Keaton Swane talks about his struggle to establish himself as a contender for the Pro Buggy championship in the about his struggle to establish himself as a contender for the Pro Buggy championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series presented by GEICO.
“It’s been quite a long process,” he said. “This will be our fourth year in the class and we’ve yet to get on the podium, so that’s our goal for this year. I think we’re getting pretty close.”
Swane has been close. Last year he had a fourth and fifth in rounds 3 and 4 at Chandler, Arizona, and this season he can boast of a fourth in round 4 at Lake Elsinore, California. Those may be modest results for some, but they’re significant for Keaton and his father Scott Swane, who began as the rawest of rookies.
Ryan May, a family friend, introduced them to short-course off-road racing when Keaton was trying to make the transition from motocross to four wheels and they started racing it in 2011.
Scott paid the bills and served as crew chief. Keaton did all the prep work on the car in addition to driving. Neither of them realized they were enrolling in a high-speed graduate program, however, and as so often happens in graduate school their education ocassionally has been interrupted by financial issues.
Swane finished seventh in the Limited Buggy class in 2012 and was 12th in Pro Buggy in 2013, when he ran 14 of the 15 championship rounds. But in 2014 he was able to run just six of the 15 races and last season he missed six of the final eight rounds, but still was ninth in the point standings.
This season, after missing round six at Utah May 22 due to transmission failure, he is 10th in the standings, but optimistic about the future.
“We started from scratch,” the 20-year-old resident of Gilbert, Arizona, said. “It used to be just me and my dad, but now we have some help from some friends. That took some of the stress off me and my dad.
“We’ve made a lot of changes this year and we’ve got some sponsors on board (Appliance Parts Company, Plumbing Parts Company, BFGoodrich Tires, Foddrill Motorsports, Five18 Designs, Redline Performance and Fortin Transmissions), so we’re trying to take our program to the next level.”
Swane has prioritized that goal by curtailing all his other racing activity. He raced in the Lucas Oil Modified Series for two years and got into Dwarf Cars a couple of years ago “just to get some more seat time,” but now divides his time between his classes at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and working on his Racer Engineering Pro Buggy.
“It’s very frustrating when you put in a lot of work and get close to no results,” Swane said. “That’s why we’ve been doing a lot of changes, to hopefully see something this year. It’s mostly been a combination of everything (that has slowed his progress), but we’re probably in one of the oldest cars out here. That’s why we’ve been doing some updates on it, to get it more competitive.
“We’re quite a bit overweight and that’s what we’re trying to do, cut some weight our of it. Most of these guys have been trying to add weight since they changed the rule but we’re still way over-weight. There’s not much more tubing to get out. We’re going a different route on some things, doing a lot of smaller things – taking some bolts out, lighter nerf bars. It all adds up at some point.”
The numbers are starting to fall into place, too. The increased sponsorship has given the team a little breathing room and more financial flexibility. Swane continues to do the prep work, but also can call on friend Jared Irwin, who “helps us out quite a bit on some stuff.” And once Swane finishes climbing the Pro Buggy mountain he wants to move into the Pro 2 class.
When that happens the fruit really is going to taste sweet.
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