Nolen Racing's Swanson Finishes Second Friday at Williams Grove Speedway
MECHANICSBURG, Pa., June 16 — People will be talking about Friday night’s USAC Silver Crown race at Williams Grove Speedway for years to come due to its wild finish, but the bottom line for Nolen Racing and its driver, Kody Swanson, was another podium finish and more points to help them keep their lead in both the team and driver point standings at the season’s midway point.
Swanson, a native of Kingsburg, Calif. who now lives in Zionsville, Ind., set the fastest lap of the race and finished second to Brady Bacon in what turned out to be a 101-lap race on the famous half-mile clay oval. His Nolen Racing No. 20, which is garaged in Whiteland, Ind. and sponsored in part by KECO Coatings, Goodridge, K&N Filters and Wilwood Brakes, was just 0.612 of a second behind Bacon at the checkered.
Swanson set the fastest lap of anyone in the race on lap 81 with a time of 23.039 seconds. He was sixth in Fatzheadz Eyewear Qualifying with a time of 22.245, which was just 0.446 off the pole.
He had quite a trip in the race, however, as he was as far back as seventh at one point.
He got a great start and vaulted from sixth to fourth on the first lap by passing Bacon and Austin Nemire.
Nemire got him back on lap three and Bacon did the same on lap four to push him back to his original starting position. Steve Buckwalter passed him on lap five to drop him to seventh, but he got sixth back on lap 14 when he passed Tyler Courtney. The latter slowed between Turns 1 and 2 four laps later to bring out a yellow.
Swanson remained in sixth place until lap 31, when he passed Nemire again to regain a spot in the top five. Six laps later he passed Bacon once again to move into fourth, and on lap 41 he passed the polesitter, Justin Grant, to vault to third behind leader Chris Windom and Steve Buckwalter.
Swanson stayed with Buckwalter in a march toward the front, and when Buckwalter passed Windom for the lead on lap 48, Swanson was close behind. He continued to pressure Windom for second, and looked to his inside a number of times but couldn’t quite get all the way alongside to hold his position underneath him, and would have to work for another opportunity. Finally, on lap 82, Windom missed the bottom and Swanson cleared him to the inside to take second.
The following lap, both he and Windom tangled with the lapped car of Dave Berkheimer between Turns 3 and 4. Both Swanson and Windom were able to continue.
For the next 10 laps Swanson was all over Buckwalter for the lead, but couldn’t find an opening to get alongside the leader. With just seven laps to go Swanson took a clean run to the inside to slide in front of Buckwalter in Turn 1, but couldn’t get it slowed down enough to stay in the groove and keep the pass. Trying to race to the outside on the backstretch, Swanson hung in the dust and slid behind Bacon in the running order. By Turns 3 and 4, Swanson and Windom battled for position, racing in tight quarters and aiming for third. They touched wheels, left rear and right front, sending the rear of Swanson’s No. 20 airborne, and sliding Swanson back out of the groove and to the fifth position with just a few laps to go.
Swanson never gave up though. He passed Shane Cottle on lap 97 to regain fourth place, trailing Buckwalter, Windom and Bacon.
Windom got into the back of Buckwalter in Turn 1 working lap 100, which spun Buckwalter out, drew a yellow, and set up an extra green-flag lap to finish the race. Windom apologized later, said he felt terrible about it and had been having brake problems, but it was heartbreaking for local favorite Buckwalter, who came so close to his first series victory.
Windom had the lead after that and Swanson was still third behind Windom and Bacon. However, Windom suffered a flat right-rear tire in Turn 1 working lap 101, which gave Bacon the victory and Swanson second. Grant, hard-charger Mike Haggenbottom and Eric Gordon rounded out the top five, while Buckwalter ended up eighth behind Nemire and David Byrne. Windom was credited with ninth and Matt Goodnight rounded out the top 10.
Swanson now has a six-point lead over Grant in the point standings, 320 to 314. Bryne is third followed by Gordon, Haggenbottom, Nemire, Bobby Santos III, Kevin Thomas Jr., Kyle Hamilton and Windom.
The race was broadcast live on a pay-per-view basis by FloRacing.com, which carries all of the series’ events.
The next USAC Silver Crown race is a pavement event on June 28 at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wis.
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.
Swanson’s post-race quote follows:
“This was certainly a tough day, but for all that we went through to escape with a second-place finish is something we’ll take. I have been under the weather today, and this team worked really hard today too.
“We are still battling the brake issues that plagued us at the Hoosier Hundred, and did whatever we could to fix them, but unfortunately they still played a factor in the feature tonight. Without being able to be confident entering each corner, I had to really be conservative in traffic to make sure I took good care of myself and the competitors around me and not put us in a bad position.
“Ultimately we survived that and a few other hurdles to be in a position to win in the end, but I just couldn’t make the pass for the lead stick in Turn 1. I had to commit to Buckwalter’s inside, and was pumping the brakes for all I was worth, but just slid out enough for him to get back by and eventually force us back to the fifth position. I felt like it was a chance I had to take to try to win the race for this team, and am disappointed that I didn’t execute well enough in that instance to finish it for them.
“We never gave up, and did our best to get back up there, so to come home with a second-place finish is still a little bittersweet. I am proud of the effort that everyone put in on this team today, and do look forward to our next chance to try again.”
Photo credits: Joe Jennings