Feature Article, Open Wheels, Washington — June 25, 2004 at 4:47 pm

John Swiglo (issue 59)




By Craig Murphy

Defending Modified division champion Jon Swiglo hopes he gets to enjoy the renovated Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma.

“We’re kinda fouled up this year,” Swiglo said in mid-April from his home in Pe Ell. “Everything kinda hit us at once. Normally at this time we have the car 100 percent ready to go. We don’t even have the motor in right now. We’ve been kinda busy. We’re taking it a little lighter this year. It would be nice (to run the full schedule) but doggone it’s tough.”

Between work on his garage, long hours at work, his dad’s long hours and uncertainty at his Weyerhaeuser job, the off-season has been hectic.

“My contract is coming up this year at work,” Swiglo noted. “My job is how I make my money to race. We love racing, but doggone when they talk layoffs, man, I’ve got a house to pay for. It kinda took the wind out of my sails. Normally I’ve got three spare motors; I only have one motor this year. It’s not the way to come into the season, that’s for sure.”

Swiglo acknowledged it is disappointing knowing he likely won’t run a full schedule this year. “We’re going to try and make it to quite a few of them,” he said. “But if I break the motor, I’m done. Time is the big thing.”

The limited budget and schedule means Swiglo doesn’t expect to back up his strong performance from last year’s Northwest Modified Nationals.

Out of state racers had dominated the first three years of the event, but Swiglo did the locals proud last year by finishing third the first night and running fourth late in the Saturday finale before being taken out.

“We set aside the day for that,” Swiglo said of the June 18-19 event. “We are going to try that, if my car is running. I won’t be as heavy a hitter as last year. We had all the guns blazing last year. We had a great time.

“That’s a fun deal, but you’ve got to have a lot of luck just to get yourself into the main,” added Swiglo, who ran out of luck in the preliminary night B main in 2002. “Each and every racer from Elma can make that main, it’s just the luck of being there.

“You’ve got to get yourself in that A Main. You can get knocked out in the heat race. I’m not going to get my hopes up. There’s a lot of tough racers. There were guys last year in the B and C mains who should have been in the A main, but got swept up in something. I’m hoping we’ve got enough. We’re looking forward to it, since it is a good show.”

Elma promoter Fred Brownfield was among those impressed with Swiglo’s performance at last year’s nationals. “It was an exciting thing for me and everyone in the Grays Harbor area,” Brownfield said. “We’re talking about a group (of Modifieds) that didn’t exist four or five years ago at this track. The racers in Elma have come a long way in developing those cars.

“When they run against guys who have run (Modifieds) for years, you’ve got to be proud of them,” the promoter added. “It’s a little disheartening Jon wasn’t able to finish it up, but we all know he did a really fine job. And he’s a great person besides.”

The Swiglo family is widely respected in the pits at Elma. Perhaps the clearest sign of that respect came at last fall’s championship banquet. As Swiglo came on stage to accept his trophy, series runner-up Leroy Lawhead led the room in a standing ovation.

When the Swiglos show up at the track, it’s a family affair. He makes the 70-mile drive with father Jerry and mother Darlene. The family started racing at Elma in 1993 with the Hobby Stock division, winning the title in 1996. Jon moved on to Super Stocks, which were replaced by the Modifieds in 1999.

Regardless of how many races he makes this year, Swiglo recognizes the good fortune he’s had over the years.

“We’ve been racing 10 years, and have two titles,” he noted. “We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done. We’re not done, we’re just taking a little break. I’ve got to regroup. The winters just seem to go by quicker and quicker. The car’s in really good shape – I never really got into big wrecks or tore it up.”

While the goal last year was to win the title and the Northwest Modified Nationals, Swiglo has a simpler goal this year. “My goal is to survive this year, and keep all my components inside the engine where they belong,” he said.

“We’re going to go out there and give it our best. We love racing, and will do our best. I really like racing at Elma. I think it’s going to get better with the new track.”

There’s still the ultimate goal for Swiglo to accomplish. “I would love to move up to Sprints,” he said. “I would do that in a heartbeat. But some things take a lot of money, and those Sprints are money machines. There’s a lot of money involved with that. It’s better to have it all, or you won’t do nothing.”

“I don’t want to go in unless we have the dollars,” Swiglo added. “We come out there to win, and to have fun. Fun to us is to win. I don’t go to just troll around. I could just do that on the street.”

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