by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
Kody Swanson was less than a car-length away from winning the 2021 Rich Vogler Classic at Winchester Speedway. Half a tenth of a second after 100 laps. Swanson felt like he mismanaged that race, and unbeknownst to most, that bothered him. He wasn’t going to let that happen again. From the time he and the Doran Racing team unloaded the No. 1 car, it was fast. Swanson went fastest in practice, set quicktime in qualifying by four tenths of a second, and then had 100 laps to prove that he could tame the half-mile highbanks of Winchester Speedway.
There was no doubt about who we would see in victory lane after those 100 laps. Kody Swanson put on an absolute masterclass enroute to his first Silver Crown win at Winchester Speedway.
Coming to the green flag, it was Swanson and All Star regular Chris Windom on the front row with Bobby Santos III and Justin Grant in tow. The green flew and Swanson got the early jump as Logan Seavey got by Grant for fourth. The first five laps saw Swanson hold a steady half second lead over Windom and there was a small gap back to Santos and Seavey in third and fourth. That lead stayed the same as Swanson got into light lapped traffic on lap 12. Business started picking up five laps later, on lap 17, as Swanson had his hands full with heavy lapped traffic, but Swanson was able to maneuver his way through and built his lead to 1.282 seconds over Windom. With a clear track ahead of him, that lead was built to 1.511 seconds, as Santos and Seavey were 3.3 seconds back of the front duo.
Windom would be able to keep Swanson in his sights as they made their way through lapped traffic. It was almost like a slinky; Swanson would pull away slightly, but Windom would be right back in the half-second threshold within a couple laps, and Swanson would again pull away ever so slightly, just to have Windom reel him back in. Swanson’s lead was up to 1.162 seconds on lap 32, but just five laps later, it was back down to .363 seconds as Swanson and Windom moved about and around lapped traffic. A tough break for Santos on lap 36, as a shock tower broke, taking him out of his top five running spot, and ending his race.
On lap 38, Swanson had a decently clear track, and it was go-time. Swanson had 9.6 seconds back to third place, and the gap to second kept getting bigger and bigger. It was a 2.218 second lead on lap 46 that grew to 3.403 seconds as they got to the halfway point of the race. Swanson, Windom, Seavey, Taylor Ferns, and Justin Grant were your top five with 50 laps down and 50 laps to go. Grant had a wrench thrown in his race plan on lap 53, as his blistered right rear tire was too much, and forced Grant to relinquish the fifth spot and pit. The first and only caution of the race came on lap 55 as Ferns spun in turns one and two. She didn’t lose a lap, though, and was able to stay up near the front.
It was all Kody Swanson on the restart, as Chris Windom seemingly dropped an anchor and got passed by multiple cars. This put Seavey into the second spot, and it would be time to see if he had anything for Swanson. He didn’t. Swanson had a 2.542 second lead over Seavey by lap 64, and Swanson tacked on another second to that by lap 67. Swanson just kept clicking off laps at a good clip, and his lead kept growing and growing, up to 4.472 seconds with 25 laps left.
Windom finally had enough of his ill-behaving car and brought it to pit road on lap 81, as Swanson enjoyed a 5.530 second lead, but he did have a gaggle of lapped cars in front of him. Who are we kidding? Those lapped cars didn’t slow Swanson down and by lap 88, Swanson’s lead was a staggering 7.562 seconds. But wait, there’s more! Even with a school of lapped cars around him, Swanson was able to increase his lead to 9.189 seconds on lap 92. Swanson kept his cool with the lappers around him, and it paid off. He led all 100 laps and crossed the line 10.062 seconds ahead of second place Logan Seavey and third place Taylor Ferns.
Swanson was happy to get into victory lane at Winchester after he felt like he let his team down in 2021. The field, and crowd learned that a Kody Swanson seeking redemption is a dangerous Kody Swanson.
Championship leader CJ Leary had to start at the back of the pack (P21) after changing a right front tire after qualifying, but he charged his way up to fourth in what could be a championship night when things are said and done at the end of the season.
A full interview with Kody Swanson can be found here: https://youtu.be/1hZpBn-733E