STORM: Swanson Scores Storm Opener at Grandview Speedway
Series News Release - USAC Media
Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania (June 13, 2023) - Right now, Jake Swanson is on a roll unlike he’s ever experienced in sprint car racing.
And it’s led him straight to the top of the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point standings for the first time in his career.
Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) led all 40 laps of Tuesday night’s Jesse Hockett Classic at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway, fighting off a furious charge by Emerson Axsom during the final laps of the opening round of USAC Eastern Storm.
For Swanson, it’s now his third USAC National Sprint Car victory in his last four starts, and his sixth consecutive result on the podium, with three wins, a pair of seconds and a third to his credit during that time frame in his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Stratis Construction – USW Cat Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy.
Swanson is now in the driver’s seat as the early point leader of the six-race Eastern Storm series and stands atop the overall USAC National Sprint Car standings by a single point over Kyle Cummins.
Swanson is a big fan of where he and the team currently stand, especially after surpassing his personal USAC National Sprint Car win total with three triumphant appearances in his last four outings. By comparison, he’d won just twice in his first 127 series starts.
“I can get used to this; this is pretty unreal,” Swanson exclaimed. “I’m just so pumped to be able to win USAC National Sprint Car races. We’ve worked really, really hard for this, and it feels good to be able to go anywhere and be in the hunt. As long as we do our jobs and everyone pulls together, we’re always going to be there and in position, and if the cards fall right, they fall right, and that’s what they did tonight.”
Swanson started from the pole position of the main event at the 1/3-mile dirt oval and quickly bolted out to the early lead, constructing a commanding half-straightaway advantage over outside front row starter Thomas Meseraull just five laps into the event.
Catching the tail end of the field, Swanson initially scurried his way through with precision, but nearly found trouble as he drifted high toward the wall in turn four on the 17th lap as he worked three-wide around the outside of Max Adams and Logan Seavey. Swanson successfully put both drivers a lap down but saw his two second lead instantly dwindle to under a second.
The biggest mover throughout the first half of the contest was Brady Bacon, winner of five of the past six USAC National Sprint Car outings at Grandview dating back to 2017. On this night, he had steadily worked his way from 16th to 9th throughout the first 18 laps, but lap 19 was a different story. The four-time USAC National Sprint Car champ’s run of Grandview good fortune made an about-face on him as he slowed to a halt with a right rear tire issue. Bacon, the 2014 Eastern Storm titlist, had his right rear changed by his Dynamics, Inc. crew in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area, and restarted at the tail, but was only able to climb back to 14th, his first non-top-10 finish with the series at Grandview in 11 previous starts dating back to 2007.
Now with a clear track out in front of him, Swanson and second-running Meseraull broke away from the rest of the field for the start of the second half of the main. However, seventh starting Emerson Axsom began to paint himself into the picture, rolling the bottom from sixth to third in a two-lap span past Briggs Danner, Justin Grant and Chase Stockon, all previous Grandview winners in some form or fashion.
Axsom ultimately reeled in Meseraull and edged his way past for the runner-up spot on lap 30, just in the nick of time prior to a turn two melee which involved several drivers running in and around the top-10. Matt Westfall (11th) had the misfortune of flipping over in turn two on lap 31, the result of an incident ahead of him which saw Grant (7th) stop with a flat right rear and Danner (8th) perform a complete 360-degree spin while Mitchel Moles (13th) suffered front end damage. Westfall climbed out and walked away while Danner, Grant and Moles all restarted at the tail.
Once again, the coast was clear ahead of Swanson for the final 10-lap sprint. However, things weren’t as cut and dry behind him. Axsom was present at Swanson’s rear bumper to mount the biggest challenge he’d faced all race long. Swanson nearly slipped over the edge and onto the shelf on the high side of turn two on the lap 31 restart, rooster-tailing the outside wall with Keystone State soil but was able to dig himself out and prevent Axsom from capitalizing on the slightly ajar door, but Swanson now knew Axsom was there.
“It’s tough being the leader sometimes because you kind of feel like you’re a sitting duck,” Swanson explained. “I knew he was making the bottom work, but I didn’t feel like I could do it right. I figured I’d protect on the initial start, and then see if I saw him. Once we got to racing, if I could watch him down there, and maybe stay out front, I might try it. But the top was working so well. As long as I didn’t overdrive it, it was really easy to blow through because it was so thin. I definitely didn’t want to stab the back bumper into the fence and give away the lead. I tried to run below it, and it was actually a little bit better below it in the cleaned off area. Once you get over the shelf, it wants to suck you up into the fence. But with a little bit of patience, it paid off.”
Axsom pulled even with Swanson on both ends of the track but was unable to get enough pull at the exit of turns two and four to propel him ahead. Axsom altered the game plan in his pursuit of Swanson shortly thereafter with five laps remaining, switching to the high line in turns one and two, while maintaining his presence on the low line in turns three and four.
Swanson ably kept Axsom at arm’s length for the balance of the distance, never letting Axsom encroach within three car lengths in the waning laps to prevail at Grandview by a 0.743 second margin. Axsom brought it home second with Robert Ballou making a late-race surge to third. Timmy Buckwalter, making his first series start since Eastern Storm in 2022, took fourth while Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier Kyle Cummins grabbed fifth in what was his first Eastern Storm appearance since 2015.
Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) made a valiant effort to advance from seventh to second in the feature in his Clauson Marshall Racing/Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Lubricants/Spike/Kistler Chevy. He pulled even with Swanson for the lead multiple times late and tried to show him a nose in order to goad him into making a mistake or to change lanes. But in the end, Axsom still managed to equal his best result of the USAC National Sprint Car season after also finishing second in February’s season opener at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park.
Describing his start to the USAC National Sprint Cars as “horrific,” Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) got his Eastern Storm off to a rocking start with a podium run at Grandview. The two-time Eastern Storm champ turned in his best finish of the season in his Ballou Motorsports/Suburban Subaru – Berks Western Telecom/Triple X/Ott Chevy. His 10th to third charge equaled his best career Grandview finish with the USAC National Sprints, which he also achieved in 2011 and 2021.
In four of his past five Eastern Storm feature starts, Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.) has been crowned the hard charger. In 2022, he went 22nd to 7th at Bridgeport, 13th to 2nd at Williams Grove and 16th to 2nd at Port Royal. On Tuesday at Grandview, he did it again with a 22nd to 10th run aboard his Heffner Racing Enterprises/Lelands.com – DriveWFX.com – Frozen Farmer/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) picked up Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifying honors, while also earning an extra $350 courtesy of Clever Girl Winery. Cummins’ 11th career fast time with the series tied him with Jim McWithey and George Snider for 46th all-time.
Meanwhile, Swanson’s fifth career USAC National Sprint Car victory moved him to 85th all-time alongside Larry Cannon, Dana Carter, Derek Davidson, Gene Lee Gibson, Jeff Gordon, Chuck Gurney, Shane Hmiel, Kevin Huntley, Frankie Kerr, Kelly Kinser, Eddie Leavitt, Jim Mahoney, Andy Michner, Johnny Parsons, Bill Puterbaugh, Tanner Thorson and Cole Whitt.
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jake Swanson (1), 2. Emerson Axsom (7), 3. Robert Ballou (10), 4. Timmy Buckwalter (12), 5. Kyle Cummins (6), 6. Daison Pursley (17), 7. Thomas Meseraull (2), 8. Shane Cottle (15), 9. Chase Stockon (4), 10. Alex Bright (22), 11. Steven Drevicki (8), 12. Carson Garrett (18), 13. Matt Mitchell (11), 14. Brady Bacon (16), 15. C.J. Leary (13), 16. Justin Grant (5), 17. Mitchel Moles (9), 18. Anton Hernandez (20), 19. Briggs Danner (3), 20. Max Adams (23-P), 21. Logan Seavey (19), 22. Matt Westfall (14), 23. Charles Davis Jr. (24-P), 24. Bobby Butler (21). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Jake Swanson-737, 2-Kyle Cummins-736, 3-Brady Bacon-714, 4-Emerson Axsom-709, 5-C.J. Leary-695, 6-Justin Grant-654, 7-Mitchel Moles-616, 8-Chase Stockon-589, 9-Robert Ballou-547, 10-Daison Pursley-532.
USAC EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Jake Swanson-77, 2-Emerson Axsom-75, 3-Robert Ballou-72, 4-Kyle Cummins-71, 5-Timmy Buckwalter-67, 6-Daison Pursley-60, 7-Thomas Meseraull-60, 8-Shane Cottle-56, 9-Chase Stockon-55, 10-Steven Drevicki-49.