By Richie Murray
Millington, Tennessee (March 20, 2019)………After finishing off the most successful run between a driver and team in the history of the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series with DePalma Motorsports, Kody Swanson is preparing for this coming season nearly from scratch, with a new team, new cars, new engines and a new home with Nolen Racing, beginning with this weekend’s “Memphis 100” at Tennessee’s Memphis International Raceway on March 22-23.
The Kingsburg, Calif. native joined the Greenwood, Ind. based organization following the closure of DePalma’s team at the conclusion of the 2018 season, which saw Kody record a series-leading fourth title after going on a five-race win streak during a summer stretch that also saw him eclipse Jack Hewitt’s all-time Silver Crown win record with his 24th victory.
Now, the ballgame is slightly different. Although both Swanson and Gene Nolen’s team are consistent stalwarts of the front of the pack in Silver Crown competition, this new beginning marks a whole new chapter, one that they hope can result in Swanson’s fifth title and Nolen’s long-awaited first. But, first, the consistent offseason work has to be put into place and there’s been quite a bit to accomplish since the announcement of the two joining forces just months ago.
“I feel like it’s been my busiest offseason in a while,” Swanson relayed. “I didn’t go to the Chili Bowl and I didn’t run Sprint Cars in Florida. I felt like I stayed home and tried to get my homework done. I’ve been down to Gene’s shop a whole lot this winter. Everybody with the team has put in a lot of effort to try to put our best foot forward for the season. I wanted to match that and make sure we give it our best effort to contend for the title this year and be ready for the opener in Memphis.”
Swanson is as meticulous as they come when preparing himself and his car for battle. He prefers to take the thorough approach, though tried and true, is extensive and exhaustive.
“It can be as extensive or as simple as you make it,” Swanson admitted. “On one hand, if you just want to take a seat and bolt it in and do your best driving for them, you can do it that way. You might find success or win a race or so. For me, it’s been more extensive than that. I’ve been heavily involved with the cars I’ve been driving, especially on the pavement.”
Nolen’s team won twice in 2018 on the Silver Crown trail with driver Chris Windom, who’s moved over to Goodnight/Byrd Racing for this season. With Swanson now on board, it brings to mind that new combinations can either click right away, take some time or never click at all. Swanson is cognizant of that fact and is trying to get ahead of the curve by spending as much time with the team and in the shop as he can leading into the start of the campaign.
“To try to get meshed as best as you can with a new team, the only thing that does that is time spent together whether it’s at the track or at the shop,” Swanson explained. “Through the winter, you don’t really get to spend any time at the track together. Racing, there’s nothing that can replace that. But even just being familiar with each other in the shop, how people work and of how the thoughts and opinions are and how their backgrounds and perspectives that you gain just by spending time with people. I think will help.”
“Maybe it doesn’t make a specific difference in a race by race application,” Swanson continued. “There are some races you can win without any of that. To work together and try to compete for an entire season and to be at the top level and in contention for the championship hunt, I think it’s something I put a lot of effort in myself and so have members of the team to try and get acquainted and familiar.”
Last week, Swanson, Nolen and the team took advantage of a sunny, warm afternoon to lay down some laps at Salem (Ind.) Speedway just to shake some things out and see where they are and where they need to go to be fully ready to go come this weekend.
“We hustled pretty hard,” Swanson recalled. “We worked pretty much all night the night before and had to change some things. We had it completely torn down and went through it again. We just wanted to take the chance to get the first few laps on it. I don’t think we made but 20 laps trying to do the preliminary thing to make sure I was comfortable with how the brakes worked, if I needed to be adjusting anything on them and making sure the engine took off and ran fine. Just making sure everything ran as best as it could so that when we get to Memphis, we can focus on getting adapted to a racetrack I’ve never been to. Obviously, it’s been a long time since the team has too, so I’m kind of starting from scratch there.”
Unlike many new driver/owner combos, Swanson has a leg up by having previous experience with Nolen Racing’s sprint car, most notably capturing the victory in last year’s “Little 500” Sprint Car race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway for the team. So, in a sense, it’s not starting completely anew. It’s more a continuation of the foundation they’ve already built that they’re aiming to recreate in the Silver Crown car.
“I’m lucky,” Swanson stated. “In this case, it’s starting completely over in Silver Crown, that’s for sure. But I kind of got a preview working with some of the guys and their pavement sprint car driving for Gene. We have got a race together a little bit, but we’ve just been going through the equipment and making sure we’re as familiar as we need to be with the cars and the engines. It’s all the little details that are different. Hopefully we’ll be sorted out as best as we can and be in contention here from the very get.”
On-track action at Memphis International Raceway gets underway on Friday, March 22, with pits opening at 10am Central, leading into a practice which begins at noon.
On Saturday, March 23, the pits open at 8am, with practice sessions running from 10-10:30am and 11-11:30am. Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying hits the track at 11:45am. An autograph session in the main concourse is set for 12:30 to 1:15pm. Driver intros are slated for 2pm with the green flag for the “Memphis 100” set to fly at 2:20pm.
Adult General Admission tickets are $25. Kids 12 and under General Admission tickets are $5. Single-day pit passes are $40. A two-day pit pass is $70.
The “Memphis 100” will be streamed LIVE on http://www.FloRacing.com.