California Produces Yet Another Champion In Kody Swanson

Kody, Jordan and Tyler Swanson beaming proudly after the recent victory on the dirt at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

Over the decades, California has produced more than its share of major race winners and champions with stars such as Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Rick Mears, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and many more too numerous to list. And now another Californian, Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, has emerged as both a record-breaking winner and a multi-time champion.

Granted, Swanson is not a big-name when compared to those previously named but in USAC Silver Crown series circles, the 30-year old is known as a highly successful driver, one who knows how to win on both dirt and pavement.

Driving the DePalma Motorsports entry again in 2018, Swanson won five-straight races breaking Jack Hewitt’s 32-year old record of four in a row and in winning on the lightning-fast Salem Speedway in August, the skilled driver picked up his 24th Silver Crown career victory, elevating him into first place on the all-time win list. Previously, the legendary Hewitt held that record.

In addition, Swanson gave the DePalma team its fifth straight owner title, a record. Prior to this, the Bob East/Tony Stewart Racing and the Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teams were tied for first with four.

Looking at 2018, Swanson was on his game from the beginning to the end, capturing the driver title by a margin of 82 points and never trailing during the long season.

Swanson made even more headlines over the Memorial Day weekend by scoring a hat trick, winning the famed Hoosier 100 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the fourth straight time (tying superstar Al Unser, Sr. for first place), taking first-place honors the following day at the nearby Lucas Oil Raceway and capping off the three-day weekend with a compelling victory in the Little 500 at the Anderson Speedway. The first two wins came in Silver Crown action in DePalma cars and the sprint-car victory was scored in a Nolen Racing entry.

With so many substantive accomplishments, Swanson finds it impossible to rank them. “Doing so well this year is a special problem to have, and they all meant so much to me. It is why it is hard to pick one above the other,” the genial driver said. “A lot of them were so great for different reasons. To win the championship for DePalma (Motorsports) was one. It seemed like we settled a lot of unfinished business, and it was neat that it all came together this year.

“In a single race, the win at Salem for our fifth (victory) in a row, setting a record for the only driver to do so and allowing me to pass Jack Hewitt for No. 1 in all-time wins ranks very high.

“For overall weekends, to win three in a row, including tying Al Unser with four in a row at the Hoosier 100, the win in the Carb Night Classic named for Dave Steele and getting Gene Nolen his first Little 500 victory made for a very special three days.”

Swanson attributes his success to a series of factors. “I feel like the Silver Crown series fits me the best and finding success with the DePalma team has been great,” the well-spoken driver said. “Racing is more a team sport than many people realize. In our case, we have a very special race team from top to bottom, from the family that owns it, the people that work on it, the manufacturers and supporters to the wives and families that support all of us, focusing on us being competitive and continuing to win makes the whole situation so special.”

The Swanson family is a tight-knit group and when their driver wins, victory lane is full of family members, starting with his wife Jordan, son Tyler, younger brother Tanner along with proud parents Mike and Darla.

In addition to being Kody’s biggest fan, Jordan also serves as her husband’s spotter in Silver Crown, inheriting the job from his dad. “My wife had never done that before and after a couple of races, she did a great job, and she has been my full-time spotter for three seasons now,” her husband noted. And her family duties expanded in late October when she gave birth to their second son, Adam.

Shortly after the season ended, Swanson was faced with two major changes that may have an impact going forward. First, team owner Tony DePalma announced that he was shutting down the team to concentrate on family matters. Almost immediately, Swanson was recruited by Gene Nolen to drive for his team, which will downsize from two-cars to one. For pavement races on the sprint-car side, Nolen will field cars for Swanson and Shane Hollingsworth.

“I feel this presents a new opportunity for me, and my goal for 2019 is to give Gene his first Silver Crown title,” Swanson said. “And from there, my goal each night is to win races and championships.”

Swanson certainly knows how to win and he’s not expected to miss a beat in his quest for wins and championships in the years ahead. The California native is a credit to the sport and is deserving to be included in the same sentence with the state’s more well-known achievers.

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