Nolen Racing's Swanson Finishes Third in Hoosier Hundred
INDIANAPOLIS, May 24 — Kody Swanson’s quest to win five straight Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown races was thwarted by Tyler Courtney, Kevin Thomas Jr., and a problem with his car’s brakes, but he was still able to finish a solid third Thursday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ 64th and most likely final Hoosier Hundred. With two victories earlier this year and Thursday night’s podium finish, the winningest driver in USAC Silver Crown history still leads the 2019 point standings as Nolen Racing strives for its first championship in USAC’s top division.
Swanson won the Hoosier Hundred in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. The 2017 race was cancelled due to rain. Since the Indiana State Fair Board is committed to turning the one-mile dirt track into solely a harness-horse training track and a parking lot in the future, Swanson will likely end up tied with Al Unser Sr. for consecutive Hoosier Hundred victories with four. They are the only two drivers to ever win four consecutive Hoosier Hundreds. Unser’s streak came in 1970 through 1973. Of the three dirt miles on the current USAC schedule, no driver has ever won five consecutive races at any of the tracks.
The first Hoosier Hundred was held in 1953, but there have been auto races at the facility since 1903. For the probable finale of auto racing at this historic facility, Swanson drove the famous Nolen Racing yellow No. 20. This version was a Maxim with a Tranter-prepared Chevrolet engine. The car is sponsored in part by KECO Coatings, Goodridge, K&N Filters and Wilwood Brakes.
Swanson qualified fourth and ran in third position for all but the first six laps of Thursday’s 100-lapper. At that point Chris Windom, who led the first five laps, had a tire let go and he flipped violently on the frontstretch parallel to the Coliseum to bring out the first of two red flags. Luckily Windom climbed out under his own power.
Swanson was able to avoid getting involved, and Windom’s misfortune moved Swanson from fourth to third place on the restart on lap seven. He stayed there the rest of the race despite having to pump his car’s brakes in each of the four turns every lap.
From lap seven to lap 92 the top three of polesitter Thomas, Courtney and Swanson didn’t change. However, Courtney passed Thomas in Turn 1 on a restart working lap 93 to secure the victory. That restart followed a red flag for Chris Dyson, who luckily emerged unhurt after badly damaging his car in an accident in Turn 2.
Swanson was as close as two- and three-tenths of a second to Courtney several times during the race. He passed him for an instant on a lap 69 restart but Courtney got the spot back before the lap was completed. Swanson was also especially close around lap 77, but with the brake problem he couldn’t advance any higher. He was about 1.607 behind the runner-up, Thomas, at the checkered, and 0.993 ahead of the fourth-place finisher, Justin Grant. Brady Bacon rounded out the top five.
David Byrne trailed Swanson in fourth place for most of the race but dropped to seventh in the final standings, right behind Jason McDougal. Steve Buckwalter, Brian Tyler and Jacob Wilson completed the top 10 in the 32-car field.
Swanson set the third-fastest lap of anyone in the race when he was timed in 35.430 on lap 61. That was just a tenth of a second off Thomas’s fastest lap of 35.318 on lap 27 and Courtney’s second-fastest race lap on lap 82 of 35.389.
Swanson’s fourth-place lap in Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying was a 33.671. The brake problem reared its head on his first qualifying lap when Swanson applied the brakes going into Turn 1 and his foot went to the floorboards. The team tried to remedy the situation, but the native of Kingsburg, Calif. who now lives in Zionsville, Ind. was forced to deal with a brake issue the rest of the night.
Chris Phillips of Plainfield, Ind. drove the team’s No. 4 in a cooperative effort by Phillips-Nolen Racing. That car is a Twister that also had a Tranter-prepared Chevy engine. Phillips was making only his second series start and it was his first Silver Crown race on dirt. Despite the large field, the challenging track conditions and the daunting task he not only finished, he improved upon his qualifying spot by seven positions.
He qualified 24th with a time of 35.075 but suffered a flat right-front tire around lap 15 that dropped him to 30th position. After making a pit stop to replace the tire he persevered and finished 17th, right ahead of USAC Triple Crown champion Dave Darland. His best lap was lap 25, which he did in a time of 36.789.
The next USAC Silver Crown race is tonight on the paved oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.
On Thursday Swanson also won the pole for Saturday’s Pay Less Little 500 asphalt sprint car race at Anderson Speedway, where he is the defending winner for Nolen Racing.
Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind., who finished third in the Little 500 last year in another Nolen Racing entry and won the Hoosier Hundred in a Nolen Racing car in 2009, qualified 17th for this year’s Little 500 in a Nolen back-up car. He was also on hand with the team at the Fairgrounds on Thursday night helping to prep Phillips’ car.
For more information see the team’s website at NolenRacing.com and follow @NolenRacing on Facebook and @NolenRacing20 on Twitter. USAC’s website is at usacracing.com.
Driver post-race quotes follow:
Kody Swanson: “I had to pump the brakes three or four times in every corner. A night like this comes with the territory. Everybody on this team is working hard, and I won’t give up on them and they aren’t giving up on me.
“They [Kevin Thomas Jr. and Tyler Courtney] did to me what I like to do to them. They were just waiting it out. We were the third best tonight, and I’m thankful to get that considering the scare we had in qualifying. On the first lap of qualifying I went into Turn 1 and had no brakes. I figured out how to deal with it a little better on the second lap. We tried to fix it before the race, but we still had that problem.
[About running near Chris Windom when Windom flipped] “When he started to flip I got way to the left to avoid him. I was so glad to see that both he and Chris Dyson were OK. They both had hard hits.
“Considering all the possible outcomes, I’m grateful for a good finish in the points tonight.”
Chris Phillips: “It was a lot different than what I expected. You could really feel the dirty air.
“It was my first Silver Crown race on dirt. I had a flat tire, and then the motor started going flat towards the middle of the race.
“I would have liked to have finished a little better, but I’m glad to finish in one piece. Maybe we can run Eldora; it all depends where Kody is in the points by then.”