6 Storylines: To The Dairyland USAC Goes for 100 Laps at Madison

As the calendar officially turns to summer, the focus for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship turns to the north, all the way up to the lush greenery of the Badger State of Wisconsin.
However, it’s not the greenery that is the focus of USAC Silver Crown competitors come Friday night, June 23. It’s a half-mile strip of pavement and 100 laps that will tell the story when all is said and done.
For the fourth time, Oregon, Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway plays host to the Bytec Dairyland 100, as the most versatile oval series in the land switches back to the pavement after racing just six nights earlier on the Pennsylvania dirt.
The season is in full swing as the series hits round four. The contenders are beginning to emerge, and the focus has become clearer on several of the items to keep an eye on as we move forward about the season.
Let’s go over six of the storylines we’ll be paying full attention to as 24 drivers take the green this Friday night at Madison.
C.J., C.U., BYE
When C.J. Leary won at Madison a year ago, it sent shockwaves through the sport as a new pavement contender had emerged and had broken the stranglehold of Kody Swanson and Bobby Santos.
From start to finish, Leary was picture perfect. He was the fastest in Dirt Draft Practice. He was the fastest in Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying. He was first in the feature and, in doing so, led all 100 laps while piloting the Klatt Enterprises/Wilwood Disc Brakes – Lucas Oil – Brown & Miller Racing Solutions/Beast/Ford.
The Greenfield, Ind. native would love to repeat that performance this Friday night after a somewhat frustrating start. Leary currently sits ninth in the series standings and has finished 11th (Belleville), 24th (IRP) and 9th (Port Royal) in his three starts thus far in 2023.
Logan Seavey enters Madison as the USAC Silver Crown point leader after scoring a victory in last Saturday’s event on the dirt at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway.
What will be interesting to see is if he can put together a string of top-flight, consistent performances on the pavement in order to keep tabs on Kody Swanson. Seavey has finished second in the championship fight to Swanson in each of the past two seasons.
Swanson has demonstrated time and time again his ability to string together a flurry of victories and front running performances on the pavement that have given him the edge toward a championship, including a run of three-straight midsummer victories in 2022.
Seavey has shown flashes and continuous improvement on the pavement and has already finished as the runner-up this past May at IRP. Seavey routinely gets the job done on pavement, but if he can maintain a top-five or better finishing position on pavement throughout the year, he will once again be neck and neck again with Swanson for the series title at season’s end.
Kody Swanson has impressively led all three races run thus far, holding the top spot for a total of 163 laps out of the 246 circuits that have been run thus far. The math checks out to that being nearly two-thirds of all the laps completed by the series this year. However, he’s remained absent from victory lane.
The Kingsburg, Calif. native has already finished second and fifth on the dirt half miles at Belleville and Port Royal, respectively, this season. But a mechanical issue on the IRP on the pavement has been the biggest bugaboo thus far, knocking him out of the race while leading with 31 laps to go, dropping him down to 19th in the finishing order.
With a 39-point difference between him and Seavey in the standings entering Madison, if not for the 48-point swing that resulted from his misfortune, he would be nine points in front of Seavey coming into Madison.
However, in big time auto racing, it takes everything and everyone pulling forward in the same direction, driver, crew and machine, all the way to the checkered. Odds are that both Swanson and his Doran Racing team will be at the forefront of the field each and every night throughout the season. But for both Swanson and Seavey, and anybody else on the grid, a missed opportunity, even just one, during a Silver Crown season could decide a championship fate.
The lone pavement win of the USAC Silver Crown season belongs to Bobby Santos at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. Back in May, the Franklin, Mass. pilot amassed his 12th career Silver Crown victory, which impressively ranks eighth all-time in total series wins.
In his career, he’s won at five different pavement tracks with the USAC Silver Crown series: IRP, Gateway, Iowa, Phoenix and Toledo. However, one that’s missing from the resume is Madison.
In three career Silver Crown starts at Madison, Santos’ average finish is 2.67 following runner-up results in 2018 and 2022 to go along with a fourth in 2019. Perhaps Friday is the night he takes care of some Madison business.
The last driver to pick up a first career USAC Silver Crown win on a pavement track was Kyle Hamilton at IRP back in 2019. However, several candidates to become a first-time Silver Crown winner exist in the shadows, many of them with extensive experience and success on the blacktop.
In fact, six first-time USAC Silver Crown winning seekers finished inside the top-10 during the most recent pavement round of the series at IRP in May. The group includes Tyler Roahrig (3rd), Derek Bischak (4th), Taylor Ferns (5th), Nathan Byrd (6th), Mario Clouser (9th) and Mike McVetta (10th).
Ferns, Bischak and Byrd have all posted top-tens at Madison with Bischak 8th in 2019, Ferns 7th in 2022 and Byrd 10th in 2022.
A handful of drivers in this Friday night’s field have previously put together fine top-10 performances at Madison with the Silver Crown series. Travis Welpott was an 8th place finisher in 2018; Davey Hamilton Jr. took 6th in 2022; Bryan Gossel scored a 9th in 2022.
Like Roahrig, also making their first Madison appearances this Friday are pavement sprint and midget winner Kyle O’Gara and past Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Billy Wease as well as Kaylee Bryson, the series’ leading Rookie of the Year contender.
All three Madison USAC Silver Crown races have seen different strategies play out among different drivers. Three different drivers have earned the pole position in three tries: Justin Grant (2018), Kody Swanson (2019) and C.J. Leary (2022).
In 2018, Swanson got the initial jump from his outside front row starting position to break past Grant. Grant settled in and took the lead on lap six, leading the next 42 until Swanson found his way back around and led the remaining distance of the 100-lapper.
In 2019, Swanson led the first 12 laps from the pole before second starting David Byrne and third starting Kyle Hamilton traded the lead for the ensuing 66 circuits. However, Swanson re-emerged in the final quarter, leading the final 23 laps en route to the winner’s circle.
In 2022, it was Leary who started from the pole and absolutely crushed the field from start to finish, showing no mercy as he led by half a lap late in the going.
What strategy will pay off and which ones will not? That’s the beauty of Silver Crown racing with 100 laps to find a rhythm of one’s choosing, all diverging on the one common goal of victory.
Friday night’s Salute to America Night / Bytec Dairyland 100 features the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, Late Models, MISfitz plus Fireworks on June 23.
The pits open at 2:30pm Central and grandstands at 4pm with the drivers meeting taking place at 4pm and practice starting at 4:45pm, followed by qualifying and racing.
Advance tickets on sale at https://misracing.com/tickets/. Advance ticket prices: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for students age 12-17, $5 for kids age 6-11 & free for children age 5 and under. Race day ticket prices: $25 for adults, $22 for seniors, $15 for students age 12-17, $5 for kids age 6-11 & free for children age 5 and under. Pit passes are $30 for members & $40 for non-members.
The event will be streamed live on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3ZjeooQ.