Kody Swanson has established himself as perhaps the greatest USAC Silver Crown racer of all-time, holding records with 29 wins and five championships. He’s also made his name in the asphalt Non-Wing Sprint Car ranks, with three wins in the Little 500 in the last five years while scoring wins at other tracks across the country.
However, the USAC star has branched out some in recent weeks. Just one weekend after making his ARCA Menards Series debut at Iowa Speedway, he focused his efforts in another machine, competing at Hickory in a Late Model Stock Car.
As with his ARCA start at Iowa, he paired up with Chad Bryant Racing for the twin features. The opportunities he has received over the past couple of weeks were years in the making, after the two first met during one of the several ARCA/Silver Crown doubleheader weekends in 2017.
Swanson has been talking about wanting to progress up the ladder over the years, whether it be in Stock Cars or IndyCars. The past two weekend with Bryant has given him that opportunity.
“I met (Chad Bryant) probably in 2017 and we stayed in touch off and on. A lot of our Silver Crown events are contingent with ARCA, they’re either running either the next day or the day before,” Swanson told Speed51. “I tried to stay around in the pits as much as I could be around and see what I could run into. We’ve always stayed in touch and got into a spot this year where I had some people willing to come on and support me trying to do something. We got connected with Chad to make a run at Iowa and at least be able to get started with a little experience. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do, is to branch out into some new things but it’s hard to create that first break.”
He put in a respectable performance for his first time in a Late Model Stock Car with a field that included Josh Berry and several other former track champions. After qualifying third, Swanson put in a fourth and a seventh in the two 40-lap features.
It was a learning experience for Swanson, who was competing in his first Late Model start in over a decade.
“I don’t think we did terrible. Qualifying third was pretty good with as many cars that run there a lot. From what I understand, Hickory is a tricky racetrack and it takes people a little bit to get a hold of. I think I drove a Western Late Model in 2007, but for my first time in over ten years driving a Late Model and to get the chance to do it with Chad and learn a new racetrack all in one day, that was good.”
“We ran pretty well the first race and finished fourth. For the second race, we made some changes and maybe it didn’t stick quite like we wanted. We finished seventh but we were all in a train from fourth to eighth in the thick of that. I definitely learned a lot, it’s just so different from what I’m used to, just trying to catch up to speed and get more comfortable with everything. For our first day I don’t think it was too terribly bad.”
The weekend before, Swanson made his ARCA debut at Iowa, a track he had competed at in the past with all three USAC National divisions. He finished eighth in his first full-bodied Stock Car start.
“With that race at Iowa I tried to get as familiar as I could be down at the shop, I didn’t want to waste an opportunity. I learned a lot, I don’t think we got the finish that we liked or that we could’ve had, but that’s just a part of racing and learning.”
There has been a big learning curve with getting behind the wheel of fendered cars, compared to what he has been used to with Sprint Cars and Champ Cars. Swanson talked about just some of the differences he had experienced in recent weeks, both big and small.
“For me, even the way you sit is different. For Sprint Cars and Silver Crown, you’re a lot more center-lined with the race car. You’re actually higher because you’re sitting over the drive line. It’s not like you can see your tires any better but I’ve got experience with the proximity of where my right front is, or where my right rear is, how to tell if there’s someone outside me. That’s just a lot different.
“Getting comfortable in my own space is something I’ve been struggling with and I’m trying to get better at. When I’m underneath somebody I’m used to leaving a lot of room and with Late Models and ARCA cars you need to be able to use up every last six inches to get your entry mark right and things like that,” Swanson added. “It’s just one of those things you need to get more comfortable with.”
While the USAC Silver Crown season won’t begin until August 9 at Selinsgrove Speedway due to the pandemic, Swanson has remained busy with other racing, most notably in the Sprint Car but has also included a start in a Ford GT and a test session in an Indy Pro 2000 car at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway.
As more opportunities continue to come, he is taking it week-by-week and will not rule out another start with Bryant, whether it be in ARCA or a Late Model.
“With how the year’s gone, it’s just been kind of staying in touch and when the opportunity pops up try to take advantage of it. We’re just going to stay in touch and if something pops up to where we each have an open weekend and we can go get a little more experience, we’re going to go try and do that.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3