8 September 2022
Sam Pierce Racing Team principals feel horrible about the Port Royal debacle. Engines expire and that’s part of racing, but the team has not lost a Silver Crown engine in years. They feel obligated to make things right for Bryson. SPR has entered a Midget Car and a Sprint Car for Tanner Swanson for the pavement races at Indianapolis Raceway Park on June 30. They are obligated to run Swanson at IRP as payback after his SPR Sprint Car engine overheated while maintaining a dominant lead for 105 laps at the Little 500 a month earlier after contact early in the race.
But there is an open test the day before at IRP and Bryson is invited. Swanson shakes down the Sprint Car first on used tires and is fast and happy and parks the car early, satisfied that he has a good piece for the race. Bryson is given the nod and pushes off for the first time ever on pavement in an open wheel car, a 900-horsepower fire-breathing monster of a Sprint Car at that. Expectations are kept in moderation – this is IRP after all – perhaps the most technical pavement oval track in all of racing.
Bryson is good – she is smooth, stable and hits her marks. After a few moderate laps she brings the car in, stays belted in the machine and looks team principal and Driver Coach Aaron Pierce straight in the eyes and asks, “Do you guys actually go wide-open down the straightaways?” ‘AP’ chuckles and says “Yes, and you will too. You just need more laps, it’ll come to you over time. You can go back out in a while if you want”. Her response, “Definitely, I just want to think for a minute”. One minute later she pushes off again and goes wide open down the fabled IRP front stretch the first time by. Within a few laps she is within one second of Swanson’s quick time overall for the entire field of Sprint Cars testing that day – on his worn-out tires.
Swanson went on to win the next night in dominating fashion over his brother Cody and break a 25-year winless streak at IRP for Sam Pierce Racing. And yes, Kaylee was able to achieve her goal of testing the Midget Car as well and was equally impressive. Her summer had begun indeed.
With impressive pavement Sprint and Midget Car tests complete, Team SPR enters Bryson for the Rollie Beale Classic USAC Silver Crown Race at Toledo Speedway on August 6. But she had a couple more boxes to check before her first foray into big-time pavement open wheel racing.
It’s August 4th, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hosting USAC for the 4th running of the BC39 on the dirt track and Kaylee returns to her familiar and potent #71 Midget Car for KKM. She wins her qualifying race and transfers directly to the A Main. Another first for a woman. Check. But she also puts up another interesting statistic. She is one of only eight drivers out of 479 total entries to make the A Main at both the Chile Bowl and the BC39 in the same season – the two biggest races for the mighty Midget Cars. Check. She is also the ONLY driver to do so by winning preliminary races to transfer into both features. Check. Mate.
It was hot in Toledo – like mid-nineties hot, but Bryson was cool and collected for her first Silver Crown 100 lap race - and first pavement open wheel race of her 12-year career. She does well in practice, picking up pace with every lap. She qualified 17th, finished all 100 laps, was the only driver to make it through a five-car melee with only minor damage and able to keep rolling, finishing 13th. Her quote for the day exiting the race car? “Man, it’s so hot in those cars”. She kept the damaged front number plate as a souvenir. Check.
The team was so impressed with Kaylee at Toledo, that they elect to run her at World-Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) in two weeks. But first, another check box or two.
Continue reading Part 3