Trophy hunting teenage snowmobile racer strikes pay dirt

Episode 352

February 28, 2021

It was Thursday February 25, 2021 when Taggett Racing, part of Caribou-based Team OCD, heard from a fellow racer that Bald Mountain Camps (BMC) on Mooselookmeguntic Lake, Rangeley, Maine, was hosting radar runs Saturday February 27. Racing was on a 660-foot ice track and a 660-foot snow track. Fellow members of Team OCD, Ethan Rossignol and John Holmquist, decided they did not have time to prepare for the radar run.

Rick Taggett, father of race driver Jesse Taggett, noted, “The races were only for trophies. Not a lot of incentive for older seasoned racers. Jesse, on the other hand, was going with or without me.”

Team OCD had taken the 15-year-old protégé under their wing three years earlier. Race experience, with a seasoned group willing to teach a willing student, tends to accelerate the learning curve. Jesse, a sophomore at Caribou High School, owes much of his success to the association with Rossignol and Holmquist.

Jesse Taggett went trophy hunting at Bald Mountain Camps radar run Saturday February 27, 2021. The talented teenager took first place in four out-of-five races entered. (Taggett Racing photo)

Early Saturday morning the Taggett family left their Woodland farm on a 5 1/2-hour drive to Rangeley. The trip was worth the effort according to Rick, “Jesse registered his Arctic Cat F5 in 500 stock, 500 modified, 600 stock, 600 modified, and 700 stock. He placed first in the first 4 classes and did not make the podium in 7 stock.”

Teenage racer, Jesse Taggett, Woodland with his Arctic Cat F5 in the staging lane at Bald Mountain Camps Radar Run 2021, (Taggett Racing photo)

Fast Kitty

Some of the estimated 2-300 sleds belonging to spectators at the Bald Mountain Camps Radar Run. (Taggett Racing photo)

It was estimated by Taggett that somewhere between 200 and 300 hundred sleds were on the lake as spectators. The race fans were treated to a couple of wild machines. Taggett said, “Our friend Matt Beers, on a sled owned by Walt Hezik Jr. Nobleboro, ran Hezik’s 1800 cc three-cylinder Cat up the track for the fastest speed of the day at 125.”

Three-cylinder, 1,800 cc Arctic Cat with nitrous driven by by Farmingdale’s Matt Beers. Beers took top speed honors with the sled owned by Walt Hezik Jr. Beers ran 125-mph. (Taggett Racing photo)

He noted that a driver of a specially equipped motorcycle showed up at the races. He made an impression on Taggett who noted, “The crotch rocket ran up the ice a couple of times at 90 plus. Last year they let him roll in to the track from a ways back and he recorded a speed of 140!”

Unidentified driver on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX 10R specially equipped for ice. The bike attained speed of 90 mph this season. (Taggett Racing photo)

More than likely this was Jesse Taggett’s only chance to race this season with no other drag type races scheduled in northern Maine. Maybe some team will put Taggett on an endurance type sled for the Tame the Track Snowmobile Racing Tour event in Houlton March 13. I suspect the talented teenager would do well.

I hope to see many of you at the Tame The Track Snowmobile Race, “Heartbeats and Handlebars” at 10 am behind the American Legion Hall 184 Bangor Street.

Swanson wins in Florida…again

On February 12, 2021, Kody Swanson, Kingsburg, California, now living in Zionsville, Indiana earned the Pro Late Model World Series of Asphalt Championship at New Smyrna Speedway. The five-race event saw Swanson win his first Pro Late Model race despite never running that type of car or that track in his career.

His talent as a race car driver showed as his consistent finishes coupled with one win netted him the championship.

Swanson was not done in Florida yet. Last week the family flew to Florida to compete at Showtime Speedway, Clearwater, Florida to defend his 2020 win in the 125 lap Dave Steele Memorial non-winged sprint car race.

Dave Steele 125 Memorial race winner Kody Swanson with family and Doran racing crew at Showtime Speedway, Clearwater, Florida. (Mike Horne photo)

This is a recap of the two-day event courtesy of Doran Racing:

Doran Racing and Kody Swanson got their 2021 asphalt sprint car season off to an excellent start Saturday night by winning the “Dave Steele Memorial World Non-Winged Championship 125” at Showtime Speedway for the second year in a row.

Swanson, of Zionsville, Ind., drove the Lebanon, Ohio-based team’s No. 77 Beast chassis sponsored by Glenn Farms of Woodland, Ga., to a 4.220-second victory on the three-eighths-mile asphalt oval for the $5,000 top prize.

The victory came after a hard-fought battle with Kyle O’Gara, who started on the pole and led the first 100 laps before Swanson passed him on lap 101 of the 125-lap event with a move to the inside as the pair flew down the frontstretch. The handling of O’Gara’s car started to go away with about 20 laps to go, resulting in Swanson’s large margin of victory. Prior to that the pair duked it out for about 55 intense laps, with Swanson running directly behind O’Gara or alongside him before he was able to make a pass stick.

Race action at Showtime Speedway, site of 2021 Dave Steele Memorial 125 Non- Winged Sprint Car feature event. Kody Swanson #77 leads #18 Shane Butler, and #88 L.J. Grimm.  (Mike Horne photo)

L.J. Grimm, Shane Butler and Tyler Roahrig rounded out the top five in the 17-car field that featured many of the same drivers Swanson will face in the PayLess Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway on May 29.

Swanson was the fastest qualifier with a time of 13.566 seconds, earning a bonus from the parents of the late Dave Steele, Mac and Carol Steele. Due to the luck of the draw, he started fourth behind O’Gara, Joe Ligouri and Dakota Armstrong.

Kody Swanson receiving the $500 bonus for fastest time in qualifying for the Dave Steele Memorial Race. Dave Steele’s father, Mac on left presents the check. (Jordan Swanson photo)

He moved into third on lap five by passing Ligouri. He took second on lap 22 when he passed Armstrong in Turns 1 and 2, and then set his sights on O’Gara.

There were seven yellows and two reds in the first part of the race, but the last 34 laps went non-stop.

The yellow and subsequent red on lap 24 could have been disastrous. Two cars running in the back of the field spun in Turn 4 to bring out the caution flag. As the field proceeded around the track, Armstrong launched himself over Shane Butler’s car, becoming airborne but landing on all four wheels. At that point the red flag waved for oil on the speedway.

Butler, who was running right behind Swanson, didn’t slow down and went up and into Swanson’s car on the backstretch. Butler’s car was hooked into the right side of Swanson’s car when they stopped. Luckily, they got unhooked and both drivers were able to continue.

O’Gara set the fastest lap of the race on lap 45 with a time of 13.322 seconds. Swanson set the second-fastest lap of the race on lap 107 with a time of 13.331 seconds. Roahrig was third-fastest with a 13.460 on lap 63.

“It means a lot to win this race in honor of Dave Steele, and to race in memory of a friend,” Swanson said in victory lane. “Thanks to the entire Doran Racing team for busting their tails, and to everyone who supports us. It takes many hands.

“I was trying very hard; Kyle is a great racer,” Swanson continued. “He is tough here at Showtime for sure. The longer the race goes, the hourglass is running out of sand, and I tried to pass him for many laps. He developed a little push, and that allowed us to get around him.”

Another advantage Swanson had is his longtime spotter and wife, Jordan Swanson. Jordan has helped guide her husband through many situations on track where her experience blends with Kody’s to make the duet a force to be reckoned with. (Max Dolder photo)

On Friday night at Showtime Swanson overcame involvement in a pre-race crash to finish fourth in the 30-lap, 18-car non-wing sprint car feature, which O’Gara won. The accident occurred when Butler spun during the initial start and collected the cars of Swanson, Grimm, Johnny Gilbertson and Ronnie Wuerdeman on the backstretch near Turn 2 with no laps down. Luckily Swanson was able to continue for the fourth-place finish.

Kody Swanson with son Adam after Friday evening’s preliminary race at Showtime Speedway. Kyle O’Gara won the Friday night race and Swanson overcame adversity to finish fourth. (Jordan Swanson photo)

It was a dramatic rally even though his car’s right-front tire was losing air. On lap 29 Swanson moved into fifth by passing Armstrong, and on the last lap both he and Armstrong passed Liguori to allow Swanson to finish fourth.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)


Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine