Glass City Bound! USAC Silver Crown Takes On Toledo Saturday
Glass City Bound! USAC Silver Crown Takes On Toledo Saturday
During last fall's Rollie Beale Classic at Ohio's Toledo Speedway, Kody Swanson showed a rare and unique talent to make the extraordinary seem commonplace.
During last fall's Rollie Beale Classic at Ohio's Toledo Speedway, as if it wasn't already evident enough, it became even more abundantly clear that Kody Swanson possesses the rare and unique talent to make the extraordinary seem commonplace.
He made that happen again in the last round of the USAC Silver Crown season in July, as the six-time series champion took possession of the point lead entering this Saturday night's 100-lap Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic Fueled by Marco's Pizza.
For the majority of the 2021 race at Toledo's high-banked, half-mile paved oval, Swanson performed just as you'd come to expect from the series' winningest driver. The first 83.5 trips around the half-mile paved oval were relatively free of stress for Swanson, but a bit of Turn 3 duress nearly derailed both his bid for the race win and the driving title.
It was then that Swanson got caught up in a melee, smashing the left front of his nose and wheel into the rear bumper of a spinning car, testing the maximum limits of metal's unmalleable flexibility.
A major puncture wound to the nose and a bent axle became the battle scars Swanson carried for the final 13 circuits en route to victory, and despite all the lingering circumstances, Swanson remained untouchable and unmalleable in his own right.
Swanson enters Saturday's event as the defending race winner and has won each of the last three at Toledo. He has five USAC Silver Crown race victories at the venue in (2011, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021). He's also the only driver to have started all eight USAC Silver Crown events at Toledo and has yet to finish outside the top 4 in any of those eight starts.
Swanson has led 555 of the 900 laps ever run by Silver Crown cars at Toledo at a clip of 61.66. He also has won the pole five times at Toledo (2011, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021). His first, in 2011, remains the one-lap Silver Crown track record - 14.809 sec. (121.548 mph avg.).
However, he's not the only driver who can dominate the asphalt as a loaded field of 24 USAC Silver Crown racers and teams file into Toledo to pound the pavement in the Glass City.
Bobby Santos (Franklin, Massachusetts) is the only driver to win at Toledo Speedway in a USAC Sprint Car, Midget and Silver Crown car in his career, and he took the checkered flag at the Rollie Beale Classic in 2017.
A feather in his cap is being the most recent driver not named Kody Swanson to win with the series at Toledo. The pavement ace has finished inside the top 3 in a Crown car at Toledo on five occasions - third in 2012, first in 2017, second in 2018, second in 2019 and second again in 2021 - in addition to a King of the Wing Sprint Car win there in 2017.
A mere three points separate the top 3 in the USAC Silver Crown championship fight, with Swanson leading over Logan Seavey and C.J. Leary who are tied. Both Seavey and Leary are pursuing a first Silver Crown driving title.
Leary (Greenfield, Indiana) has emerged as a frontrunner to contend with on the pavement. Known primarily for his dirt prowess, the 2019 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion not only won, but dominated the Silver Crown visit to Wisconsin's Madison International Speedway this past June. He'll be making his first Toledo appearance in three seasons. He finished a best of 11th at Toledo in 2015.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, California) will be aiming to make gains toward a Silver Crown championship run with a solid Toledo finish. He's already been in victory lane on the dirt with the series this season at Port Royal (Pennsylvania) Speedway. Seavey is a past USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion (2018). At Toledo, he earned a 10th-place result in 2021.
Brian Tyler (Parma, Michigan) owns USAC winning experience at Toledo, capturing a National Sprint Car round there during the 2001 season. Tyler put together his best Toledo Silver Crown result in 2021 with a late surge to finish third. In 2010 and 2011, the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion notched back-to-back sixth-place Silver Crown runs at Toledo.
Past series champion Justin Grant (Ione, California) set quick time in qualifying at Toledo in 2018. He has earned top-10 Toledo Silver Crown finishes with a 10th in both 2017 and 2018, then turned in a personal best of fourth in 2019.
His car is owned by race sponsor Ron Hemelgarn, who was the winning owner for Buddy Lazier's 1996 Indianapolis 500 entry. Dennis LaCava was with the team on its big day a quarter century ago and will be turning the wrenches for Grant at Toledo this Saturday.
Eric Gordon (Greenfield, Indiana), likewise, has been victorious in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition at Toledo, winning his first career USAC race there in 1989. In Silver Crown competition at Toledo, Gordon was fourth in 2018 and 10th in 2011.
Austin Nemire, from nearby Sylvania, Ohio, made his first career Silver Crown start at Toledo in 2015, finishing seventh, and he followed it up in 2018 with a sixth-place effort.
Nemire has been steady over the years at Toledo. After his career-best finish in 2018, he was the hard charger in 2019, moving his way through the field to a seventh-place finish after starting 20th. In 2021, the story unfolded similarly with Nemire charging from 15th to finish eighth.
Russ Gamester (Peru, Indiana) has made four Toledo Silver Crown starts with a best finish of 11th in 2019. He took eighth with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Toledo in 2011 and was fourth during an Auto Value Super Sprint feature there in 2019.
Nathan Byrd, Kyle O'Gara and Taylor Ferns each recorded their best Toledo Silver Crown results in 2021. Byrd (Goodyear, Arizona) scored a career-best finish of sixth in the event, while O'Gara (Beech Grove, Indiana) came home seventh and Silver Crown racing's most successful woman, Ferns (Shelby Township, Michigan), was ninth.
Returning for Toledo action this Saturday are 2018 series Rookie of the Year, New Castle, Indiana's Kyle Robbins (11th in 2018); Pendleton, Indiana's Travis Welpott (ninth in 2018); Levittown, Pennsylvania's Mike Haggenbottom (11th in 2021); Abilene, Texas' Jake Day (12th in 2021), Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania's Dave Berkheimer (22nd in 2021) and Grafton, Ohio's Mike McVetta (16th in 2021).
McVetta is one of two Ohio natives in Saturday's field, along with Nemire.
McVetta captured Midwest Supermodified Series (MSS) championships in 2018 and 2019, as well as the Buckeye Super Sprint title in 2011. The Dick and Deborah Myers-owned team sure knows the fast way around Toledo. Their winged sprint car possesses the fastest lap ever turned at the track, a 12.096 set in 2018.
Getting their first taste of USAC Silver Crown experience at Toledo are pavement stud Derek Bischak (Angola, Indiana), plus five USAC Silver Crown Rookies, including USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget standout Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Oklahoma), leading Silver Crown Rookie Gregg Cory (Shelbyville, Indiana), Nick Hamilton (Danville, Indiana), Mario Clouser (Auburn, Illinois) and Tom Paterson (Argos, Indiana).
Saturday's event honors legendary Toledo native and 1973 USAC Sprint Car champion driver and also marks the ninth appearance by the series at Toledo since 2010.
The Hemelgarn Racing/Super Fitness Rollie Beale Classic Fueled by Marco's Pizza 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 will open/rig parking will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.
The track ticket office and spectator gates will open at 4:30 p.m. USAC Silver Crown practice will run from 4:30-5:15 p.m. USAC Silver Crown Fatheadz Eyewear qualifying will begin at 5:45 p.m. Parade laps for the vintage cars is slated for 6:35 p.m. USAC Silver Crown cars and drivers will be called to front stretch at 6:50 p.m.
Getting closer to showtime, there will be a Beale family introduction and a brief racer reunion. The national anthems will start at 6:50, followed by driver introductions and the Rollie Beale Classic main event at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $25, children 6-12 are $5, while ages 5 and under are free. Add $1 per ticket for online ticket purchases at toledospeedway.com.
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