Bryson Wins Silver Crown Rookie of the Year Honors
Series News Release - USAC Media
Speedway, Indiana (October 19, 2023) - At the outset of the 2023 USAC Silver Crown National Championship season, Kaylee Bryson’s primary goal was to capture Rookie of the Year honors.
At the conclusion of the year, that goal has been realized as the Muskogee, Okla. driver earned a fifth place finish in the series standings to be named USAC Silver Crown racing’s top Rookie.
In doing so, she became just the second driver in the past decade of USAC Silver Crown competition to finish inside the top-five of the standings and also be named Rookie of the Year (Logan Seavey in 2021).
As one of just five drivers to start all 11 series feature events in 2023, Bryson became the first Oklahoman to be named USAC Silver Crown’s top Rookie and the first woman to earn Rookie of the Year honors with a national division in the 68-year history of the United States Auto Club.
Obviously, she is recognized as a competitor first and foremost, just like anybody else. But it is important to acknowledge the achievement of breaking barriers by ascending to the heights of becoming the first woman to win a USAC National Rookie of the Year, but also becoming the first woman to finish inside the top-five of the point standings in a USAC National series.
“I didn’t even realize I was the first to do it,” Bryson acknowledged. “It’s always cool to have your name on a record, for sure. It’s something that will be remembered forever, so it’s very cool to be the first to do it.”
Bryson led the Rookie points for all but one of the 11 events throughout the season, earning top-10 finishes in six of the events and was the top Rookie finishing driver in four races, grabbing 8th at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks, a 7th at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway, a season-best 6th at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway and another 7th in the season finale at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Of note, another aspect that Bryson made a prime concern was taking care of equipment. In fact, she was running at the finish in 10 of the 11 events with only a broken rocker arm ending their string in September at the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds, all of which aided in her top-five point pursuit, which trailed only Logan Seavey, Kody Swanson, Justin Grant and C.J. Leary in the end-of-year standings, all of whom are USAC national champions.
“The goal was to win Rookie of the Year, but we always wanted to do more than that,” Bryson explained. “It felt really good to get fifth in points and it just goes to show how good of a team we have. My entire team works so hard behind the scenes and is so dedicated, and I’m glad that it showed. The top-four guys in front of me in the points are extremely good at what they do and they’re really good drivers who’ve done it for a really long time. To be in the top-five with them feels amazing and I’m just really proud of my team and thankful for all their support.”
Bryson got her feet wet with the series in 2022, starting four events toward the end of the campaign, which allowed her to gain some experience and make some notes all while retaining her Rookie status for 2023. Already possessing seat time on dirt and pavement with the series and returning with the same team helped her gain a slight edge on her competition so that they could hit the ground running in their Sam Pierce/AP Driver Development – Logical Systems, Inc. – RE Technologies – Welsch Heating & Cooling – Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems McGunnegil Chevy with a Maxim chassis on the dirt and a Beast on the pavement.
“I think just getting in the seat and getting laps was huge for me,” Bryson reflected. “I went from midgets to Silver Crown this year where the cars are way bigger and way faster and race on way bigger tracks. It was helpful to get that experience and be able to plan ahead of time while having an offseason to think about it and plan out what I was going to do for the next season.”
The jump from her initial four races to a full 11-race slate between 2022 and the start of 2023 was a major step in the learning process. But the curve from her first outing in 2022 to the end of 2023 saw major strides in numerous areas of her racing acumen. Not to mention, she was amid the beginning stages of her transition from a full dirt schedule to a mix of both pavement and dirt surfaces from race-to-race. However, she had some support in the form of a veteran team and driver coach, both of whom possess more than two decades of experience in the series.
“The biggest thing for me was learning how to manage tires and learning how to drive on pavement,” Bryson stated. “I grew up racing on dirt, so running a series that races on both dirt and pavement was a huge step for me and a huge learning curve. Being able to get comfortable on pavement and learn how to pass cars and qualify well felt like the biggest barrier I had to overcome this year to get fifth in points. My team did a great job teaching me all year and Aaron Pierce did an amazing job as my driver coach. He has so much experience under his belt, and for him to be able to relay what he knows and teach me, was really huge for us.”
Speaking of passing cars, few drivers advanced more positions throughout the 2023 season than Bryson who passed 47 cars, third most in the series. Twice, she gained the most spots in a single race. At Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway, she traveled 15th to 8th, and at Winchester, she powered from 13th to 7th. Even more impressively, it was her first visit to either track, and to add to it, both occurred on pavement surfaces. However, despite all that, she used her multitude of dirt experience to assist her in adapting and succeeding.
“I think (passing cars on pavement) kind of helped from the dirt side of things and I always knew that there was another line to choose,” Bryson said. “Coming out on the pavement, I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I do know that you’re not going to pass a car by following them. We just tried what we could and ended up working for us.”
In fact, the pavement was where she excelled. Her four best results of the season came on pavement. Learning is a natural part of the progression of a racing career, but excelling while learning at the same time is an experience that is difficult to achieve. But Bryson managed to accomplish it.
“Most of the pavement races I went to, I had a blast,” Bryson exclaimed. “At places like Winchester, WWT Raceway and IRP, I had so much fun this year just learning to drive on pavement. In May at IRP, I wasn’t good in qualifying, but by the end of the year, I was two seconds faster than I was at the beginning of the year. So, we’re just constantly improving. I had so much fun racing on the pavement this year, getting faster and passing cars. It’s just so much fun to learn as you go on.”
2023 USAC SILVER CROWN ROOKIE DRIVER POINT STANDINGS:
POS. PTS. DRIVER, HOMETOWN
1. 447 Kaylee Bryson, Muskogee, Okla.
2. 334 Trey Burke, Alvin, Texas
3. 245 Wayne Johnson, Tuttle, Okla.
4. 177 Chase Dietz, York, Pa.
5. 172 Dakoda Armstrong, New Castle, Ind.
6. 160 Emerson Axsom, Franklin, Ind.
7. 155 Tyler Roahrig, Plymouth, Ind.
8. 135 Mitchel Moles, Raisin City, Calif.
9. 71 Trey Osborne, Columbus, Ohio
10. 55 Ryan Thomas, Indianapolis, Ind.
11. 44 Tim Simmons, Cabot, Ark.
12. 37 Alex Bright, Collegeville, Pa.
13. 37 Nathan Moore, Kaufman, Texas
14. 32 Mark Bitner, Columbus, N.J.
15. 27 Matt Mitchell, Yorba Linda, Calif.
16. 25 John Tosti, High Ridge, Mo.
17. 23 Tanner Berryhill, Bixby, Okla.
18. 20 Zach Hampton, Clayton, Ind.
19. 17 Brent Yarnal, Phoenix, Ariz.
20. 10 Sterling Cling, Tempe, Ariz.
21. 10 Gary Dunkle, Lincoln, Neb.
22. 10 Cary Oliver, Buncombe, Ill.
23. 10 Dave Peperak, Clinton, Ind.
ALL-TIME USAC SILVER CROWN ROOKIES OF THE YEAR:
1981: Jack Hewitt
1982: Keith Kauffman
1983: Rick Hood
1984: Dave Blaney
1985: Steve Butler
1986: Kenny Jacobs
1987: Jeff Swindell
1988: Gene Lee Gibson
1989: Jimmy Sills
1990: Eric Gordon
1991: Stevie Reeves
1992: Jim Keeker
1993: Randy Tolsma
1994: Kenny Irwin Jr.
1995: Chuck Leary
1996: Ryan Newman
1997: Jimmy Kite
1998: Todd Kane
1999: Paul White
2000: Kasey Kahne
2001: Aaron Fike
2002: Matt Westfall
2003: Ron Gregory
2004: Aaron Pierce
2005: Josh Wise
2006: Mat Neely
2007: Cameron Dodson
2008: Steve Arpin
2009: Kody Swanson
2010: Bryan Clauson
2011: Kyle Larson
2012: Kyle Hamilton
2013: Chris Windom
2014: Caleb Armstrong
2015: C.J. Leary
2016: Casey Shuman
2017: Joss Moffatt
2018: Kyle Robbins
2019: Derek Bischak
2020: Bryan Gossel
2021: Logan Seavey
2022: Gregg Cory
2023: Kaylee Bryson