Nolen Racing's Hollingsworth Finishes Fifth in Anderson's Little 500
ANDERSON, Ind., May 27 — Saturday night's Pay Less Little 500 presented by UAW-GM at Anderson Speedway lived up to its reputation as a race that's very hard to win. Nolen Racing entered three asphalt sprint cars in the 67th annual edition of the race, and all three of them were involved in a crash with 82 laps down. Two restarted, and in the end the one driven by Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind. took the checkered flag in fifth place in front of a large crowd.
Ironically Hollingsworth started further back in the 33-car field than either of the other two drivers of cars fielded by the Whiteland, Ind.-based team. He started 15th in the yellow #20, which is sponsored in part by Columbus Container and KECO, and finished fifth by completing 497 of the required 500 laps around the quarter-mile bullring.
One of his teammates, Jerry Coons Jr. of Plainfield, Ind., set the fastest lap on one of the practice days and qualified sixth, but he was involved in a multi-car accident working lap 83 while running comfortably in fourth place. He ended up 26th.
Hollingsworth was involved in that crash too, but his car wasn't damaged and he was able to restart after his car was untangled from the melee.
Tony Elliott of Warsaw, Ind., started 12th in another Nolen Racing car and finished 22nd. He was also one of the drivers involved in "the big one," breaking a left-front brake line. After the team made repairs he continued and ran strong, but then he was forced to retire due to engine problems. He completed just over half of the race, recording 257 laps.
Elliott was second to Coons on the practice day, May 19, just 0.036 off Coons' fastest time of 11.369 seconds. Although the qualifying order was set by the average of four laps, Bobby Santos III's fastest lap in winning the pole two days later was a 11.058.
The race winner, Chris Windom, started right behind Coons. Only the top three finishers — Windom, Dave Steele and Kyle Hamilton — completed all 500 laps. Jacob Wilson was fourth, two laps down. Hollingsworth and the sixth-place finisher, Davey Hamilton Jr., were the only drivers on their lap, three laps down.
Windom earned around $25,000 out of a total purse of $124,400.
Coons moved up to fifth right away by passing Kyle Hamilton shortly after the start and right before the first caution flag due to a spin by Jimmy Wysong. The early leader, polesitter Santos, was already lapping cars by lap 20 of the 500-lap race.
Coons took fourth place around lap 39 when the fourth-place driver, Wilson, pitted to replace a flat tire.
Caleb Armstrong passed Santos for the lead on lap 63 in Turn 4. Coons was still fourth, running between Kody Swanson and Kyle Hamilton and just biding his time, when Jimmy McCune and Ryan Litt tangled in Turn 1 a couple of laps later to bring out a long caution flag.
Two laps after that restart Coons' car suffered a mechanical problem that forced him into the wall in Turn 1, and eight other drivers got caught up in the crash that subsequently extended into Turn 2 and brought out a red flag with 82 laps completed.
Coons' car was hit hard in the left rear. The tail of Wysong's sprint got torn off. The 2008 winner, Shane Cottle, and another top runner, Jo Jo Helberg, had to drop out due to the damage their cars sustained. The cars of Elliott, Aaron Pierce and Doug Dietsch were involved too, but they were able to restart.
Two of the drivers who finished in the top five — third place Kyle Hamilton and fifth place Hollingsworth — were involved but restarted. The front of Hollingsworth's car went up over another car, but he was able to restart once he got unstuck. All the drivers escaped serious injury, although Coons suffered a minor injury to his left leg. His efforts to surpass his second-place finish as a rookie here in 2014 will now have to resume next year.
"Unfortunately the O ring blew out of the oil filter, which caused a lot of oil to get onto the right-rear tire and sent me into the wall in Turn 1," Coons said. "It was still early in the race when we broke, but we had a very solid car. I was just keeping pace with the leaders in fourth place. These guys work so hard and it's a long week for them. I can't thank them enough for what they do.
"My leg is OK; just very sore," added Coons, who finished fourth in the 100-lap USAC Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis Saturday afternoon in one of Nolen Racing's Silver Crown cars.
Other drivers — most notably Santos and Armstrong — had bad luck too, as they crashed while running first and second when the engine expired in Brian Tyler's car in Turn 3 and they skidded in the spilled liquids. Elliott made one of his required pit stops under that yellow flag and although he continued about 70 more laps, he dropped out seven laps after his halfway point and called it a night due to engine problems.
Hollingsworth kept slugging away. He didn't appear in the top five until about 50 laps to go, after the fifth-place driver, Mickey Kempgens, was involved in an accident while lapping Ryan Burdett on the backstretch.
On that restart the top four cars of Windom, Steele, Kyle Hamilton and Wilson were running in a row, but Windom had about a five-car advantage when the checkered dropped about 2 hours and 31 minutes after the green flag flew.
"I stopped behind someone who broke, but I had no damage [in the big accident]," Hollingsworth said. "We were not happy with our fuel mileage, but that's part of the homework we'll work on before next year's race.
"In all we had a good week, as our car was solid for most of the race," he added. "We have homework for next year to make improvements, but we finished the race and in the top five. The Nolen team worked hard all week and I really thought we had the opportunity to have all three V6s finish in the top 10 for Gene. We're already thinking about next year's race, and how we can improve."
The team's next event is the USAC Silver Crown race at Iowa Speedway June 20.
For more information on Nolen Racing, see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
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