Photos by Wayne Stewart
Everyone has their secrets, but in the grudge racing scene, secrets are highly protected as racers know that keeping quiet and keeping opponents guessing can help earn win lights and payouts. Recently, one of the most feared – and respected – names in the game went public in a big way. When Justin “Lil’ Country” Swanstrom dropped a bombshell 3.7-second timeslip, he shocked the scene even more by simultaneously announcing he’ll be returning to class racing for 2019.
After the World Street Nationals at Orlando Speed World in early November, Swanstrom debated whether or not to post a ticket from the race. “I wasn’t going to at first, but eventually I figured it didn’t matter since I’m going class racing anyway,” he laughed of the decision to go public with a massive 3.77-second hit on 275 radials in the eighth.
He followed up with a knockout one-two punch and posted an even quicker 3.73 at 197 mph pass, which included a .970-second 60-foot time, after the No Guts No Glory race also at OSW. That insane number – which is right at the pinnacle of radial tire performance and quicker than many of the most prestigious class racers have gone – was also accomplished on a set of 275s.
“I believe there’s room for even more,” Swanstrom said confidently. With only a handful of passes on the car with the 275 tires, the numbers show there’s still plenty of potential left to be strung together. “We can lose some weight, get more power, and technology will improve. “I feel like we can do it if we really buckle down, but I already switched to the 315 tire to prepare for next year so we’ll see what we can do with that instead for now.”
Sharing the numbers left the door wide open for controversy, but Swanstrom didn’t let it get to him at all. “A lot of my fans and supporters approved of the decision to go public because of what we’re doing next year. A couple were upset, yeah, but I got thick skin,” he stated calmly and professionally. “It’s my business to do what I want with. It went viral after I posted it, so hopefully it helps get me noticed.” Judging by the comments and shares, it seems as though his post has already done exactly that.
While fans and haters alike questioned Swanstrom’s move away from the No Time world, it was a strategic plan on his part and his mission is clear. “I’ve been trying to get sponsorships, but it’s hard in No Time racing because you don’t light up the board. I want to look for more help, and I feel like I can get it in class racing. Plus, I’ve always wanted to run Radial vs the World and Pro Mod, so it made sense,” explained Swanstrom of his focus on getting his name out in the racing community on a larger scale.
Now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag, though, Swanstrom’s happy to share the specs on his combination. His weapon, a ’14 Rick Jones-built Pro Mod-style Camaro, runs off a 959 ci Pat Musi Racing Engines bullet that he purchased as a package deal. “I’m running a Rossler three-speed transmission and Neal Chance converter – they help me out a ton. I’m also running Santhuff shocks and that’s all I’ve ever run on any of my cars,” he added.
A hefty dose of nitrous comes courtesy of SpeedTech kits, while the Rick Jones full floater rear end helps to transfer power out through the Mac-Fab beadlocked Sander Engineering wheels.
Swanstrom, who is often joined by his father and car chief/tuner, Corey “Big Country” Swanstrom, actually grew up class racing but lately has been tearing it up in the No Time world. “I ran 275 and Ultra Street back in ’14 on a radial tire, then went over to grudge racing and have been doing that ever since,” noted the Florida-based racer of his return to his roots.
Swanstrom plans to finish out the 2018 season on the No Time circuit and has been busy testing his Camaro, then will officially kick off the New Year by running Pro Mod on 315 radials at the 2019 US Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park in late January. After that, Swanstrom plans to take the Radial vs the World class by storm at Donald Long’s Lights Out 10 race at South Georgia Motorsports Park as well as the Sweet 16 event.
“Where I’ll be able to go next year is lately dependent upon budget and how much sponsor assistance we can get. There’s more prize money to win in grudge racing, so we’ll need support in 2019,” Swanstrom shared candidly. He knows the competition in class racing will be harder, and harder on parts having to go rounds instead of just making a grudge hit or two, and that all adds up. “Hopefully I can get some people on board, and maybe we’ll do some NMCA events, too.”
Fortunately, he’s got a great team to help him through what will surely be a learning year, including his father, Corey, brother, Tyler, and crew guys, Bryan Geisler, Dennis Rogers, Sean Burton, Joey Willard, Roderick Greg, and Ricky Johnson.
Swanstrom has made a tremendous name for himself in the No Time/grudge world in a relatively short period of time and has established himself as a true professional. If history repeats, he’ll soon be a major player in class racing, too.