Nolen Racing's Swanson Dominates at Salem
SALEM, Ind., Aug. 12 — Nolen Racing’s Kody Swanson added to his record-setting career in the USAC Silver Crown series during his 100th series start Saturday night at Salem Speedway by leading every lap and winning his fourth consecutive Discover Scott County “Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial” presented by the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers race from the pole.
At one point he had almost an 8-second lead over second place with his yellow Nolen Racing No. 20, which is a Beast chassis with a Tranter-prepped Chevy engine. The team is sponsored in part by KECO Coatings, Goodridge and K&N Filters. It is based in Whiteland, Ind. Swanson hails from Kingsburg, Calif., and currently lives in Zionsville, Ind.
It was Swanson’s 28th career victory in the series, which is a record. It was his fourth victory in the seven races that have been run so far this year, and gave him more points to add to his lead in his pursuit of his fifth series championship. With four races to go he now has 469 points to Justin Grant with 398, David Byrne with 349, and Bobby Santos III and Eric Gordon, who both currently have 326 points.
Swanson’s domination of this particular 75-lap race on the .555-mile, high-banked asphalt oval tied him with Pancho Carter, who won this race four times too in the seventies.
According to USAC, Swanson is the only driver to win four straight Silver Crown races in a row at two different tracks. Besides his fourth consecutive victory Saturday at Salem, he won four consecutive Hoosier Hundreds at the Indiana State Fairgrounds between 2014 and 2018, interrupted only by a rainout in 2017.
Swanson holds the one-lap track record for the series at Salem with a time of 15.923 seconds set in 2017. He won the Fatheadz Eyewear pole on Saturday with a 16.001. The team had to go to its back-up car for qualifying and the race, which was held at night, after its primary car had an engine problem during the practice sessions Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t matter, because Nolen Racing and Swanson kept on working hard despite the challenges.
When the race started Santos stayed right with Swanson for the first seven laps. On lap eight the first full-course caution waved because smoke was coming from Austin Nemire’s car.
Byrne passed Santos for second shortly after the restart on lap 15, but by lap 20 Swanson had a 0.766-second advantage over him. When the race was one-third over on lap 25 Swanson’s advantage was 0.635 and he was already starting to lap cars.
He had nearly a 1-second advantage over Byrne on lap 32 when the second yellow flew when Chris Windom pulled into the pit area with sparks coming from the rear of his car. Under this yellow the USAC officials stopped Swanson as a precautionary measure because they suspected that his car might be leaking fluid. That could have been the end of the team’s night, but the car was dry and Swanson was cleared to return to his spot at the front of the pack for the restart on lap 37.
Byrne stayed right with him at first, but then Swanson started to pull away. He had a 0.778-second advantage on lap 43, but on lap 44 he had stretched it to 1.205 seconds and two laps later it was 2.184 seconds.
The second-, third- and fourth-place drivers, who at that time were Byrne, Santos and Kyle Hamilton, got embroiled in a race between themselves that allowed Swanson to increase his lead.
Guided by his wife and spotter, Jordan, Swanson kept focused on the task at hand and hit his marks lap after lap on the demanding high-banked track.
He had a 3.424-second advantage on lap 50. He increased that to over 4 seconds by lap 53 (4.117 to be exact), and he was 4.572 seconds ahead on lap 56 when Santos passed Byrne for second.
Swanson had a 5.115-second lead over Santos on lap 60. Four laps later it was over 6 seconds (6.268), and by lap 66 it was over 7 seconds (7.049).
On lap 68 Swanson had a 7.736-second advantage over his closest rival, which was still Santos, but that evaporated when James Davison tagged the wall in Turn 4 to bring out the third and final yellow.
That allowed Santos and the rest of the top runners to gang up right behind Swanson for the green-white-checkered restart on lap 73, posing yet another challenge.
Santos was only 0.116 behind Swanson on lap 73, but Swanson increased that margin to over a half-second in one lap (0.580 on lap 74) and he took the checkered with nearly a full second lead over Santos, or 0.918 seconds to be exact. Aaron Pierce placed third, Hamilton was fourth and Byrne finished fifth.
Swanson set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 16.820 seconds on lap 16. Gordon, who finished seventh, was second fastest with a 16.864 on lap five.
The victory was gratifying to everyone involved but perhaps no one more than team owner Gene Nolen of Greenwood, Ind., who was at the track and in victory lane to watch his famous yellow car despite undergoing heart surgery in June.
The next event is the Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill. this coming Saturday, Aug. 17.
For more information see the team’s website at NolenRacing.com and follow @NolenRacing on Facebook and @NolenRacing20 on Twitter. The series’ website is at usacracing.com.
Swanson’s post-race quote follows:
“There are no easy days in the USAC Silver Crown series, but some present more challenges than others. Everyone on this Nolen Racing team continued to overcome the challenges in our path yesterday, never gave up, and never hesitated to keep pushing.
“With an engine problem in our primary car, this team quickly pulled the back-up car from the infield, and hustled hard to get us two laps in final practice. If you look back from the end of the night, that hustle could have been the difference! Those two laps gave us a chance to get a quick read on the race car, and on what I needed to be more comfortable in the cockpit at a place like Salem. With that information, everyone continued to make the car better before qualifying, and we landed our back-up car on the pole, with just those two laps of practice.
“From there, the work never stopped. Everyone continued to go over the car, making sure everything was fit to go 75 laps, and continued to make the changes I thought necessary to keep us fast enough in the long runs. No one quit.
“For 75 laps I wasn't going to quit on them, and enduring a green-white-checkered restart we were able to come away with a win, and meet our car owner, Gene Nolen, in victory lane, and it all was worth the trouble.
“I am so thankful for the people that God has put into my life, the people I have had the chance to race with throughout my career, and for the people I have the opportunity to race with now. What a special bunch, and I am so happy to be a small part of it. Thanks again to everyone who continues to grind it out as part of this team, and all of our sponsors and supporters that are behind us. You all make this something special to be part of, and I'm grateful for all of you. Thanks again!
“With a heavy heart, I am so thankful that my friend DJ [Dick Jordan, USAC’s vice president of communications, who died on Friday, Aug. 9] has been riding with me since Wednesday of this week (through the Fifties at Five radio show), and was riding along with us for a challenging day at Salem. I'm thankful to have become such good friends over the past year, and I'm sure going to miss him!”