TERRE HAUTE, IN (May 10, 2000) - For many people, the month of May in Indiana means only one thing: racing. The Indianapolis 500 and the return of professional sprint car racing serve to focus attention on the Hoosier State. This May will be...
TERRE HAUTE, IN (May 10, 2000) - For many people, the month of May in Indiana means only one thing: racing. The Indianapolis 500 and the return of professional sprint car racing serve to focus attention on the Hoosier State. This May will be no different. And, Sammy Swindell, who grew up in Memphis, TN watching his father race, always knew that one day May would find him racing somewhere in Indiana. That's the case this week as Swindell and his Channellock Team will race this Friday and Saturday in the World of Outlaws Winged Thunder program at Terre Haute's Action Track.
"There's something about this time of the year," said Swindell, who currently ranks fourth in Outlaw Standings. "Usually by this time, we've won a few races and feel really good about the season. This year we're still having a pretty good season. We've learned some new things with our chassis and shock program, but we haven't been able to figure out our tire problems."
Figuring things out is a specialty of Swindell's. After starting his racing career at the age of 15 in 1971, Swindell has absorbed a wealth of information both at the track and by studying engineering and physics. He had hoped to finish his engineering degree, but his racing career took up most of his time. Swindell learned early in his career the importance being able to do everything with the racecar.
"There are a lot of guys that have been successful, and they don't know how to do anything but drive," explained Swindell, who drives, owns and helps maintain the Channellock #1 Stealth Sprint Car. "I figured out right away that some guys would go fast with a certain crew chief, and I didn't want to find myself dependent on someone else. I think that's paid off for me, but maybe it's also made me a little more of a perfectionist."
"There have been a lot times during my sprint car career when I've been bored. I probably could've won more races or championships if we went straight down the middle and did things like everyone else. We did that in 1981 and 1982 with LaVerne Nance and won championships. I always want to try new things, and I guess that's why I've raced in other series."
Swindell hoped to change the path of his career in the middle 1980's by trying his skills in IndyCar racing. Patrick Racing put Swindell in their IndyCar for the Michigan and Pocono 500's with the hope of having Sammy replace a retiring Gordon Johncock. Swindell, who "only wanted to drive the car as best he could" ended up being the odd man out when he couldn't play the politics or bring the type of money to the team that other European drivers could.
"I think with Patrick Racing that maybe I did a little too well," recalled Swindell of his 1985 stint behind the wheel of the STP #20, "because we were a little faster than the guy bringing in the money. After we ran the first race, it was all down hill from there. I do think some of my input helped because Emerson Fittipaldi (Swindell's teammate) won his first oval race while I was at Patrick, as a result of some of the changes that I suggested."
He also spent time racing with NASCAR's Busch Grand National Series, both times teaming with former sprint car owners. His first experience was with Raymond Beadle's Old Milwaukee team and again in 1993 with Harold Annett's TMC team. Venturing into the NASCAR Supertruck Series in 1995, he finished 11th in the series points standings. More importantly however, this is where he met Channellock, who sponsored his truck entry. With Channellock backing, Sammy rejoined the Outlaws exclusively in 1996.
Although his career could have gone in different directions, Swindell didn't mind going back to sprint car racing. During his illustrious career, he's won 244 World of Outlaws features and every major sprint car race including the Amoco Knoxville Nationals, King's Royal, Western World, Don Martin's Silver Cup, and the Syracuse Super Nationals. Swindell has also claimed numerous championships including the 1981, 1982 and 1997 WoO Championship, and TNN's 1992 Slick 50 World Series Championship.
Through 21 races this season, Swindell's only win came at Knoxville Raceway on April 28. He has 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-ten finishes. As a former winner at Terre Haute, Swindell is looking forward to racing at the "Action Track."
"I've always enjoy racing at Terre Haute," said Swindell, who won the Terre Haute WoO race on May 9, 1997. "It's a really fast track and wide enough for good passing. If everything goes our way, we feel like this Channellock team will have a great shot to win."
Saturday's program will be shown live on TNN Sports beginning at 9 PM (ET).
Following Terre Haute, Swindell and crew will be joining several of their 2000 World of Outlaw counterparts at Channellock Race Day in Meadville, PA. Each year Swindell's sponsor invites several stars of the World of Outlaws and NASCAR to join them at Channellock's home office as part of a special day to commemorate the company's commitment to major motorsports. This year's event will be held on Monday, May 15th, from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.