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  • Spencer Frady

Long Road Back: Kody Swanson Returns from Injury


After a long recovery from a broken left foot, Kody Swanson is set to return to USAC Silver Crown competition at Toledo. Photo courtesy: USAC Media - Photographer: Indy Racing Images Photo

Series News Release - USAC Media

Feature Article by: Richie Murray


Speedway, Indiana (April 12, 2024)………For any racer with the level of accomplishments Kody Swanson has accrued throughout his career, there are always obstacles to overcome and hills to climb en route to a successful season.


Swanson knows this all too well, and to prove it, he’s racked up seven driving titles and 40 victories on his illustrious USAC Silver Crown resume. However, the 2024 season has presented him with an unanticipated obstacle unlike any other he’s ever faced.


On Christmas morning roughly three-and-a-half months ago, Swanson’s season and the future of his racing career instantly came into question in a split second. An accident at his parents’ house in Kingsburg, Calif. resulted in a severely broken left foot. Swanson was ultimately rushed into surgery that same day.


After returning to his parents’ home, he remained there until after the new year until he was cleared to fly back home to his Brownsburg, Ind. residence. Fitted with an external fixator designed to keep his fractured bones stabilized and aligned, Swanson arrived home and made an appointment with Dr. Timothy Weber and his team at OrthoIndy, which has been the location of many racecar driver restorations over the years.


An MRI was followed by a CT scan to see the lay of the land, so to speak, and on January 12, Swanson underwent a second surgery to install plates and screws into his foot. The physical anguish in the aftermath of the accident goes without speaking, but the mental agony that goes along with it can prove to be just as painful.


“At the beginning, it was really hard to know what the status was,” Swanson began. “My first thought was, ‘well, I’m going to miss the Chili Bowl.’ At surgery that first night, I found out what they’d seen after they’d gotten inside and saw what kind of damage was really done. The numbers they threw out ended with six months, and you think, ‘wow, am I really going to be out through the month of May and through June?’ Then it’s, ‘what’s the recovery going to be like after something this big?’”


Among the individuals who have been key in Swanson’s recovery is USAC Triple Crown champion Tracy Hines. Hines can relate to Swanson’s predicament. In 2007, Hines suffered a fractured pelvis, a broken left femur and a dislocated right knee, among injuries, in an off-road dirt bike crash. Hines encouraged Swanson to keep his mind on the task at hand and laid out the stark realities of the situation and the expectations of what’s in store in the days, weeks and months ahead.


“Tracy is someone that I’ve leaned on pretty heavily, especially at the beginning, in knowing what to expect, making sure I ask the right questions and what I need to be aware of on my end so I can try to help the healing process as much as I can,” Swanson explained. “Justin Grant is another one who encouraged me to get into OrthoIndy where they have such a great group who’ve seen things like this before. Just like you want the right people working on your racecar, you also want the right people patching you back together. I’ve been really fortunate that on every step along the way, I’ve had great help.”


However, from the start, Swanson wasn’t keen on the idea of an agonizing six-month wait to get back to work.


“Pushing forward, it’s like, ‘okay, that’s our official timeline,’” Swanson remarked. “If I do my job all the way right, maybe it’ll heal quicker. So far, I’ve been fortunate that that’s what’s happening, and it’s been healing really well. I had regained my stability and was able to begin walking ahead of schedule. I was able to put weight on it and do all those things to try and regain the mobility and strength that I had lost over that time.”


Through rigorous rehabilitation sessions and physical therapy, Swanson began to see the improvements as well as the figurative light at the end of the tunnel. He took on the anti-gravity treadmill at 35% weight starting February 13, and from that point forward, made regular visits to the gym at PitFit, despite still utilizing crutches.


“They brought me a chair and allowed me to sit down,” Swanson recalled. “I could do some upper body work and do whatever I could to try and keep my cardio and my body strength up in order to recover as quickly as I could to be ready for that first opportunity.”


A major milestone was reached on March 4 when Swanson took his first steps without the aid of crutches by walking across a parking lot with full weight. Throughout the three-month process, Swanson spoke of how he made it a priority to take advantage of the forced slow down.


“I feel like if God wanted me to see something through this to make sure I didn’t miss it, it’s that there are so many things in this fast-paced life that we take for granted. I have an even greater appreciation for it now and enjoy the little things so much more.”


In a sense, this isn’t completely new territory for Swanson. During the 2011 USAC National Midget Hut 100 at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, a turn three ramp over another driver’s wheel sent Swanson into a series of flips that resulted in a broken skull and pelvis (in two places) as well as a fractured collarbone. However, the difference in this recent incident is that the bones needed to be reset in his foot. It’s a surgery and recovery that Swanson admitted was “a different experience.”


With that said, Swanson’s mindset was also set on getting back behind the wheel of a racecar. After all, a mere eight weeks after the 2011 accident, he was back in victory lane at Indianapolis Raceway Park with the USAC Silver Crown series.


On April 4, Swanson’s X-Rays allowed the surgeons to give him the blessing to get back on track. On April 9, he returned to the seat of the Doran Racing sprint car for a practice session at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway where all went well. Now the focus is set to “race mode” for the USAC Silver Crown opener on Saturday, April 20, at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway.


“As you recover, you just focus on the next one – the next opportunity and the next race – and it’s the same way I’ve approached it before,” Swanson revealed. “It would be great to kick off the comeback with a win, but at the same time, the series is as competitive as it gets, and there are a lot of guys wanting to win all the same. For me, it’s just about focusing on trying to be as ready as I can be for it.”


Swanson is thankful for all the support he’s had along the way from the people who’ve helped directly, to the people who’ve called, and especially his wife, Jordan.  As Kody puts it, she’s had to help patch him back together twice now in addition to keeping the household going with two young sons to care for.


He’s mentally and physically preparing for the demanding 100-lap, 50-mile test on the half-mile paved oval of Toledo, and as everyone has become undeniably aware of by this point, Swanson won’t allow himself to be outworked and he won’t miss any details along the way. Even an unintended pun couldn’t slip by Swanson without a laugh.


“Time will tell to see how good it goes, but I’m going to put one good foot forward to try and be as ready as I can be.”

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