INDIANAPOLIS – Kody Swanson had been a mainstay with the USAC Silver Crown Series for a good five years entering the 2014 season.
In that time span, the Kingsburg, Calif., driver had lost a year to injury and then lost his full-time ride, putting him at a crossroads in his career.
He found a ride for the pavement side of the schedule in 2013 with DePalma Motorsports, the car literally being stored in a barn where it had sat unraced by the team for multiple seasons.
On the dirt side, Swanson found rides with team owners Ricky Nix and Eddie Sachs Jr. to piece together a full season campaign.
Swanson’s impressive 2013 season on pavement for the DePalmas presented him with the opportunity to chase a championship for the team in 2014, driving the No. 63 on the dirt as well.
The pairing was a match made in heaven, with Swanson ripping to shreds his label as a “pavement guy,” closing out the 2014 season with five victories on dirt in 10 starts and beating Tracy Hines by 27 points for the title.
Swanson’s title was his first in USAC national competition, after previously winning the 2005 USAC Western Sprint Car crown and being named the 2009 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year.
It was also the Lima, Ohio-based DePalma family’s first Silver Crown owner championship in 30 years, after taking top honors in 1984 with driver Dave Blaney.
Swanson took advantage of his first dirt start with the team by dominating April’s season-opening Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
The Swanson roll continued onto the next race when younger brother, Tanner Swanson, stunned Lucas Oil Raceway attendees with a spectacular performance.
He nearly lapped the entire field in leading all 100 laps of May’s USAC Hall of Fame Classic, although he had to stave off a late-race charge by Kody, who finished second.
After three USAC Silver Crown Series events in 2014, the scoreboard read “Swanson Family: 3, Everybody Else: 0” as Kody scored his second victory of the season with a pass for the lead on lap 78 to win the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Bobby Santos broke the Swanson stranglehold by winning June’s Gateway 100 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Santos led by a wide margin most of the race but wound up eking out a half-car length advantage over pole winner Tracy Hines at the checkered flag after his car began coughing on the restart with eight laps remaining.
Wisconsin’s David Byrne etched his name in the books as the 100th different winner in USAC Silver Crown history in July’s J.D. Byrider 100/Rich Vogler Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway, and he did it in spectacular fashion.
Byrne made a dive to the inside of race-long leader Tanner Swanson in the final set of corners and came out on top by .184-seconds at the line, his only lap led during the race.
Kody continued his dirt dominance as he took his third win of the season on the first night of August in the Hustle on the High Banks at the Belleville (Kans.) High Banks.
He had to rally from as deep as seventh to steal the win late in the race with six laps to go, running strong to the end as other frontrunners experienced problems.
Shane Cockrum of nearby Benton, Ill., closed out the month of August by becoming the first southern Illinois driver to win the Ted Horn 100 as he came out on top of a wild one at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
It was the first USAC win ever for Cockrum, coming in front of an enthusiastic crowd following race leader Chris Windom’s turn one flip with 11 laps remaining.
Kody led wire-to-wire to win September’s rain-postponed Tony Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. He won the pole and never trailed, finishing a half-lap ahead of runner-up Tracy Hines.
Jerry Coons Jr. outlasted all challengers to close the Eldora Speedway 4-Crown Nationals with a win under the sunshine at the half-mile dirt oval, after apparent race-winner Caleb Armstrong was docked a lap and relegated to an 11th-place finish for changing a tire earlier in the race that was not flat.
Kody finished off a magical 2014 Silver Crown Series championship for he and DePalma Motorsports in October’s Salt City 78 season finale at the New York State Fairgrounds mile, becoming the second driver in the past three seasons to close out a championship Silver Crown season with a feature win in the final race.
Caleb Armstrong of New Castle, Ind., captured Rookie of the Year honors with the series.