Submitted by Bryce Ranta
Brennan Swanson of Menominee races his sprint car at Upper Peninsula International Raceway in Escanaba.
Submitted by Bryce Ranta
Brennan Swanson of Menominee races his sprint car at Upper Peninsula International Raceway in Escanaba.

MENOMINEE — There was a period after Brennan Swanson’s first year of racing that his father, Matt, wasn’t sure the boy was cut out for this sport.

Brennan was involved in a nasty accident in his final Junior Sprint race of the year. His car — think go-kart with a powerful Briggs & Stratton motor — spun out, flew about 10 feet in the air and flipped 21/2 times.

“I jumped off the bleachers in the pits,” Matt said. “When I got there he was crying. He had a little seat belt burn and a sore neck, but he was good.”

Over the winter they fixed his car, painted it and secured more sponsors. But dad wasn’t sure how the crash at Escanaba’s Upper Peninsula International Raceway dirt track would impact his son. Would he be gun-shy, or ready to roll?

“Let’s go out and see if he’s going to be scared,” Matt said.

In his first race after the accident, Brennan placed third in his heat and second out of eight racers in the feature.

“So I knew right there we have a driver there,” Matt said. “That was the worst crash in Escanaba history in Junior Sprints, and the faster that car goes, the happier he is.”

In Brennan’s first year of racing he placed last in a couple of races and finished sixth out of nine racers. As a 9-year-old last year, his worst finish was fourth, and he finished in a second-place tie in the final standings.

This season is going even better. On June 30, Brennan knocked off the track champion to earn his first win.

“I like going fast and I like drifting (fish-tailing) around the corners,” said Brennan.

Even though his car goes up to 45 to 50 mph, he isn’t scared because of its safety features. His parents spent $1,400 on a high-quality helmet and neck brace. The car contains arm restraints, seat belts and side nets.

“He is locked,” Matt said. “He is not coming out of that car. When he’s racing he isn’t scared at all. He can race. He weaves in and out of traffic. He is not scared to put it on the floor and go.”

Races consist of eight laps per heat and 10 to 12 laps in each feature on a quarter-mile track.

Four years ago, the Swanson’s bought the sprint car from Bill Getchell. Brennan got to meet Menominee’s Dalton Zehr, one of the top racers at the Norway Raceway. Brennan was asked which number he wanted on his new race car.

“I want to be 119 like Dalton Zehr,” was his reply.

Matt asked Menominee racing legend Gene Coleman to help sponsor Brennan. Coleman agreed but said he wanted to make sure that Brennan keeps getting good grades and is respectful to his parents and at school.

At age 7, Brennan won his first race, a small mechanics fun race against a few older boys.

“Once Brennan passed them they weren’t able to come back,” Matt said.

Last December, Brennan raced in Tulsa, Okla. About 1,100 racers from three countries competed in the biggest indoor micro sprint race in the nation. Brennan placed ninth in his first race, and he finished in the upper half of 55 racers in his class. He got to meet Chris Bell, the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. He has also raced in Tomahawk, Wis., and gave an exhibition with his car fitted with studded tires on the frozen Shawano Lake.

His sponsors include NuColor Coating Co., Coleman Racing Products, Plutchak Fab, Northwoods Evergreen Bar & Grill, Cole & Cole Logging, Anderson Auto & RV, Getchell Builders Motorsports, Mellen Farms, Wagner Repair, Custom Truck, 906 Productions and High Rev Graphics. Eric Edgette does decals for Brennan’s car. He also receives support from his parents, Matt Swanson and Stacey Wangerin, Papa Scott, grandparents Dave and Darlene Wilke and Grandma and Grandpa B, and uncle Matt Wangerin.

Brennan will be a fifth-grader this fall at Blesch Intermediate School.