From Richie Murray
WINCHESTER, Ind. (July 20, 2023) — For Kody Swanson, on Thursday night, Winchester (Ind.) Speedway served as a place to go back-to-back in a myriad of manners.
The victory was his second consecutive in USAC Silver Crown competition after winning the most recent round at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway in June, marking the 13th occasion in which he’s won two-straight series main events in his career with the series.
Furthermore, the triumph was the second occasion in a row in which he performed a complete sweep by recording the fastest time in both Dirt Draft Practice and Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying before going on to lead all 100 laps en route to victory.
Finally, and perhaps most impressively, it was Swanson’s second straight win at the 31st running of the Rich Vogler Classic Presented by The Pallet Builder, backing up a similar dominant run from the pole position in 2022 in which he also completely swept the night.
Swanson’s performance culminated with the Kingsburg, Calif. native’s fourth career Rich Vogler Classic victory following previous triumphs in 2016, 2019 and 2022, which ranks second only to the six achieved by Tracy Hines.
On a night when both rain and stray cats interrupted the proceedings at one point or another, Swanson was a steady force in his Doran-Binks Racing/Mission Foods – Glenn Farms/Beast/Lanci Ford, strutting back into the series point lead in his pursuit for an eighth career USAC Silver Crown National Championship.
After earning his record-extending 44th career USAC Silver Crown pole position earlier in the evening, Swanson went forth and set the pace that all others would be chasing for the rest of the evening as point leader Logan Seavey slotted into second from his outside front row starting position.
Initially, C.J. Leary was the man on the move, taking Aaron Pierce for fourth on lap four and gunning underneath Caleb Armstrong for the third spot on lap 12 entering turn three. Armstrong was making his first series start since his Rookie of the Year season in 2014. On lap 19, Leary continued the charge as he dove low past Seavey in turn four for second place.
Problems plagued Seavey just prior to the halfway point as he began to drop dramatically through the field. In fact, during a span of three laps between 41-44, he dropped from seventh to 17th in the running order. The diagnosis was that the brake pads were knocked off on his ride about 40 laps into the race, requiring a stop for a new set during an unexpected red flag for rain just after the midpoint.
A brief shower doused the speedway under green flag conditions on the 55th lap, necessitating a half-hour red flag period until the rain stopped and the track drying process commenced. Nonetheless, that didn’t hinder Swanson a bit when action resumed as he opened his lead to a half-straight over Leary with another half-straight gap back to third running Armstrong.
Santos ran fourth on the restart, but quickly jumped to third on lap 55 when Armstrong experienced a Maalox moment in turn two after his ride got completely sideways, nearly spinning, but was able to save it and regain control. As a result, however, Armstrong dropped two spots to fifth while Santos and Davey Hamilton Jr. stormed on by for third and fourth, respectively.
Just a mere eight laps later, Santos thundered to second, cruising underneath Leary entering the third turn to take over the position on lap 63. Yet, Santos remained a full second behind Swanson with 37 to go.
Fourth running Hamilton Jr. became the next to find himself crossed up sideways and narrowly avoid disaster in turn two on lap 71 as Bischak took advantage and drove past to take over the fourth spot and quickly closed right to the tail of third running Leary.
The most major incident of the race came on lap 79 when series point leader Seavey’s right front wheel center broke, sending him straight into the outside turn two wall with the right front of the car before sliding to a stop on the inside of the racing surface while his right front wheel rolled all the way around to turn four. Seavey climbed out and walked away, but his 12th place result was his first outside the top-five all season long.
Starting with lap 88, Santos reeled off his five fastest laps of the race in rapid-fire succession, helping him to close within three car lengths of Swanson for the race lead. With that said, on lap 92, Swanson answered with his third fastest lap of the race and, thusly, kept Santos at bay and began to suddenly inch away to put the race on ice during the ensuing laps.
The race for third remained hotly contested on lap 93 as Bischak finally was able to muster the move to third after 20-plus laps of constantly working on Leary to take over the position. Bischak, a former college cross country star at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, dove low at the exit of turn four with seven laps to go to move into the final “podium” position.
Further up ahead, Swanson couldn’t be corralled or contained as he earned his 39th career USAC Silver Crown victory by a 2.858 second margin over Santos with Bischak third, Leary fourth and Hamilton Jr. fifth.
Late in the race, Swanson felt he was staggering a bit to the finish line while Santos was surging, which kept Swanson on needles, pins and toes until the music stopped.
“On those long runs, maybe they let us go a little bit,” Swanson said of the field’s pace. “Bobby was so strong at the end, I think he kind of proved to me anyway that he was still capable, and I got lucky to fend him off there at the end. You never know if he’s going to reload and make another charge on the restart. He’s just that good of a racer. I felt like I was floundering a little bit on that last restart, and I was glad to be able to hang on. I felt like we had a really good car early, and I hated to think that I could mess it up under one of those cautions.”
For Santos, a second-place run was still his best ever performance on the 37-degree high banks of Winchester in his DJ Racing/Classic Corvettes – Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Simpson/Beast/Speedway Chevy. The Franklin, Mass. driver had previously finished third here with the Silver Crown series in 2021 and was also third in an Auto Value Super Sprint run in 2019. In three USAC Silver Crown starts this season, he’s finished inside the top-two in all three.
Patience paid off for Derek Bischak as he collected his first career podium finish in what is his fifth year of USAC Silver Crown competition. The Angola, Indiana wheelman earned his best career series result after advancing from seventh to third in his Derek Bischak/Allstar Performance – Klotz Synthetic Lubricants – Complete Collision/Beast/J & D Chevy. His previous best career Silver Crown finish was a fourth at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, which was earned less than two months ago in May.
Engine problems in practice sidelined 2020 USAC Silver Crown driving champion Justin Grant for the evening, ending one of the great records in USAC competition. The Ione, Calif. native had started 239 consecutive feature events throughout USAC’s Silver Crown, National Sprint Car and National Midget divisions, a streak that dated back to July of 2020.
Furthermore, Grant hadn’t missed a Silver Crown features since 2015, making 74 consecutive series starts in that span, which was the fourth longest streak ever, trailing only Brian Tyler’s 97, Kody Swanson’s 88 and Dave Darland’s 79.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 20, 2023 – Winchester Speedway – Winchester, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Paved Oval – 31st Rich Vogler Classic Presented by The Pallet Builder
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran/Binks-14.758; 2. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice/Abacus-14.962; 3. Aaron Pierce, 126, Pierce-15.010; 4. Caleb Armstrong, 19, Legacy-15.030; 5. Bobby Santos, 98, DJ-15.122; 6. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-15.149; 7. Derek Bischak, 131, Bischak-15.152; 8. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-15.300; 9. Davey Hamilton Jr., 14, Hamilton/SRG-15.310; 10. Taylor Ferns, 555, Ferns-15.431; 11. Billy Wease, 60, Wilson-15.502; 12. Nathan Byrd, 88, Byrd-15.508; 13. Kaylee Bryson, 26, Pierce-15.571; 14. Kyle O’Gara, 67, SFHR-15.584; 15. Mario Clouser, 92, Kazmark-15.591; 16. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-15.682; 17. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-15.743; 18. Matt Westfall, 81, BCR-15.781; 19. Trey Burke, 11, Hamilton/SRG-16.020; 20. Kyle Steffens, 08, Steffens-16.490; 21. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams-16.681; 22. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-18.950; 23. Mike McVetta, 94, RAM-NT; 24. Tom Paterson, 111, Paterson-NT; 25. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-NT.
FEATURE: (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kody Swanson (1), 2. Bobby Santos (5), 3. Derek Bischak (7), 4. C.J. Leary (6), 5. Davey Hamilton Jr. (9), 6. Billy Wease (11), 7. Kaylee Bryson (13), 8. Caleb Armstrong (4), 9. Mario Clouser (15), 10. Kyle O’Gara (14), 11. Travis Welpott (16), 12. Logan Seavey (2), 13. Matt Westfall (18), 14. Kyle Robbins (8), 15. Taylor Ferns (10), 16. Trey Burke (19), 17. Kyle Steffens (20), 18. Aaron Pierce (3), 19. Mike McVetta (23), 20. Matt Goodnight (17), 21. Nathan Byrd (12), 22. Dave Berkheimer (22), 23. Gregg Cory (21), 24. Tom Paterson (24). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-100 Kody Swanson.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-311, 2-Logan Seavey-295, 3-Kaylee Bryson-210, 4-Bobby Santos-207, 5-Mario Clouser-206, 6-Matt Westfall-200, 7-Taylor Ferns-191, 8-C.J. Leary-177, 9-Justin Grant-174, 10-Travis Welpott-169.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-116, 2-Matt Westfall-70, 3-Logan Seavey-68, 4-Justin Grant-61, 5-Chase Stockon-60, 6-Robert Ballou-51, 7-Brady Bacon-48, 8-Emerson Axsom-43, 9-Carson Garrett-43, 10-Bryant Wiedeman-39.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 5, 2023 – Toledo Speedway – Toledo, Ohio – 1/2-Mile Paved Oval – Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic Presented By Marco’s Pizza
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Practice Fastest Driver: Kody Swanson (14.755)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Kody Swanson (14.758)
Hard Charger: Kaylee Bryson (13th to 7th)