Since retiring from Sprint Car racing, Sammy Swindell has been attending NASCAR events
in which his 25-year old son Kevin is competing.
At Dover last weekend, the three time World of Outlaws Sprint Car series driver drew attention in both NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide garages as well as on pit road when he jumped into his son’s Nationwide car after time trials and drove it back to the pits.
While Sammy, who will turn 59 on October 26, spent some time racing on the NASCAR Truck Series, it’s his Sprint Car career that drew the attention of drivers, crew members and fans.
Swindell left the World of Outlaws tour prior to the high paying events in August in Knoxville, Iowa. He wanted to get the Big Game No. 1 team ready for the $150,000 to win Knoxville Nationals,so he left the tour after the Kings Royal at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and didn’t return until the Nationals.
After the Nationals, however, Swindell surprisingly announced his retirement from full-time Sprint Car competition. He didn’t rule out a return for special events and was certain he would again
run at the indoor Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in January in Tulsa, Okahoma. Sammy and Kevin have dominated this event in recent years.
At Dover, Swindell said he decided it was time to focus on helping Kevin advance his career in NASCAR racing. With Kevin’s schedule calling for him to run a string of Nationwide races leading up to the end of the season, Sammy knew it was his son’s big opportunity at success in NASCAR and wanted to do all he could for him. While Sammy’s not wrenching the car, he is providing Kevin with added exposure and working to use his influence in getting his son to the next level. He talked to many, including Tony Stewart about his son, hoping they might be able to help him.
So far, Sammy has been able to stay away from Sprint Car racing, but he’s also not making any money by doing so.
“I don’t miss it,” said Sammy.
“The question is, can I live without it?”
Sammy, Steve Kinser and Doug Wolfgang were the original stars of the World of Outlaws tour. Sammy feels he can still do it, but is frustrated by the current state of Sprint Car racing where passing has become so difficult.
He feels much of the problem is with the Hoosier tires that are currently mandated in 410 Sprint Car racing across the country. While most drivers were happy to see Hoosier replace Goodyear as the tire supplier two years ago, the tire they must run isn’t the same design Hoosier that they had wanted. He said one rear tire is
a four ply design and the other two ply. One is also softer than the other and he said it has made for bad racing. Since the tire change, both Swindell and Steve Kinser have struggled.
“I think only Donny Schatz has figured it out,” he said.
Swindell said the tires work when you are by yourself, but once you have to slow up in traffic or are behind another car, the handling goes away. He said it’s all about picking an early number for time trials. He said if he went out early and put down a good lap he got a good finish that night. If he didn’t, he was stuck in the back. “I never picked good either,” said Swindell. “I think I only started on the front row twice all year. When I did, we finished up front.”
Wolfgang’s career was cut short when he was badly injured in a fiery crash. Kinser is retiring from full-time competition at the end of this season. Will Sammy Swindell return for next year? Will he do his own farewell tour?
“I know I’m in better shape than Steve,” said Swindell with a grin. “But I’m not coming back just to sell t-shirts. If I know I have a chance to win I might.” Swindell believes today’s Sprint Car racing is more about the luck of the draw than his driving style of sitting up in the seat and gassing it.
Dover was frustrating for the Swindells. Just prior to leaving for Dover, the crew chief quit when a request for a much needed added crew member was turned down. With just three crew members at Dover, the team bought limited tires and skipped the final practice on Friday despite timing in 24th fastest.
The plan wasn’t to run the entire distance, but Kevin was involved in a crash on lap 38 that ended his seventh Nationwide start of the year in a Dodge sponsored by Curb Records.
Kevin has proven himself in open-wheel racing and also in stock cars. Earlier this year as replacement driver, he won for the second time in ARCA competition while running for the powerful Venturni team. Both Kevin and his father hope they’ll make an impression in his remaining Nationwide races this year that will vault his NASCAR career into quality rides in the future.