Welcome to the sixth installment of “11 Questions with…”!
At the end of each segment the current week’s driver will get to decide what the 11th question will be for the next guest.
Simple and entertaining.
Today I have race car driver Kody Swanson. Kody is a husband, father, and two-time USAC Silver Crown Champion.
Let’s get to know a little more about him.
If you got the chance to redo one race, which one would it be and why?
Last year’s Four Crown for obvious reasons. I was like 6 or 10 points ahead of Windom and was running second or maybe even third and could have won the championship. Winning the Silver Crown Car Championship three times in a row would have been awesome. That’s something that has never been done.
A lapped car half spun in from of me, and I got caught up in it. I should have never been in that spot in the first place. I don’t blame him. I was the one who should have known better. I guess I don’t want a whole race redo, but maybe just a one lap do-over. We should have won three championships in a row, which had never been done, and turn one at Eldora snatched it all away.
Most people still label me as a pavement racer so my pavement “redo” would have to be the 2006 Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale. This is back when it was still on pavement. It was my 4th race ever in a midget.
I was in my family owned car, flipped, and slid down the backstretch. I led about 80 laps. Billy Wease, my teammate that year, got by me for the lead. I was passing him back with less than 10 laps to go and a caution came out. I got to his inside with 5 or so laps left. We were racing side-by-side. I was too nice to wheel him, and too young to know I should have. I’d have to go back and do that one different.
After that I went back and sat on the pole another four times in three different cars, I think. I think from 2006 to 2011 I was on the front row every year. I never got another chance to be that close to winning that race again.
What is your reputation as a driver from other people’s perspective, and do you think that stigma holds true?
I’d say I’m a relatively clean racer. I don’t think, or I hope, people don’t think I’m a squirrel. I have a reputation of being a pavement guy that I can’t seem to shake, but I’m working hard to be better at both.
Let me think. I’ve had people say that before they knew me they thought I was stuck up. I’m really just nervous in front of other people, so I don’t feel like that’s true.
Do you enjoy running the Silver Crown cars more on dirt or pavement? And tell us a little bit about your experience on both.
I have always been known as a pavement guy, but actually my first official start in a USAC Silver Crown car was on the dirt mile in Springfield, Illinois. I really enjoy the Silver Crown cars, on either surface, but particularly the pavement and the dirt miles. When I started in Sprint Cars and Midgets I was a pavement racer only for probably the first three years. So, as I transitioned into Silver Crown, I was already comfortable on that surface and at those tracks. It was really just the new aspects of the cars themselves that I had to transition to.
Eventually I became more comfortable on dirt, especially the fairgrounds miles. I know people tend to think they race like pavement, but it’s not quite that simple. I was fortunate to get started with Team 6R, and I actually learned a lot about racing and driving the miles the year that I drove for Ricky Nix and Eddie Sachs, Jr. By the time I was able to team up with the DePalma Family and Bob Hampshire, we really clicked and have run well together on the miles.
The pavement is where I had been most comfortable, and really seemed to fit me. It can be technical, and has an element of hit your marks discipline that some dirt tracks just don’t have. Tire wear was always a factor, so you have to manage your equipment and your race to be a factor at the end. I really like that aspect because at the end of these races, everyone’s tires are worn out, we’re all sliding around and somehow you’ve got to make speed and figure it out before someone else does.
What is your “retaliation policy” if someone wrecks you, if any? Do you settle it on the track by beating them; give them a little bump; talk to them after the race? How do you handle it?
My perspective on that subject is whatever happened, already happened. I’m not going to risk tearing up my owner’s equipment to prove a point. I’m scrawny so we aren’t going to fight, but I would want to talk about it. If it’s something that they feel wasn’t necessarily dirty driving and I did, then I’ll know how to race them in the future.
I just want to get focused on winning the next one. You can’t punch the guy and change the outcome.
If you had to race on one track for the rest of your life which one would it be and why?
Well I guess since we’ve split a few other questions between dirt and pavement I have two answers.
Dirt – Waynesfield is my little hillbilly heaven. It’s kind of where I got to start over in a Sprint Car. It’s just fun. It isn’t that serious over there. There’s no $10,000-to-win the show on the line.
It’s a funky shape. It’s kind of slick. It’s kind of technical. Not to discount the place. I really like going there and just having fun.
I also like all the fairground miles because you only get to do them once a year, and I wouldn’t want to ruin that.
Pavement – This might not be my favorite pavement track by any means, but it’s definitely one of the most memorable. I like a lot of the pavement tracks. This was back when the PRI show was held in Orlando. They held a race at Orlando Speed World. My family towed the family car from California all the way to Florida in 2006 and we won with a 360.
The race before was Turkey Night where I junked the car. We scraped together enough to run this race, made the long haul and won. It was on ESPN 2. It paid $10,000-to-win.
They made a big deal out of it. It was kind of fun.
If you could pick one product sponsor what would it be and why?
Driving 200 miles one way to the shop every weekend, I’d have to say I want a gasoline sponsor to get there and back. A fuel card would be really helpful.
If you came out with an Autobiography what would it be called?
So, I couldn’t come up with a name. I know you and my wife, Jordan, were talking and came up with one. Let me reverse the role and ask you a question. What should my autobiography be called?
–Fair enough! I was talking to Jordan after your Williams Grove win and I said “Jo, Kody is just a low-key badass. He’s always flying under the radar. He’s humble and quiet, but he’ll murder you silently on the track. If there’s 20 laps to go and he isn’t leading you better be worried because you know he’s behind you and in the hunt.”
So I like the title of, “Kody Swanson; Low Key Badass.” I’d buy that book.
–Well I’d never call myself that, but thank you!
If you didn’t drive race cars what else would you be doing?
Right now, even though I’m driving race cars as much as I can, I’m still working a “normal” job at Alt & Witzig Engineering. They have been a great fit for me, and have continued to be supportive of my racing. But if I wasn’t driving, I’d still want to be involved in racing, or at least give it a shot.
I don’t know if I’d be able to, but I’d be interested in being involved in a series or event promotions on the business side of things. My degree is in Agriculture Economics, but it has been interesting to see how much of the same principles cross over. If I wasn’t able to work something out in racing, agriculture would be another interest of mine.
What is something you would change about Open-Wheel Racing and why?
Oh, I’ve definitely got a few ideas, and as much time as I spend on the road, I’ve had plenty of time to think about them. I know it would be a long shot, but you’ve got to dream big, sometimes right?
I’d like to help make Open-Wheel Racing more of a destination in racing. I don’t feel like there are any cars cooler than the ones we’re racing now. I like the old-school and simplicity of what we get to race now. I like that we still have mechanical fuel injection. I like that we don’t have any downforce. I like that these things will spin the tires on dirt or pavement. I like that these cars are hard to drive. I feel like they should be. It is what makes driving racecars FUN to me.
If I was headed in a particular direction, it would be to embrace that old-school and the tradition of our sport. Sometimes I worry that if we keep giving in to what is “trending,” we’re going to end up like a bad version of the “Fast & Furious,” haha!
I was a race fan long before I was a driver. I grew up watching my dad race, and there are still so many aspects of that era that I miss today. He raced in the premier division – and during the night, I could feel the difference in the atmosphere when they were up.
They lined them up and introduced the drivers before the feature. They ran the feature division last!
I remember it being awesome because the race finished, they interviewed the top 3 on the front stretch, and then the entire grandstand poured into the pits. You got to meet the drivers and see them in their element. They were still in their driving suits, still sweating. They were still full of adrenaline and fired up. You got to see them and witness what made racing exciting for them, because it was still fresh for them. They signed pictures, they signed body panels, they signed t-shirts. You felt like you got to know them.
As a fan, you became invested in the race, and in the drivers and teams. You liked them and you wanted them to win, or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you hoped someone else would win, but either way you cared and when you watched you felt the adrenaline too, because suddenly it mattered to you who won or who didn’t.
Maybe I’m lame for thinking it, but it made racing emotional. Come on, not romantic-comedy emotional, but pit-in-your-stomach, heart-racing, feet twitching, the kind of emotional that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It made racing fun to watch, fun to talk about and something that you enjoyed doing. I would like to help racing get back to more of that.
If you had to audition for American Idol what song would you sing and why?
Anyone that’s ever heard me sing would never encourage me to audition for American Idol. They would never ever let that happen, but if I was forced to I’d sing the first dance song from our wedding “Must Be Doing Something Right” by Billy Currington, just for the brownie points from my wife.
Last week’s driver, Brandon Morin, got to pick the final question and he wants to know: If you had to pick one restaurant, either dine-in or fast food, to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I think Chinese food. I don’t know. I always say Jordan can cook pretty much everything else really good, even Mexican food. She makes the best Mexican food in Indiana. Sal’s Mexican restaurant in Central California is the one place back home I always go to when I’m there. They don’t make shredded beef enchiladas like that any place around here.
Ok, so what’s the 11th question for the next featured driver going to be?
Just a side note because I heard next week’s driver is Mitchell Faccinto, he used to kick my butt in Junior Sprints when I was like 13 years old and he had to have been maybe 8 years old. I remember one time we all wrecked and landed in a big pile and people and myself were worried that I was squishing him.
Haha! I was too nice to the younger kids, and they beat up on me on the track.
–That’s hilarious! I wonder if he remembers that. I’ll bring it up next week! Ok, so what’s your question for him?
–What kind of track would you rather race? A technical track where you have to it figure out, or more of a hammer down, the braver you are the better you go?
That’s all for today! We hope you got to know Kody a little more and maybe had a laugh along the way. Big thanks to Kody Swanson for being our guest. “11 Questions with…Mitchell Faccinto” is set for August 1st.