One major racing story that got shuffled under the radar this past weekend was the race for the Silver Crown championship at the Toledo Speedway. As has been the case many times in the past in sports car racing, Lebanon, Ohio’s Doran Racing played a major role in motorsports history Sunday afternoon. This time it was USAC Silver Crown action instead of sports car racing, and the setting was the half-mile asphalt oval of Toledo Speedway instead of a road course. But history was made as Kody Swanson led all 100 laps of the USAC Silver Crown season finale in the Doran Racing No. 77 to earn an unprecedented sixth series drivers’ championship and stretch his career series win streak to a record 34.
Earlier in the day Swanson was the fastest of 22 qualifiers in the Doran No. 77, which is a Beast with a Lanci-prepared Ford engine, to earn his 36th series Fatheadz Eyewear pole, another series record. Besides giving sponsors Glenn Farms of Woodland,Ga., Lykins Energy Solutions, TJ Forged, FK Rod Ends, K&N Filters, Eibach Springs, DMI, and Tel Tac Oval Track Products more exposure, winning the pole gave Swanson three bonus points in the drivers’ championship, which he led by only a single point over Logan Seavey of Sutter, Calif., going into the season finale.
But the Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic was not without its nail-biters for Swanson, a native of Kingsburg, Calif., who now resides in the Indianapolis area.
The first issue occurred right before the race, when the team suspected that the No. 77’s right-front tire might be leaking air. The rules stipulate that if a tire is changed between qualifying and the race, the car must start at the rear of the field. Swanson has come from the rear before, but that’s harder and more perilous, as the chances of getting caught up in an accident increase.
The team’s cooler in the pits was dumped of its beverages and the tire placed inside in the hopes a water bubble would show where air was escaping from the tire. None was found, so the crew mounted that tire on a new wheel, put it back on the car, and hoped for the best as Swanson took his position at the head of the field for the start. As it turned out their prayers were answered, as the Hoosier tire didn’t cause any problems during the race.
“I was worried it would go soft while we waited under that red flag, but it didn’t,” Swanson noted later.
David Byrne of Shullsburg, Wis., ran second to Swanson for the first 61 laps on Sunday. Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass., passed Byrne for second in Turn 4 on lap 62 and chased Swanson the rest of the way.
Their challenges weren’t the only issue Swanson faced. Another one developed quickly on lap 83. Annie Breidinger of Hillsborough, Calif., spun in Turn 3 in front of the leaders while running 13th to cause the second yellow flag, and they all checked up to try to miss her. Unfortunately Tyler Roahrig of Mishawaka, Ind., who was running eighth, wasn’t able to avoid her. Unfortunately Swanson wasn’t able to miss Roahrig either, and he hit the tail tank of Roahrig’s car with the left front of the No. 77. The contact bent a lower radius rod and the noseplate of Swanson’s car, making the steering about 60 degrees off.
During the ensuing four laps under yellow team owner Kevin Doran and Swanson’s spotter and wife, Jordan, assessed the damage from the pits and the spotters stand, respectively, and told Swanson over the team’s radios that he’d be able to finish the race. The green waved again on lap 88, and Swanson was forced to quickly adapt.
Santos could smell blood in the water. Santos was only one-tenth of a second behind Swanson for two laps following the restart, but he wasn’t able to make a pass. Swanson rebuilt his advantage as he learned how to drive the car with its compromised steering. He had a 1.135-second margin of victory over Santos at the checkered flag.
“It [the contact] made it tricky,” Swanson said later. “The car was twitching and unstable. For a couple of laps I was floundering, but then I figured it out. I had to; it was win or lose.”
Byrne kept within one or two-tenths of a second behind Swanson for the first 29 laps, but then Swanson was able to increase his lead. He had built it up to over 1 second by lap 42, over 2 seconds by lap 54, and over 3 seconds by lap 60. After Santos passed Byrne for second Swanson’s lead ranged from 1 to 2 seconds despite having to pass lapped cars. Santos was able to close to within one-tenth of a second right after Swanson’s contact with Roahrig before Swanson was once again able to increase his advantage.
“There were a lot of strong cars in the field,” Swanson noted. “I knew Santos would be there at the end.”
Brian Tyler of Parma, Mich., finished third followed by Byrne and Davey Hamilton Jr. of Meridian, Idaho. The latter was the race’s hard charger.
There were two yellows and one red flag during the race. The first yellow flew on lap 19 when Kyle Robbins of New Castle, Ind., lost his left-rear wheel on the frontstretch. The red flew on lap 38 when Jim Anderson of Joliet, Ill. spun on the backstretch. Travis Welpott of Pendleton, Ind., clipped him and flipped on the backstretch, ending up in Turn 3. The second yellow was the one on lap 83 that damaged Swanson’s car. Luckily all the drivers walked away from the accidents.
Swanson set the fastest lap of the race on lap 30 with a time of 15.569 seconds. His pole-winning lap was a 15.064.
He has now won this particular race five times in five different cars: two different Hampshire Racing cars; a Team 6R entry, the Nolen Racing No. 20, and the Doran Racing No. 77.
Swanson earned three bonus points for leading the most laps and 70 for winning the race. In the end he won the drivers’ championship by 34 points. The top-five finishers in the drivers’ championship for 2021 were Swanson with 574 points; Seavey with 540; Justin Grant of Avon, Ind., with 394; Byrne with 392 and Shane Cottle of Kansas, Ill. with 386.
“Winning the series championship for the sixth time is really cool,” Swanson said. “I’m so grateful. I drove for three different race teams in Silver Crown this year, and to win it all in the end is really cool.
“I’m thankful to the Doran Racing team for all their hard work,” he continued. “Everybody on this team went the extra mile and gave 120 percent effort.”
The race was streamed live on FloRacing.com.
Swanson’s focus this year was to get more experience in different types of race cars. This coming weekend he’ll drive a Doran Racing asphalt modified in the 50th Lucas Oil Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway. He’ll end the month sharing the Doran Racing 2008 Ford GT Mk 7 with Brad Jaeger of Charlottesville, Va., in the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic 24 and Daytona Historics at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.