By Richie Murray – USAC Media
SPEEDWAY, IN-“Everyone’s goal for me this year is to win Rookie of the Year,” Kaylee Bryson stated of her Sam Pierce Racing/AP Driver Development team’s ambitions for the 2023 USAC Silver Crown season.
Thus far at the midway point of the year, Bryson has, perhaps exceeded those goals, as she returns to the very same venue she made her first career USAC Silver Crown series start at a year ago in August of 2022 – Ohio’s Toledo Speedway.
The Muskogee, Okla. native enters this Saturday’s, August 5th Hemelgarn Racing-Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic Fueled By Marco’s Pizza at Toledo not only as the leading series Rookie driver, but as third overall ranking driver in the USAC Silver Crown standings.
Bryson is very goal oriented, and laid out a groundwork of realistic, but straightforward benchmarks in 2023 after getting her feet wet with the series in the latter half of 2022.
“Obviously, there are a lot of races left to go, but that is the primary goal,” Bryson said of capturing USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year honors. “The second goal was to do as good as we could do. We didn’t think we’d come into the season and win the championship or anything, but we were going to give it our best shot to be the best we could in points.”
Thus far in five series starts during her 2023 campaign, Bryson has finished inside the top-eight in three of her starts with a best of 7th in the most recent round on the high banks of Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in July where she advanced from her 13th starting spot to finish 7th.
In doing so, she was the recipient of hard charger honors that evening, the second time she’s earned the award this season after also marching 15th to 8th at Wisconsin’s Madison International Raceway the race prior. A steady pace and continuous movement forward has paid dividends as she’s passed a total of 29 cars in five outings thus far at many tracks she’s visiting for the first time, a pace that’s a far cry from her days as a full-timer on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in recent years.
“I think the biggest difference from what I’m used to with the midgets is the pace,” Bryson explained. “Midget racing is a really fast pace, just 30 laps most times. Stepping into the Silver Crown car, they’re big cars and you’re running mile long tracks, 100-lappers and longer races. Managing your equipment and saving it to the end is really important in these bigger cars.
So far, Bryson has successfully completed all but four of the 446 laps run this season. The bottom line is that she takes care of her equipment first and foremost. In doing so, she guarantees that she’ll be there at the end of each race, and at each subsequent race on the calendar, and also leaves plenty of goodwill toward the crew of her Logical Systems, Inc. – RE Technologies/McGunegill Chevy.
“My team told me the most important part is keeping your car for the next race,” Bryson said. “Finishing races is a big part of winning Rookie of the Year. Something they’ve tried to preach to me a lot is to make sure I save my car and make it last until the end. That’s definitely something I never heard in midget racing, but it’s completely the opposite in Silver Crown racing.”
Prior to 2022, Bryson had virtually zero pavement experience behind the wheel of a racecar, but two of her best performances this year have just so happened to have occurred on the pavement with an 8th at Madison and a 7th at Winchester. It’s a challenge she’s faced head on and embraced, just as she has with so many other disciplines in 2023.
“The biggest challenge this year has been learning the pavement and learning to manage tires,” Bryson acknowledged. “In a midget, you are basically giving 110 percent every lap from the drop of the green. When I first jumped into a Silver Crown car, one of my first long races was at Springfield, and other drivers and everybody else warned me that you don’t go 110 percent every lap. You can go about 50 at the beginning, then you just manage your pace and save your tires because it’s not the first 80 laps that counts, it’s the last. The biggest learning curve of all has been just being able to slow myself down, keep a good pace and keep the tires underneath me.”
Owning, perhaps, the most diverse racing schedule in the world, you name it, Kaylee Bryson has probably driven it in 2023. This year alone, she’s competed with the Trans Am series on a road course, plus dirt late models, in sprint cars with and without a wing on both dirt and pavement, Kenyon Midgets and full-sized midgets. All varieties of racing have their own flavor, but all the forms she’s competed in have been amalgamated into her racecraft and those elements have crossed over and translated to the other series she’s running.
“We’ve done a lot of testing on (the road courses),” Bryson noted. “There, you have 18 corners in a lap instead of two, so it’s important to hit your marks and save your tires, and a lot of those races are 75 minutes. It’s not something I’m necessarily used to, but it’s definitely a route I want to go toward in my racing career.”
Running a diverse schedule has also had other benefits too.
“You really get to find out what you enjoy the most,” Bryson said. “I grew up racing dirt my whole life and I didn’t really know there were going to be any other options. Whenever a ride opens up in a car and I can go jump in a road racing car, you find more things that you really enjoy. Every car I jump in helps me learn. Seat time is the biggest thing.”
Already, just nine starts into her Silver Crown career, Bryson already chalks up this form of racing as number one.
“I think Silver Crown is my favorite series,” Bryson praised. “I just love the longer races, and endurance racing is sort of my thing. I like to be able to save my stuff for the end, and whoever does that the best is normally the best in the end. It’s been really exciting for me to learn that challenge.”
SATURDAY’S RACE DETAILS:
The event will feature the USAC Silver Crown National Championship plus Late Model Sportsman and Factory Stocks. Vintage Race Cars will also be on display.
The USAC pit gate opens/rig parking begins at 2pm Eastern on race day Saturday. The track ticket office opens, and spectator gates open at 4:30pm. USAC Silver Crown practice runs from 4:30-5:15pm. USAC Silver Crown Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying begins at 5:45pm. Parade laps for the vintage cars are slated for 6:35pm. USAC Silver Crown cars and drivers will be called to front stretch at 6:50pm.
Getting closer to showtime, there will be a Beale family introduction, a brief racer reunion, the national anthems starting at 6:50 followed by driver introductions and the Rollie Beale Classic main event just a bit after 7pm.
Tickets are $25, kids 6-12 are $5, while ages 5 and under are free. Add $1 per ticket for online ticket purchases at http://www.toledospeedway.com/