Too much, too fast, too soon: The sad saga of Swan Racing

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Brandon Davis did all he could to keep Swan Racing afloat. But even a multi-millionaire oil and gas industrialist can only bleed so much money before deciding to throw a red flag on the operation.

When anticipated funding and sponsorship failed to materialize, the two-team Sprint Cup operation sank so fast that Davis had no other choice but to essentially go out of business.

That’s what Davis told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello in the most revealing and expansive explanation of why the two-car Swan operation failed, and why Davis was forced to sell or merge its two cars with other organizations.

“It went from a lot of fun to a nightmare in a matter of months,” Davis told NASCAR.com. “I’m not going to point my finger in any one direction. It was just the overall thing, probably adding two cars, etc. … There were challenges there.”

After Davis purchased the assets of Inception Motorsports in 2012, he continued to field a one-car operation in 2013 with several different drivers through the course of the season.

However, Davis had bigger aspirations for Swan in 2014.

After taking on minority investors/partners Anthony Marlowe and former NFL great Bill Romanowski, and then securing an investment/sponsorship deal with rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Swan grew to a two-car operation in 2014 with rookies Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt behind the wheel.

As both drivers struggled on the racetrack, so did efforts to attract sponsorship or additional investors. Little success on the racetrack isn’t exactly a great lure for companies to spend their money on. All the while, Davis tried to continue bankrolling the team from his own oil and gas company, Swan Energy (hence the name of the team).

But it quickly became much more of a financial drain than Davis anticipated, essentially twice the amount of what he spent on a one-car operation last season. Everything was doubled from 2013 to 2014, including cars, drivers, expenses, employees and overall costs. And when anticipated sponsorship failed to come through, things went from bad to worse in a hurry.

“It started in Daytona, and things that were supposed to happen didn’t,” Davis told NASCAR.com. “It kind of snowballed from there, I guess, and it kept getting worse, not better.”

While his race operation struggled, Davis’ energy company was experiencing growth and demands that took more of his time.

“From a time perspective, my company has grown a lot, even since January as far as Swan Energy, and my other oil company,” Davis said. “The time necessity, for what I needed to do and the time I needed to spend with the race team and working on it, I just haven’t had.

“So it kind of all came to a head the week before Texas, and that’s when we started trying to figure out what do we need to do to ensure as many people stay employed as possible, and to keep the cars on track.”

To his credit, Davis worked feverishly to find jobs with other teams for as many of his now-former employees as he could.

“My first mission was to make sure everybody had a job,” he said. “That was No. 1, and not just kill it and let them go figure it out for themselves.

“From that, we’re going to let the dust settle, I guess, and see. I don’t know. I can’t tell you (what his racing future – if any – holds).”

Davis turned over ownership of Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota to Marlowe, who merged earlier this week with BK Racing, going from a two- to three-car operation.

Whitt will continue driving the No. 26, competing in Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Meanwhile, Davis sold the No. 30 team – but without Kligerman as the driver — to John Cohen, owner of XxxTreme Motorsports.

With the sale, Kligerman is out of a job, as J.J. Yeley will drive the No. 30 Toyota starting this weekend in Richmond (the car number will switch back to XxxTreme’s former number of 44 starting next week at Talladega).

“Will I be around the track? Yeah, I plan on helping John as much as I can,” Davis said. “I like John, he’s a great guy, and I want to support him as much as I’m able to. So yeah, I’ll be around. As far as Swan having a race car on the track, at this point I have no loose plans, or any plans.”

XxxTreme has attempted to qualify for four races thus far this season, and failed to do so each time.

As for Kligerman, he’ll remain under contract to Davis for the meantime – although he doesn’t have a car to drive. But Davis is also giving the young driver the opportunity to explore any and all other options.

“For me, it just quit being fun,” Davis said of his ultimate decision to close up shop. “I just didn’t enjoy going to the racetrack.

“Whenever I got to the racetrack and didn’t enjoy it, that’s when all the thoughts started racing through my head of — what did I do here, and how do I fix it? … At the end of the day, this one (parceling off the two teams) kept the most people working and had the most cooperation from the other parties.”

When NASCAR.com asked Davis if expanding to two cars proved to be too much, too fast and too soon, his brief answer told the entire tale:

“Yes. Most definitely.”

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III