Conviction Justified for Seavey, Swindell in Chili Bowl Triumph

The driver and owner believed in themselves and each other on the way to a Driller.

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The group standing triumphant in Victory Lane on Saturday night in the 37th annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals were bound by conviction.

It was belief in not only themselves, but in each other, and their shared goal of bringing the Golden Driller back with them to Swindell SpeedLab. For the second night in a row, but this time under the bright lights of Championship Saturday, Logan Seavey, Kevin Swindell and their No. 39 validated that conviction.

Seavey first joined SpeedLab at Tulsa in 2020 because Swindell always believed in the latent abilities waiting to be unlocked by the Californian. He believed Seavey didn’t get an entirely fair shake in the Toyota development program, had wanted to see him get more shots in NASCAR, or continue racing with a top contender in the Expo Center.

At a minimum, Swindell felt he was getting Seavey as a more refined product than the one that emerged on the national stage in his early 20s with Toyota and could potentially unlock that ability in this building.

But as it turns out, Swindell needed to do some refining of his own, and created that opportunity by branching out and building his own car for Tulsa over the past several months. For the entirety of his career, Swindell had raced under the creative direction of his dad, World of Outlaws and Chili Bowl legend Sammy Swindell.

They went different directions last year, and Kevin set out to validate some conviction in himself, that he could build a car capable of winning the Golden Driller.

Commensurate to that development, Seavey had started to wonder if the new car would also warrant a new driver, because he was convinced he occasionally held the Swindells back in this building. It was also his worst season by far in a Midget, winless since Turkey Night in 2021 -- and not even producing a single podium.

Logically, why would Seavey still be on speed dial?

"I wasn't sure he would want me back," Seavey said. "We kind of leave this race every year, look at each other and nod, knowing we'll come back next year. Halfway through this past year, we haven't talked about Chili Bowl and I've had one of my worst years in a Midget, so I texted him about his new car and asked who the driver was."

Swindell said it was him if he wanted it.

Again, it was always going to be Seavey, because just as much as the driver felt like he let down the team owner, Swindell felt like they could do a little better by the driver too.

That's what this car represented.

"He's come here in the best mindset since I've had him the past three or four years," Swindell said. "After Monday and last night, I told him, bring me back the steering wheel or bring me a driller."

Not only did Seavey bring Swindell the Driller, he delivered a performance that was reminiscent of the old No. 39 that won four consecutive Drillers from 2010-13.

What was the first thing Swindell told Seavey in the sea of humanity in Turn 3 where they celebrated?

"You managed that race perfectly."

What a fittingly accurate Kevin Swindell thing to say in that moment, but it’s also the highest caliber compliment he can give too. And to his point, Seavey started the race from the pole but conceded the position to Cannon McIntosh by Lap 20.

"He could have gotten discouraged when Cannon got him, but he just regrouped and got it back, and made it work," Swindell said.

And with a track that began taking rubber under a car that didn’t handle as well as the one driven by Tanner Thorson, Seavey executed a defensive clinic under a tremendous amount of pressure and never once flinched.

It was a meaningful outcome, because Seavey so frequently has played bridesmaid over his career, or suffered some kind of misfortune at the Expo or otherwise. Fairly or unfairly, it just seemed like the natural ability should have produced more headlines by now.

Swindell recognizes it too.

"I think sometimes, things have just happened like bad luck or a situation he got put in, that sometimes make him look worse than he really is," Swindell said.

That was not going to happen on Saturday night.

"I just feel like I’ve been on another level this week," Seavey said. "There were three cars, maybe four or five that could have won tonight, but I feel like I managed the race and got to the lead at the right time. … Yeah, there are some shoulda, coulda, wouldas in my career but there are for everyone, but I feel like this race couldn’t have gone any better for me."

Maybe this is the gear that Swindell always thought was there to be unlocked.

"I feel like, I’m 25, so I feel like I have a long time and we get better as we get older," Seavey said. "That’s especially true of this kind of racing because look at Justin Grant finally winning the (USAC) Sprint Car championship in his 10th or 11th try.

"I feel like I am driving as well as I ever have, as good as I was when I was at the top of my game with Keith, but I wasn’t putting races together like I did today, the past couple of years. My car was good enough to win and I did everything I was supposed to do to put it in position to win."

As for Swindell, that conviction in himself as a car builder was rewarded too, placing him in the same victory lane he last stood in 10 years and three days ago as a driver with his last victory in Tulsa.

"You win as a driver and it’s neat because you think about what it does for your career," Swindell said. "This, it’s just special because we got the (Tulsa) Shootout Driller last month too and now added this. It’s just awesome, man.

"I am so excited to do this on my own. I just felt like if I could just get away on my own and try some things we wanted to try, I could be really successful with Logan. I’m just thrilled that it all came together like this."

Photo: Swindell Speedlab