Fifty years ago, Kody Swanson’s phone would have been ringing off the hook as he fielded calls from IndyCar owners. That’s because last week he captured the Hoosier Hundred and Little 500 – which used to be automatic tickets to race the Indianapolis 500.
But this is a different era, and Wednesday the only call Swanson got was from RACER.com as he answered during his lunch break at Alt-Witzig Engineering — his full-time job.
“I’ve had some calls of support from fans but nobody with a million dollars,” said Swanson with a chuckle. “I have a love for the history of the Indy 500 and when I came back here I was solely focused on IndyCar and NASCAR.
“I wouldn’t have been picky; either one would have been great and I’d still love to run Indy, but nothing has happened yet.”
Swanson is a three-time USAC Silver Crown champion and one of the best pavement racers in recent memory. And he’s been virtually unbeatable on the dirt miles like Springfield, DuQuoin and the Indiana State Fairgrounds because they’re mostly hard, slick and require pavement precision.
He left his home in Kingsburg, California (outside Fresno) a few years ago to come back to the Midwest and run USAC midgets, sprints and Silver Crown cars.
But in 2011 he had a terrible accident at Haubstadt, Indiana during the Hut Hundred midget race and broke his pelvis, collarbone and right arm. Six weeks later he won his first Silver Crown race at IRP (now Lucas Oil Raceway).
“I like racing midgets but I kinda decided to concentrate on sprints and Silver Crown after that,” he said.
That was the same year he drove in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at Long Beach and began talking to people about Indy Lights.
“There was some interest but I was used to getting paid to drive, and when they said it was going to cost $50,000 a race, I knew I couldn’t raise that kind of money,” continued Swanson, who lives in Carmel with his wife and son.
Pavement racing has all but died in USAC midgets and sprints, so other than some winged sprint-car races, the 30-year-old concentrates on Silver Crown, where he’s amassed 22 victories – one shy of all-time leader Jack Hewitt.
Last week he opened up with his fourth win in the Hoosier Hundred for DePalma Motorsports, followed by a victory at Lucas Oil Raceway and capped the weekend with his second triumph in the prestigious Little 500 sprint show at Anderson.
“It was cool to win at Anderson for Gene Nolan because he’d never won up there and he’s been trying a long time,” said Swanson, whose brother Tanner is also a good shoe and has seven Silver Crown victories. “And my first Little 500 win was for Richard Hoffman and he’d never won either so that makes them even more special.”
As humble and friendly as he is fast and smart, the Fresno State grad understands his lot in the racing life and embraces it.
“I’m not bitter, I’m just trying to appreciate my opportunities,” he exclaimed. “I just turned 30 and I’m pretty realistic about Indy or stock cars. Those are variables I can’t control so I just race when I can and enjoy it.”