From Richie Murray – USAC Media
Winchester, Indiana (July 21, 2022)………After experiencing defeat during last year’s USAC Silver Crown debut at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway by a narrow half car length margin, was there any doubt that Kody Swanson would come ready to play in Thursday night’s return?
Couple that with the fact that the Kingsburg, Calif. driver had gone winless with the series throughout the first four points races of this season, the longest such drought he’s endured to start a campaign since 2013.
During Thursday night’s Rich Vogler Classic Presented By The Pallet Builder, those ingredients made for a recipe that called for a whooping of epic proportions on the 37-degree banked, half-mile paved oval.
The six-time series champ led all 100 circuits and lapped all but one driver in the 21-car field en route to a mind-blowing 10.062 second margin of victory in his Doran-Dyson Racing/Glenn Farms – Henry U.S.A. – Duncan Oil/Beast/Lanci Ford, which resulted in his 35th career USAC Silver Crown victory, and the first of his career at Winchester, one that he was bound and determined to find redemption for after how last year transpired.
“I left Tuesday morning for the race shop and still haven’t been home,” Swanson revealed. “We had a job to do and wanted to put this car in victory lane for this team, and I didn’t do any of it alone.”
To accomplish the deal, he had to defy the initial instincts that he held a year ago. This time around, it was a complete 100-mile sprint from start to finish that not a single other car or driver in the field could match on this night.
“I had a car good enough last year, I just did it wrong,” Swanson lamented. “I hate to admit that, but I did. My team deserved to win and, today, maybe a couple things went our way, and we had a whole different mindset. Last year, I was conservative because I was nervous about what would happen if I ran out of tire at the end. This time, I wanted to make sure we all ran out and see how it went because this car was so good.”
The triumph was Swanson’s third in the Rich Vogler Classic, each coming an even three years apart from each other following previous victorious celebrations in 2016 and 2019 and now 2022.
The win carried extra special weight with Swanson greeting Rich’s mother Eleanor in victory lane on a night 32 years to the day that the world lost Vogler, USAC’s winningest driver. Vogler was a 10-time USAC winner on the banks, while another USAC legend, Tracy Hines, captured eight. It was these inspirations for Swanson that firmly established his deep-seated acknowledgement of the history of the sport, those who came before him and the revere that they all have for Winchester’s hills.
“I appreciate the history of the sport,” Swanson stated. “Someone who helped me learn how to race on the banks was Tracy Hines. Five or six years ago before (a race at) Salem (Speedway), I gave him a call and he helped me out and taught me a lot which still holds true to this day. Even last fall, I got to sit down with Mack McClellan, Tom Bigelow and Johnny Parsons and they told stories about this place. There’s a lot of it that I took to heart that made sense; those guys did it, and it was super tough. There was maybe a trick or two I learned from them. I am thankful for that, for everybody who’s in my life and the chance to do this.”
Earlier in the evening, Swanson was the fastest overall in Dirt Draft practice, then proceeded to notch the pole position for the 38th time in his USAC Silver Crown career during Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying, which, in turn, gave him the prime position in order to dart out to the initial lead with Chris Windom running second about three car lengths behind. That was about as close as anybody got to Swanson for the remainder of the night.
Two prime contenders fell by the wayside relatively early, with fourth-running Bobby Santos having his shock tower break off after just 35 laps into it. Defending race winner Justin Grant, running fifth at the time, blistered a right rear tire, which cost him five laps during the pit stop.
By the halfway mark, Swanson was leaving no doubt who was in charge as he had already lapped up to fifth with 50 laps still left to go, and no signs of relenting.
The race’s one and only stoppage came on lap 55 when Ferns got loose on the high side of turn two and looped it down to the bottom of the racetrack. As it turned out, it was not as much of a heartbreak as it seemed at first glance. After her spin, she was forced to start at the tail of the field. She was running fourth at the time, but there were only four cars on the lead lap. By rule, a driver doesn’t lose a lap following a spin unless he or she retreats to the work area, which she did not. Thus, she restarted at the back of the pack without losing a spot and remained scored fourth in the running order.
Logan Seavey jumped to second on the lap 63 restart as he fenagled his way past Windom. Ferns subsequently charged to third by Windom amid gridlock-style traffic. While running fourth with 78 laps completed, Windom was surpassed by Swanson and put a lap down. Moments later, with a blistered right rear tire, Windom slowed and made the journey back to the pits.
And the beat went on as Swanson put Ferns a lap down on the 95th circuit with a turn one bottom-side pass, leaving only the half-lap leading Swanson and second-running Seavey on the same lap, while all others were at least one lap down.
In the end, it was complete annihilation and decimation of the field led by Swanson in a performance for the ages as he finished off the job by a 10.062 second margin over Logan Seavey, Taylor Ferns, C.J. Leary and Brian Tyler.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) turned in his best career Silver Crown performance on pavement with a runner-up finish in his Rice Motorsports/STIDA.com – Lucas Oil – Legacy Motorsports/Beast/Felker Chevy. Seavey’s best career pavement finish with the series prior to Thursday night came in May at Indianapolis Raceway Park with a 5th. And, on this night, he was the only driver other than Kody Swanson to finish on the lead lap.
“Second in a pavement race is like five wins for me,” Seavey exclaimed. “(Crew chief) Ronnie (Gardner) gave me a great car all day. I just felt so comfortable today and I don’t know what was different about it, but I just felt so good about the racecar. I felt calm and I could see everything that was going on around me. I finally felt like I could feel the racecar and maneuver and I got through lapped traffic really well. Kody was on a different level all day, obviously. I got to second there and I could see him for a few laps, but then I backed it down because I knew I wasn’t going to run him down in open traffic, so I kind of slowed down hoping for a late yellow. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But I’m physically and mentally drained after that one.”
Taylor Ferns (Shelby Township, Mich.) tied her own record as the best finishing woman in USAC Silver Crown history with a third-place result in her Taylor Ferns Racing/Sam Bernstein Law Firm – Tyme Auto Transportation/Beast/Stanton Mopar. This all came after a practice crash in which she and Dave Berkheimer collided on the front straightaway before glancing backwards into the turn one wall, followed by a mid-race spin during the feature.
“Today, for me, was just about overcoming adversity,” Ferns admitted. “After the incident in practice, we were driving the car with a bent Panhard bar and using scraps from people in the pits. I felt like we had something for Logan, but I was pushing the car really hard, and it bit me. I passed (Justin) Grant to make it three-wide going into turn one and, luckily, with my dirt experience, I saved it, but it bit me not too long after. I’m honestly surprised we came home third after that spin. I know that win is coming soon, but I wanted that second today. Maybe next time.”
C.J. Leary’s fourth-place run came after starting back in the 19th spot before advancing 15 positions in the main event. On his qualifying run, the Panhard bar broke at the exit of turn two on the Greenfield, Ind. driver’s second lap. After narrowly avoiding outside wall contact, Leary slid to the inside of the track and ramped up onto the infield grass mound before driving away back to the pit area. The flat spot of his right front tire, however, necessitated a right front tire change, which relegated him to the 10th row for the start.
Feature Results (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses):
1. Kody Swanson (1), 2. Logan Seavey (6), 3. Taylor Ferns (8), 4. C.J. Leary (19), 5. Brian Tyler (12), 6. Derek Bischak (10), 7. Mike McVetta (14), 8. Kyle Robbins (7), 9. Travis Welpott (13), 10. Kyle O’Gara (9), 11. Nathan Byrd (15), 12. Matt Goodnight (11), 13. Mario Clouser (16), 14. Justin Grant (4), 15. Gregg Cory (17), 16. Chris Windom (2), 17. Bobby Santos (3), 18. Eric Gordon (5), 19. Jake Day (20), 20. Tom Paterson (18), 21. Dave Berkheimer (21). 35:44.816 (New Track Record)
See the full story and results:
Photo: usacracing / Jack Reitz