By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Kody Swanson knew he had a long row to hoe starting from the 23rd position during Saturday afternoon’s Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
As it turned out, he didn’t even need the full 100-mile distance to make it to the lead.
The Kingsburg, Calif. native carved his way through the field to take the lead on lap 61, then led what wound up being the final 16 miles, when a red flag for a crash and subsequent rain with 76 laps completed forced a premature finish to the 58th running of the event for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship.
That turned the Bettenhausen 100 into the Bettenhausen 76 and marking the first rain-shortened race for the USAC Silver Crown series since the 1998 Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
The hard charging effort put in by Swanson from 23rd was the second furthest back any winner has started at Springfield in the USAC Silver Crown division, only trailing Kenny Irwin Jr.’s all-time series record run from 28th to 1st in 1995.
Swanson’s victory was also his third in the champ cars at the Springfield Mile after previously winning in 2014-15, making him the 10th driver to win at the track on three occasions, joining Chuck Gurney (7), A.J. Foyt (4), Jack Hewitt (4), Brian Tyler (4), Mario Andretti (3), Tony Bettenhausen (3), Dave Darland (3), Al Unser (3) and Rodger Ward (3) in that group.
Saturday’s victory also put the five-time series champion and current series point leader back in victory lane on the dirt for the first time in three years, since the 2018 Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It’s a fact that was not lost on Swanson.
“It’s been three years, not that it’s been bothering me,” Swanson said with a slight laugh.
Swanson’s qualifying lap was blistering at 30.075 seconds, which translates to 119.701 mph around the one-mile dirt oval. But, as it turned out, it was a blistering lap in more ways than one, a lap which necessitated a right rear tire change prior to the feature.
Therefore, by rule, he gave up his position on the pole, instead taking new rubber, a gamble that turned out to be well worth the risk for he and his Chris Dyson Racing/Thetford – ProtectAll – Norcold – Racer Magazine/Maxim/Kistler Chevy.
“We had to change the tire because I made an error in qualifying,” Swanson admitted. “I ran it harder than I needed to, spun the tires harder than I needed to, blistered it, and we weren’t sure it was going to make it. Rather than wonder all race if we could make it, you put a tire on, you go on the attack, do your job and get it done.”
And that’s just what he did. He was one of five drivers to opt for a fresh right rear tire, forcing them all to near the back of the 31-car field. A handful of other teams had a variety of mechanical issues on the start that ultimately pushed Swanson up to 23rd.
On the start, Jerry Coons Jr. moved to the initial lead on the bottom as new pole sitter Logan Seavey stepped to the topside and charged back into the lead where he’d remain for the initial 16 miles.
Lap 17, fourth starting Jake Swanson was the man on the move, powering underneath Seavey between turns three and four to assume the top spot.
By that point in time, Kody had well-established himself inside the top-10, while Seavey tucked in behind the rear bumper of J. Swanson against the inner guardrail while J. Swanson’s DMW Motorsports’ teammate, Chase Stockon, was grinding on the cushion back in the third position.
J. Swanson led a freight train around the bottom as the field settled in and felt their machines out for the middle section of the contest with Seavey, Justin Grant, the reigning series champ, and a surging K. Swanson in tow, nose-to-tail in a seven-car pack.
Seavey looked to the high side; he looked to the low side; all to no avail as he worked on J. Swanson. However, on the 45th lap, Seavey’s balance of urgency and patience paid dividends as he dug in and found the drive in the middle of the second corner to blitz past J. Swanson and become the leader for the second time in the event.
Just past the halfway mark, Justin Grant, who had just elevated himself to the second spot, slowed dramatically off the pace, dropping out on lap 51 and finished 20th, seriously putting a crimp in his bid for a repeat series title.
Cue up the band as K. Swanson simultaneously saw Grant slow and also blast around the non-related J. Swanson to go from fourth to second instantaneously and began to rope Seavey in one chunk at a time.
Another major player joined the mix after the halfway point in Carmen Perigo, the series Rookie who was making his first Springfield start. The mustachioed Perigo used the high side to put himself into the top-five after running as low as 20th during the first restart on the 14th lap.
“Wind him up and watch him go” then successively picked the next few off in the following laps, ultimately racing around the outside of K. Swanson for the second position in turns one and two on lap 57. Perigo ultimately faded slightly toward the end to fifth and was also docked four positions for jumping the lap 34 restart and was repositioned to ninth in the final rundown.
It was go time for K. Swanson as he kept the pressure pressed on Seavey, getting a big bite off turn four under Seavey coming to lap 61, which gave him the edge to out drag race Seavey to the bottom of turn one and become the new race leader. K. Swanson bumped his lead up from a half-second to a full-second as the laps ticked away and the skies began to threaten.
Just then, on lap 77, while battling for 13th, Nathan Moore’s front bumper and the rear bumper of Patrick Lawson went chrome-to-chrome entering the first turn. The long slide backwards into the unforgiving concrete sent Lawson flipping over twice while Moore performed a 720 degree “helicopter” before landing on all fours. Heavy damage was evident on both cars, but both were able to walk away.
Under the red, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall. With the ever-increasing rain falling, a raceable track was lost. With the combination of the one-mile track surface not being able to be rolled in until the rain stopped 45 minutes later – which would last another two to three hours to get back into race shape – and the time allotment allowed for the event before the night’s concert was scheduled for the fairgrounds stage at the start/finish line, the race was checkered with 76 laps completed and leader Kody Swanson declared the winner for the third-time this season and for the 34th time in his career.
“Sorry about the rain, but it was a swamp in three and four before we even stopped,” K. Swanson stated. “I understand the decision. We wanted to get to 100 laps.”
“These guys gave me a great racecar, and I’m thankful to be able to pass some cars and be a part of it there at the end,” K. Swanson added. “I hated to see Justin Grant’s misfortune. We had to beat a bunch of great racers up there to be able to sneak away with one and I’m really proud of that.”
Logan Seavey led a race-high 32 laps in his Rice Motorsports/Fatheadz Eyewear – STIDA.com – Lucas Oil/DRC/Pink Foxco Chevy, keeping him with well within the series title fight versus K. Swanson with three races remaining. The Sutter, Calif. driver also put his Rice Motorsports team in total control of the series entrant championship, which they now lead by 49 markers.
“I just love racing these racecars and I’ve got a really good one to drive,” Seavey praised. “My tire was probably good to go another 100 laps. I feel like once I got going there, we were catching up to Kody. He did a good job, and they knew the rain was coming. They pushed hard and got to the lead, and they ran the race better than I did, and that’s what it is.”
Shane Cockrum (Benton, Ill.) turned in his third top-four finish in four starts this season with a third-place run at Springfield in his BLS Motorsports/Hustler Turf Equipment – Ben’s Lawn Service & Trailer Sales/Maxim/Kistler Chevy, noting that he believed he had something in store for K. Swanson if the race was able to go the full distance.
“I think so; that’s kind of what we were doing,” Cockrum acknowledged. “We were saving and hoping for those last 15 to 20 miles and that’s how most of the Silver Crown races end up. We had a few opportunities early to probably get by Kody and I backed off because I thought there were going to be laps 80, 90 and that 100th lap. I wish we could’ve made those laps. I think we had something for them, but mother nature is out of our control.”
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 21, 2021 – Illinois State Fairgrounds – Springfield, Illinois – 1-Mile Dirt Oval – Bettenhausen 100
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 9, Dyson-30.075; 2. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice-30.223; 3. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-30.406; 4. Jerry Coons Jr., 55, Bateman-30.739; 5. Jake Swanson, 10, DMW-30.783; 6. Robert Ballou, 66, Rose-30.863; 7. Jason McDougal, 6, Klatt-30.917; 8. Chase Stockon, 110, DMW-31.039; 9. Terry Babb, 188, Babb-31.206; 10. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-31.337; 11. Shane Cockrum, 71, BLS-31.355; 12. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-31.386; 13. Kyle Steffens, 08, Steffens-31.423; 14. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-31.513; 15. Chris Phillips, 20, Nolen-31.877; 16. Casey Buckman, 74, C-Buck-32.134; 17. Shane Cottle, 81, BCR-32.136; 18. Carmen Perigo, 52, Stehman-32.394; 19. Chris Fetter, 88, Fetter-32.460; 20. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-32.500; 21. Dallas Hewitt, 57, Hewitt-32.521; 22. Korey Weyant, 99, Weyant-32.944; 23. Mike Haggenbottom, 24, Haggenbottom-33.055; 24. Nathan Moore, 48, Moore-33.152; 25. Austin Nemire, 16, Nemire/Lesko-33.484; 26. Patrick Lawson, 2, Lawson-33.520; 27. Steven Russell, 14, McQuinn-34.793; 28. Dave Peperak, 177, Peperak-34.944; 29. Danny Long, 44, Long-NT; 30. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-NT; 31. Cary Oliver, 11, Oliver-NT; 32. Ken Schrader, 21, Swanson-NT; 33. Kyle Cummins, 69, Pink 69-NT; 34. Brady Bacon, 53, Five Three-NT; 35. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-NT; 36. Chris Windom, 97, Lein-NT; 37. Chris Urish, 77, Urish-NT; 38. David Byrne, 40, Byrne-NT.
FEATURE: (100 laps, shortened to 76 laps due to rain, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kody Swanson (23), 2. Logan Seavey (1), 3. Shane Cockrum (25), 4. Jerry Coons Jr. (3), 5. Kyle Steffens (9), 6. Jake Swanson (4), 7. Matt Westfall (2), 8. Casey Buckman (12), 9. Carmen Perigo (13), 10. Chase Stockon (5), 11. Austin Nemire (19), 12. Kyle Robbins (8), 13. Chris Phillips (11), 14. Travis Welpott (14), 15. Steven Russell (20), 16. Mike Haggenbottom (17), 17. Patrick Lawson (27), 18. Nathan Moore (18), 19. Korey Weyant (16), 20. Justin Grant (10), 21. Ken Schrader (22), 22. Terry Babb (6), 23. Shane Cottle (26), 24. Chris Fetter (29), 25. Matt Goodnight (7), 26. Dallas Hewitt (15), 27. Dave Peperak (21), 28. Jason McDougal (24), 29. Dave Berkheimer (28), 30. Robert Ballou (30). NT
**Patrick Lawson flipped on lap 77 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Logan Seavey, Laps 17-44 Jake Swanson, Laps 45-60 Logan Seavey, Laps 61-76 Kody Swanson.
USAC SILVER CROWN POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-408, 2-Logan Seavey-357, 3-Justin Grant-308, 4-Shane Cottle-267, 5-Kyle Robbins-266, 6-Austin Nemire-266, 7-David Byrne-254, 8-Travis Welpott-251, 9-Mike Haggenbottom-243, 10-Shane Cockrum-237.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-118, 2-Justin Grant-116, 3-Chris Windom-115, 4-Brady Bacon-114, 5-Thomas Meseraull-103, 6-Robert Ballou-97, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-94, 8-Logan Seavey-91, 9-Buddy Kofoid-71, 10-Kyle Cummins-68.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 4, 2021 – Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – Du Quoin, Illinois – 1-Mile Dirt Oval – Ted Horn 100