ROSSBURG, Ohio, Sept. 30 — Thanks to his five poles and five victories in the USAC Silver Crown series this year, all Nolen Racing’s Kody Swanson needed to do to seal up an unprecedented fifth series drivers' championship was to present his Nolen Racing No. 20 on the starting grid at the season finale Saturday night at the 38th annual Four-Crown Nationals presented by NKT.tv at Eldora Speedway.
The winningest driver in USAC Silver Crown history with 29 victories did that and much more, as he qualified third in Friday’s program and finished fourth in Saturday’s 50-lapper against 27 entries, which was the largest Silver Crown field at Eldora in more than a decade.
Swanson, a native of Kingsburg, Calif. now living in Zionsville, Ind., was in the Whiteland, Ind.-based team’s Maxim Tranter Chevy sponsored in part by KECO Coatings, Goodridge, K & N Filters and Wilwood Brakes.
It was Swanson’s eighth top-five finish in the 10 races held in 2019.
As is his custom, he got off to a great start. He was only 0.091 of a second behind the second-place driver and eventual winner, Brady Bacon, on lap seven of Saturday’s season finale before the first of two yellow flags slowed the pace. It flew with eight laps down when Steve Buckwalter and John Heydenreich were involved in an accident. Luckily neither of the popular Pennsylvanians was hurt.
Yellow-flag laps didn’t count in Saturday’s race. Shortly after the first yellow sixth-place runner Jason McDougal got sideways in Turns 1 and 2. Tyler Courtney, who was seventh at the time, got into him to bring out the second yellow with 11 laps down.
Swanson remained in third place through lap 13. At that point Justin Grant passed him, and Swanson held fourth the rest of the way.
He was 2.696 seconds behind Bacon at the checkered. Polesitter Kevin Thomas Jr. finished second. Grant was third, but Swanson was only 0.405 behind him at the line. He was a whopping 6.246 seconds ahead of the fifth-place finisher, Shane Cottle.
Swanson’s set the fourth-fastest lap of the race on lap three with a time of 19.762 seconds for the half-mile dirt oval.
After a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay on Friday, Swanson’s time in Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying in the early-morning hours of Saturday was a 16.176, which was only 0.122 of a second off Thomas’s pole-winning time.
Swanson entered the season finale with a 63-point lead over Grant in the driver point standings. He finished the season with a 60-point lead, tallying 638 points to Grant’s 578. David Byrne placed third with 489.
It was much closer in the owner standings. Nolen Racing held the lead in those standings until early September, and finished second in that championship with 613 points to Klatt Enterprises’ 637, which was only a 24-point difference. Hemelgarn Racing was third with 578 points.
The 2019 USAC Silver Crown series originally consisted of 12 races, but two (Terre Haute and Springfield) were rained out. So, Swanson won half of the year’s events enroute to his title.
His five victories all came on asphalt tracks: Memphis, Toledo, Madison, Salem, and in one of two races held at Lucas Oil Raceway. He led every lap at Toledo, Salem, and in the race he won at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Besides winning five poles (Memphis, Toledo, the May race at Lucas Oil Raceway, Madison and Salem), he set the fastest lap of the race five times (Memphis, Toledo, Williams Grove, Salem and the September race at Lucas Oil Raceway). He also set a new track record at Madison in his amazing season driving for Greenwood, Ind. resident Gene Nolen.
Although the Silver Crown division was its priority, Nolen Racing also fielded two USAC AMSOIL sprint cars at Eldora that were driven by Swanson and Chris Phillips of Plainfield, Ind.
Swanson was in the Nolen Racing Maxim Tranter No. 20N, while Phillips drove the No. 6P DRC Tranter fielded by Chris and Ben Phillips and Nolen Racing. Swanson didn’t make that feature, but Phillips finished 15th.
Phillips also won the ProSource Hard Work Award for having the slowest qualifying time but still transferring into the sprint car feature. He qualified 28th with a time of 18.656 seconds, while Swanson qualified 23rd with a time of 18.111.
Phillips finished sixth in the fourth eight-lap sprint heat after starting seventh, while Swanson placed fifth in heat three after starting on the pole.
Phillips finished sixth in the semi after starting 12th, while Swanson placed tenth after starting seventh in that 12-lap race.
FloRacing.com televised the USAC portion of Saturday’s event live.
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:
“The Four-Crown Silver Crown season finale is always a tough race and a tough format, with qualifying and our feature being on different days. After a rain delay on Friday night I felt we had a really good car and we were able to cut a good lap for a third-place qualifying spot. Obviously I'd have liked to win the pole, but I was fairly happy to be in a good position to race for it on Saturday.
“With our feature running last on Saturday night it became clear that the top was the place to be, with the only moisture left on the track being the cushion packed against the concrete wall. We were able to race closely among the leaders for much of the race, with the top four of us all on the same straightaway with just 10 laps to go, but ultimately we came home in the fourth position.
“I'm very thankful for the hard work and effort that everyone put in, not only for our finale at Eldora, but all season long. Sometimes it can be tough to adapt to a new environment quickly, but I appreciate how this team accepted my family and I, and how well we worked together this season.
“With a series that runs dirt and pavement there is a lot of equipment to prepare and maintain, and a lot of moving parts that present challenges, and I'm grateful for the extra effort that was put in for us to contend for a championship.
“There are so many people that are involved with this Nolen Racing team; each person plays his or her own unique role, all of which are important to the success that we've had together! Thanks again to you all!”