Kody Swanson wins at the Carb Night Classic
BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Kody Swanson wins again.
No, it wasn’t a USAC Silver Crown car, but that’s what made it all the more impressive Friday night at the Carb Night Classic.
In his debut in a mid-engined winged formula car, Swanson won the Freedom 90, the first oval race in the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship, the second step on the Road to Indy.
Qualifying second, Swanson fought off the early challenges of Sting Ray Robb before setting off to chase polesitter Manuel Sulaiman. When Sulaiman was delayed in lapped traffic on Lap 41, Swanson took his chance and went around the No. 8 machine on the outside in Turns 3 and 4.
“The beauty of being second is you just go where the other guy isn’t,” said an emotional Swanson after winning. “When he chose the bottom, I thought I could pin him in, and if that didn’t work, I’d just follow him later. But I pinned him in and rolled around him.”
Swanson never looked back, giving Legacy Autosport their first win on their Indy Pro 2000 debut ahead of 2019 USF2000 series runner-up Hunter McElrea in second and Sulaiman in third.
“There was incredible stress for me this week,” said Swanson. “(Indy Pro cars) are so different in the way that they build grip, but the Silver Crown cars, I can feel it coming and the formula cars don’t. You see rookies that make mistakes because they get in a spot where they’re really confident and boom, the thing surprises them, so the last thing I wanted to do was tear up these guys’ car because I got surprised. I was overly cautious all throughout and I about made a mistake there on the second lap. Luckily I saved it and it gave me some confidence that I could handle this.”
The team is owned by Mike Meyer, the great-grandson of the first three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Louis Meyer. Swanson tested the car once before on an oval in Wisconsin and the team had Swanson as a crew member at other races before giving the five-time USAC Silver Crown champion a shot in what has been a major time and financial crunch.
“The deal wasn’t done until we were here loaded in,” said Meyer before the race. “His drug test was just finished on Thursday, so that’s how quick we had to put this thing together when we had the funds.
“Typically an Indy Pro 2000 race, you’re looking at the highest is maybe $30,000-35,000 (for a weekend), but some of the guys that are working on the car are like, ‘I just want to work on it because Kody’s there,’ so there’s a lot of help from all angles. That’s what this team’s about. We’re a group, we’re like family, we want to see Kody succeed and if we can give a little bit to make that happen, let’s do it.”
With mechanics forfeiting paychecks in the middle of a pandemic to help get Swanson on track, the team had partners reaching out of the woodwork to help get the No. 20 car on track.
In an era where motorsports sponsorship is hard to come by for team owners and drivers have to fund their own seats on the Road to Indy, Swanson and Meyer are a throwback to an era where a team owner could take a chance on a fast driver in the hopes it would pay off. After winning the Freedom 90, Meyer is looking to pay it forward again.
“Everybody feels the same way we do, so we know we’re doing something right,” said Meyer. “We want to do whatever it takes to get him where he needs to be and if we can get him there then we’ll find the next guy and that’s what I envisioned this team originally, that was the goal to get these guys that don’t have the big dollars but have amazing talent get them into where they need to be.”
Legacy Autosport is planning on bringing Swanson to the oval race next weekend in St. Louis at WorldWide Technology Raceway if the rest of the sponsorship deals come together.
The USAC Silver Crown feature event of the night was shaping up to be a classic Swanson battle with Kody starting on pole position alongside his brother Tanner. While Kody led from the beginning, a rear brake caliper fell off of the car just before halfway, allowing Tanner to pass his brother and lead. Despite cautions for spins and the ensuing restarts, Tanner was able to drive away, giving the Swanson family two wins. Aaron Pierce was second ahead of Kyle Hamilton.
“It wasn’t going to be easy, Kody had the car to beat I think by a mile if he didn’t break,” said Tanner. “We lucked into it in every sense of the word I think but we put ourselves in at least second position and we were able to capitalize and then from then on out we were just trying to manage tires, manage our race and make sure we had something left at the end if we got a late race caution.”
In the first race of the night for USF2000 competitors, Christian Rasmussen continued his domination of the 2020 season for Jay Howard Driver Development as the Danish racer led all but one lap on his way to winning the sixth race of the 2020 season. Rasmussen has won every race all season and finished ahead of Reece Gold and Jack William Miller, the son of former Indianapolis 500 competitor Dr. Jack Miller.