Kody Swanson became just the second driver to reach 20 wins in the USAC Silver Crown Series on Friday night with his victory in the Rollie Beale Classic at Toledo Speedway.
He joins another guy synonymous with car number 63 and crew chief Bob Hampshire, as Swanson is now just three wins behind Jack Hewitt. The triumph came just five days after a tumultuous runner-up finish in the Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
Swanson started an uncharacteristic ninth, but advanced three positions by the end of the first lap. But even that was eventful, having to take evasive action to avoid a slow Kyle Hamilton on the start. Jerry Coons immediately bolted to the lead and held the position until Lap 40.
That’s when Swanson took the top spot and never looked back.
“It’s hard to believe we had to make such big changes after practice,” Swanson said. “We were pretty speedy, but knew it just wasn’t right. I thought I screwed up and gave it all away. I had to start behind eight very good racecars and drivers.
“At Toledo, that’s pretty tricky. We made even more changes after qualifying. I’m not sure if we were going too far or if it hadn’t come in yet. We were kind of in the dark. We all huddled around and gave it our best shot. The consensus was, right, wrong or indifferent; I was going to have 100 laps to figure out how to get whatever we could get.”
Restarts were where Swanson really held an advantage, surprisingly. If the Swanson-DePalma team had any chink in its armor in recent years, it was restarts. But for the lap 37 restart in Friday night’s race, this was where the team won on Friday.
“Something we’ve struggled with at times is taking off on starts,” Swanson acknowledged. “Tonight, this thing took off the best it has in four or five years. We got a couple spots and some good runs on restarts because of the effort these guys put in at the shop.”
Second-running Bobby Santos didn’t quite launch on the restart, so Swanson went where they weren’t. By turn two, Swanson had muscled the banks to take third from Byrne and second from defending race winner Santos in the snap of a finger.
“I don’t know if it was the motivation or driving angry or whatever you want to call it, but whether that was a good move or bad, I went to the top,” Swanson justified. “It happened to work out and I kind of got a run on the outside and got into second with a two-for-one in one turn. I don’t know why it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought, ‘well, I’ll just go for more.’ Bobby almost got back to the inside of me and that pretty much solidified that it’s now or never. You’re either first or third at that point.”
Moments after losing the lead, Coons fell off the pace and had to go behind the wall. That allowed Swanson to extend his lead over Santos by a half-straight by Lap 50.
Swanson extended that lead throughout the second half as he checked off a succession of lapped cars until the final yellow flag fell with three laps remaining when Austin Nemire and Travis Welpott made contact in turn four, sending Welpott into a spin.
On the final restart, by rule, the lapped cars would be removed from the equation and start from the tail.
“Bobby and David (Byrne) were second and third and are really good racers,” Swanson said. “They’ll both race you really hard and really clean, but you’re not safe with them behind you. They’ve proven they can pass anybody at any time. It’s just one of things where you must focus. I’ve got my wife on the radio, and we had the best car during the race. It was my job to hit two good laps.
“The engine took off great on the restart and got me a little bit of a gap, which is huge into turn one knowing that they’re not already on your bumper,” Swanson detailed. “If you make any sort of mistake, you can run it in there and try to build some momentum. Luckily, the thing re-fired up really well and we were able to pull away in the last two laps to seal it. What a wild night, what a wild weekend it’s been. It’s all the reasons why I love Silver Crown racing.”
Swanson won his third career Rollie Beale Classic by just a tick under a second over Santos, Byrne, Eric Gordon and Aaron Pierce.
The complete results can be found below.
1. Kody Swanson (9)
2. Bobby Santos (4)
3. David Byrne (7)
4. Eric Gordon (16)
5. Aaron Pierce (6)
6. Austin Nemire (8)
7. Cody Gerhardt (15)
8. Matt Goodnight (10)
9. Travis Welpott (11)
10. Justin Grant (1)
11. Kyle Robbins (12)
12. Toni Breidinger (14)
13. Jerry Coons Jr. (2)
14. Kyle Hamilton (3)
15. Chris Windom (5)
16. Dave Darland (13)
Time of race: 32:00.90
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