Classic Ride: Matt Swanson Helping Steer “Ole Blue” Back To Top On Whelen Modified Tour

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Matt Swanson (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

By Paul Lambert/NASCAR

After a red-hot finish to the 2019 Whelen Modified Tour season, Matt Swanson was pumped up.

The season had started slow for Swanson and the BRE Racing No. 3 team, with just one top-10 in the first five races. Then, Swanson and the No. 3 team returned to form, finishing outside the top-10 just three times the rest of the season. During the run, Swanson vaulted himself from 12th to 5th in the standings by season’s end.

“That was the first time I went a whole offseason and I never stopped thinking about [2020],” Swanson says. “From the second the checkered flag flew at Thompson, I was already thinking about the first race of 2020. And that was kind of the first time that I’ve ever had that fire under my ass, to just get going.”

But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the season-opener was both moved and rescheduled. It threw things for a massive loop.

“I was honestly a little bit worried going to Jennerstown for that first race because I had been out of a car for so long,” Swanson says. “Everyone can say that an offseason doesn’t really affect them, but when you get back into a racecar after a hiatus of that long… It takes some time to get back used to it.”

The extended offseason didn’t slow Swanson down, however. Driving iconic “Ole Blue”, Swanson racked up three top-10 finishes in the first four races, and a total of six for the season.

As the team enters 2021, they are arguably readier than ever to return to Victory Lane on the Tour for the first time since the 2017 Icebreaker 150, when Rowan Pennink was behind the wheel.

“It’s gonna be one big celebration when we finally get this [number] 3 car in Victory Lane,” Swanson says. “It would mean the world to me, but it would mean more to my guys. I can’t say it enough, how hard those guys work. Those guys work their butts off to make sure those cars go as good as they do.”

2017 was also a year in which the team returned to vintage form as true championship contenders, eventually finishing fourth in the final standings.

The Swanson-BRE Racing partnership wasn’t exactly planned from the outset.

The team had Pennink tabbed as the driver of the car until August of the 2018 season, when he shocked the Modified community by announcing his retirement due to concerns with back injuries. Swanson, who had filled in for Pennink earlier in the season at Thompson, was tabbed for the job.

While the team failed to finish three of the final five races that season, the two races they did finish resulted in top-10s. Swanson was back for 2019, impressed the team with a fifth-place points finish, and continued the partnership.

Swanson is adamant about it: BRE Racing simply does not possess the resources that bigger teams do. What they lack in money, however, is made up for by the brainpower of its crew members. It’s a big motivational chip for the team.

“[Other teams] have different crew chiefs, but they all have the same chassis, so they can all bounce ideas off each other,” Swanson says. “Us out there being the oddball, so to say, it adds fuel to the fire to make us want to be better… I have the best crew, in my opinion, in the whole garage, just based on how hard they work.”

Despite having Modified greats like Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece driving, BRE Racing hasn’t won a Tour championship since Tony Hirschman went back-to-back in 1995 and 1996. 2021 may very well be the year Ole Blue returns to the promised land.

Matt Swanson, driver of the #3 USNE / SYP / All Phases Chevrolet, drives through the garage before the NAPA Auto Parts 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford Motor Speedway on September 26, 2020 in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo by Adam Glanzman/NASCAR
Matt Swanson drives through the garage before the NAPA Auto Parts 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford Motor Speedway last September. (Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)


  1. The Atomic Punk says

    Where o Where have the Race car drivers gone…

  2. Feel good story – so cool that they still build their own chassis. Good Luck this season

  3. While y’all are arguing over the chassis wars, this team builds their own and is a top competitive car.


    That produces the conclusion that you are cookie cutter racers. 🤪🤪🤪

    Team #3 ole’ Blue are the real racers.

  4. According to a response BRE gave me to an email inquiry this will be a new Ole Blue chassis.
    With respect I don’t think I’m buying the whole David vs Goliath theme they lean so much on. One could argue they are not some awe shucks mechanics cobbling together what they can for the fun of it but A list chassis designers and fabricators. Plus Swanson who is not only a pretty good driver but brings substantial financial resources as well to assure they have the power it will take to win.
    I’m thinking one way or the other this is the year.

  5. Walter A Fike says

    Only team that still builds there own chassis awesome look out for this team in 2021

  6. Much RESPECT for the Men Who stick with the Lenny way !!! The Fournier Family from Berkley Ma has many Amazing Mechanics and Chassis Men . They have their hands in many many Wins in Modifieds , Super Modifieds , Pro Stocks , Late Models , Streets just about anything with four wheels they know how
    make it fast , make it turn , durability to finish the race … Humble Men behind the scenes turning wrenches not so much the steering wheels …The Fournier Family has a-lot to be proud of with their involvement with Boehler BRE Racing along with Fitzpatrick , Taylor, Tripp, Bugsy, and many more …
    Good Luck this year, Ole Blue is always a FAN favorite Full of Modified History back to the 60’s…Janice and Michael still carrying the TORCH for Lenny is just Amazing . Read the Book… Excellent !!!!!

  7. The Atomic Punk says

    With all due respect. The drivers that I have seen in my lifetime in that car is an Amazing list. Its going to take a bit more than My Dad sells a lot of cars to be added to the list. Unfortunately the most funded usually are not the most talented. JMO.

  8. The Atomic Punk,
    Just for statistical reference when comparing the drivers in recent years in that car. Matt Swanson’s average finish is not that far off most of the names that have driven that car over the last 13 years or so on the Whelen Modified Tour. In 31 starts Swanson’s average finish is 12.2. There was a guy named Ted Christopher that I think a lot of people would rank as probably one of the top-five Modified drivers of all time. His average finish driving Ole Blue on the Whelen Modified Tour was 12.1. Below is a list of some of the drivers in that car since 2008 and their average finishes. Ryan Preece’s average finish in that car was essentially one spot better than Swanson’s.

    Rowan Pennink – Average finish 10.0 (42 starts, 1 win)
    Matt Hirschman – Average finish – 10.2 (16 starts, 0 wins)
    Ryan Preece – Average finish 10.9 (43 starts, 3 wins)
    Ted Christopher – Average finish 12.1 (20 starts, 0 wins)
    Matt Swanson – Average finish 12.2 (31 starts, 0 wins)
    Keith Rocco – Average finish 13.2 (8 starts, 0 wins)

  9. Shawn,

    Average finnish doesn’t tell the story, Swanson is not leading laps or a threat to win a race anytime soon. Other guys on your list did lead laps had chances at wins etc but may have wrecked more than Matt does. So Matt has never won in real competition anywhere but he brings $$$ and doesn’t wreck equipment and the 3 team is thankful to have him because without him they are a part time team.

  10. Rich,

    I never said average finish tells the whole story, but ultimately when you want to set a foundation of statistical comparison in motorsports, average finish is about the fairest foundation to start with.

    You want to trash Swanson, but then you also want to artificially rationalize why other people had statistically similar results as him.

    You said: “Other guys on your list did lead laps had chances at wins etc.” Swanson did lead laps in both 2019 and 2020. And if you’re going to toss away average finish as a faulty comparison then for me my next comparison would go to wins. Wins period. Not almost won. Not led some laps. Wins. Matt Hirschman didn’t win in that car. Ted Christopher didn’t win in the car. Keith Rocco didn’t win in that car. Ryan Preece made 43 starts and had a single win. So again, when it comes down to comparisons, Swanson statistically isn’t that far off from the others in that car in the last 13 years. You can keep throwing out the gut feeling opinions, but I’ll keep going to back to real numbers and real life statistical comparisons because realistically that is the only way to offer objective comparison.

  11. So what’s wrong with bringing money to the team and finishing races?
    Only two full years in the 3 finishing 5th in 2019 and 6th in 2020.
    In 2019 of the guys that raced all 16 races he beat the likes of Goodale, Solomito, Emerling, Pasteryak, Barney and Tommy Catalano.
    He’s 20 years old for Pete’s sake, is smart and has plenty of room to grow as a driver.
    Jury is still out on achieving his potential.

  12. According to racing-reference Swanson did lead laps in the #3.

  13. Hey Atomic & Rich, Swanson has been on the Tour for 6 years, started as a kid, 74 Tour races so far.

    Swanson has 10 T5, 35 T10 and 47 lead lap finishes.

    In TC’s first 10 years on the Tour, some 75 races, ZERO wins, 6 T5, 22 T10, and only 20 lead lap finishes.

    Rich, you are right, it’s not just about average finish. There’s so much more, statistically.

    I’m only here to help.

  14. 🌈🦄2020 says

    The 3 is the last iconic car left on the tour isn’t it? Watched a video of Swanson giving a tour of the garage. What a DUMP but awesome nonetheless. Hopefully the current generation working out of their garage is teaching the next generation where everything is. It’s a cluttered mess but they know how to get the job done. Old school is the only way to describe it.

  15. Old Observer says

    Atomic Punk
    I don’t think Matts funding is in the top 10 vs the big teams. Many others buy cars, pay crew, & rent/own big shops. The amount of maintenance our current mods require would shock most of you Keyboard Warriors.
    Looking forward to another racing season.

  16. Recommend read soul of a modified. It pretty much explains what folks here are going back and forth about. Ole blue has been a handful to drive for all the legendary drivers who’ve been in it. Screw the stats! Eye test says Swanson puts the 3 out front but it doesn’t stay there. He s won tour type Shows. He will win in ole blue too!

  17. I think Swanson and #3 are a win looking for the opportunity to happen. This might have cost a position or two along the way, but has enabled a lower budget team the ability to refine and tweak their in-house equipment for a better performance next time instead of scrambling to make repairs. Matt has always driven with his head along with hands and feet, which is what impressed me when watching him run as a 14-year old.

  18. Let’s be real. The team is a mid-pack car at best TODAY!! People get hung up on history. At one time the 43 was THE most dominant car in the Cup garage. NO MORE. So do not try and compare ANY driver of the WMT #3 with any of the “Glory” year drivers. Just not fair. Swanson is getting out of the car what many drivers in the RECENT past have. So lay off Shawn and his analaysis. I think he is spot on

  19. How does a mid pack car come in 5th and 6th in points?

    I take umbrage at the statement that the BRE garage is a dump. There may be some conflating the final assembly areas at LFR or similar large scale operations. What is shown at BRE is typical of any shop doing sophisticated metal fabrication from raw material to final assembly in a smaller defined space.
    When I see a shop like that I get a little aroused. Knowing it’s a place where magic happens. The guys and gals may not appear to be at their best as they do their work. They may not even be able to communicate what they are doing all that well. Mainly because they don’t appreciate how hard it is to do and take it for granted. But make not mistake. They’re poets crafting masterpieces that become gleaming final products from what starts out as a pile of raw materials. Only a small number of special people can do it really well.
    They aren’t mathematicians but their work involves extensive math skills. They aren’t artists but the final product in many ways can be considered a work of art. They aren’t educators although the ability to perpetuate the skills required involves educating the younger trades people that with follow.
    You see a dump. I see the miracle of fabrication. A place where things that people value can be crafted with no more then materials and ability of the craftsman. Can be a race car, a fine piece of woodwork, an intricate vase, a painting and more. All made in a place many would consider a dumb.

  20. It’s “Ole Blue” a car steeped in history. One that’s been wheeled by some of modified racing a most iconic drivers. They build their own stuff, and don’t have the budget or glamour of some other teams, yet they manage to be competitive year after year. To all of you dissing them, let’s see you do better, doing it the way they do. Can’t wait to see “Ole Blue” back in victory lane, it will happen.

  21. Geez… there are lots of teams that spend exponentially more 💰 💵, and have all the latest and supposedly greater doodads and chassis, yet they can’t come close to competing with ole’ Blue. Just look at the season ending points tally. Ole’ Blue had a mechanical problem that took it out of a race. Even so, it finished well ahead of cars that had far more laps. Without that mech issue, it would have finished a spot higher.

    I hope that Swanson is getting his engines refreshed this off-season.

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