson will now lead the field entering this Saturday’s 100-lap Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic on August 6.

For the majority of the 2021 race at Toledo’s high-banked, half-mile paved oval, Swanson performed just as you’d come to expect from the series’ winningest driver.

The first 83.5 trips around the half-mile paved oval were relatively free of stress for Swanson, but a bit of turn three duress nearly derailed both his bid for the race win and the driving title.

It was then that Swanson got caught up in a melee, smashing the left front of his nose and wheel into the rear bumper of a spinning car, testing the maximum limits of metal’s flexibility. A major puncture wound to the nose and a bent axle became the battle scars Swanson carried for the final 13 circuits en route to victory, and despite all the lingering circumstances, Swanson remained untouchable.

Swanson enters this year’s event as the defending race winner. He has won each of the last three races at Toledo, among his grand total of five USAC Silver Crown race victories at the venue in 2011, ’15, ’18, ’19 and ’21.

He’s also the only driver who has started all eight USAC Silver Crown events at Toledo and never finished outside the top-four.

Swanson has led 555 of the 900 laps ever run by silver crown cars at Toledo at a clip of 61.66 percent. He’s also won the pole five times at Toledo in 2011, ’15, ’17, ’19 and ’21.

His first, in 2011, remains the one-lap silver crown track record — 14.809 sec.

However, he’s not the only driver who can dominate the asphalt. A loaded field of 24 USAC Silver Crown racers and teams will file into Toledo to pound the pavement in the Glass City.

Bobby Santos is the only driver to win at Toledo Speedway in a USAC sprint car, midget and silver crown car in his career. Santos also took the checkered at the Rollie Beale Classic in 2017.

A feather in his cap is being the most recent driver, apart from Swanson, to win with the series at Toledo. The pavement ace has finished inside the top-three in a crown car at Toledo on five occasions.

A mere three points separate the top three in the USAC Silver Crown championship fight with Swanson leading over Logan Seavey and C.J. Leary who are both tied at three points apiece behind Swanson.

Both Seavey and Leary are pursuing a first silver crown driving title.

Leary has emerged as a frontrunner to contend with on the pavement.

Known primarily for his dirt prowess, the 2019 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion not only won, but dominated, the silver crown visit to Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway this past June. He’ll be making his first Toledo appearance in three seasons.

Seavey will be aiming to make gains toward a silver crown championship run with a solid Toledo finish. He’s already been in victory lane on the dirt with the series this season at Port Royal Speedway.

Seavey is a past USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion from the 2018 season.

Brian Tyler owns USAC winning experience at Toledo, capturing a national sprint car win there during the 2001 season. Tyler put together his best Toledo silver crown result in 2021 with a late surge to finish third.

Back in 2010 and ’11, the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion notched back-to-back sixth place silver crown runs at Toledo.

Past series champion Justin Grant set the quick time in qualifying at Toledo in 2018. He’s earned top-10 Toledo silver crown finishes with a 10th in both 2017 and ’18, then turned in a personal best fourth in ’19.

His car is owned by race sponsor Ron Hemelgarn, who was also the winning owner for Buddy Lazier’s 1996 Indianapolis 500 entry. Dennis LaCava was with the team on its big day a quarter century ago and will be turning the wrenches for Grant at Toledo this Saturday.

Likewise, Eric Gordon has been victorious in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition at Toledo, winning his first career USAC race there in 1989. 

Austin Nemire made his first career silver crown start at Toledo in 2015, finishing seventh, and followed it up in 2018 with a solid sixth. Nemire has been consistent over the years at Toledo, becoming the hard charger in 2019 and moving his way through the field to a seventh place finish after starting 20th.

In 2021, the story unfolded similarly with Nemire charging from 15th to finish eighth.

Russ Gamester has made four Toledo silver crown starts with a best of 11th in 2019. He took eighth with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Toledo in 2011 and was fourth during an Auto Value Super Sprint feature there in 2019.

Nathan Byrd, Kyle O’Gara and Taylor Ferns each recorded their best Toledo silver crown results the last time around in 2021. Byrd scored a career-best sixth in the event while O’Gara came home seventh. Silver crown racing’s most successful woman Ferns notched a 9th.

Returning for Toledo action this Saturday are 2018 series Rookie-of-the-Year Kyle Robbins, Travis Welpott, Mike Haggenbottom, Jake Day, Dave Berkheimer and Mike McVetta.

Getting their first taste of USAC silver crown experience at Toledo includes pavement stud Derek Bischak, plus five USAC silver crown rookies like Kaylee Bryson, Gregg Cory, Nick Hamilton, Mario Clouser and Tom Paterson.