Kevin Swindell has returned to his winning ways.
Since iRacing has evolved into the vehicle of choice for motorsports enthusiasts in the absence of traditional competition during the Covid-19 pandemic, the second-generation racer has gained notoriety while transferring from one tour to the next.
Last Friday, Swindell performed double duty—piloting the No. 39 in both the Subaru iRX Invitational at virtual Daytona International Speedway and the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Dirt Series iRacing Invitational at Williams Grove. After he was turned in the RallyCross race, Swindell came from the D-Main to finish seventh in the ASCS feature.
Swindell returns to ASCS on Friday (RacinBoys.com, 5 p.m. CT) at Knoxville Raceway—the Sprint Car Capital of the World—and a track that changed his life forever.
After Swindell was paralyzed following an accident in the 2015 Knoxville Nationals, it was unlikely he would never win from behind the wheel again. But the expertise he gained from 15 years of online racing has provided the 31-year-old with an opportunity to gain an edge on the competition, even without the use of his lower limbs.
“I’ve had the nerves going at times a little bit, but in the last few (races) it’s settled a little bit,” Swindell told Racin Boys Network. “I’ve gotten more used to doing it. I hadn’t really run a lot normally. I probably hadn't raced a whole lot before all this quarantine stuff started. I’m just getting back in the rhythm of things.
“It’s something I used to do—and did really well. But it’s kind of a repetition thing, and sometimes talking myself into sitting down and practicing is tough.”
Swindell doesn’t compete with an elaborate setup. He races on the same desk as he uses for business—Swindell just clamps a steering wheel to it.
“There’s no real rig to it, really,” Swindell said. “It’s pretty crude, in reality. The hand control deal is pretty neat. It’s a guy that goes by SimAbility. It’s that same guy that built the system that (Max) Papis and them were tweeting about with (injured IndyCar driver Robert) Wickens. Mine is just an older edition of it with like two really big F1 shifter paddles that hang on the back. I actually move the actual shifters down a little bit and made them into smaller paddles so that I can get those with my pinkies.
“It’s probably not the perfect setup, but it gets it done. I’ve gotten better at throttling it here lately. The more I’ve spent time in the slick, it’s just been a little tough at times to regulate exactly what you need to. I have an actual sprint car throttle spring wrapped around in kind of a weird way to get a little more tension on the throttle to make it a little easier in those situations. But it does the job. It’s no problem running wide open.”
With real racing suspended, Swindell has had ample time to get up to speed with the different iRacing tours. He has spent as much or more time practicing with RallyCross in addition to sprint cars just to become proficient.
But Swindell’s talent in a sprint car was on full display with World of Outlaws. When Outlaws returned to virtual Knoxville for the iRacing Invitational on April 8, Swindell held off Christopher Bell for the win in front of an audience of 105,000 viewers on FS1. He became the first Outlaw driver to go back-to-back with his victory the following week at Lernerville Speedway.
“People just know that I’ve always been the ‘video game guy’ overall to some extent,” Swindell said. “I’ve done a lot over the years with rFactor and then now into iRacing. We’ve been involved with the eSport stuff, with teams the last couple of years. Kind of been a big deal at that and helping them grow that.”
Swindell’s SpeedLap driver Blake Matjoulis scored three wins en route to the iRacing World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model World Championship last year. And like the boss, James Edens became the first eSports driver to repeat in the iRacing World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car tour.
“We’ve enjoyed it,” Swindell added. “It’s been good to see the growth and people getting to see it for what it totally is during this time.”