Nolen Racing's Swanson Wins Record Fifth Consecutive Joe James-Pat O'Connor Memorial at Sale
SALEM, Ind., Aug. 16 —Nolen Racing’s Kody Swanson set more USAC Silver Crown records Saturday by winning his fifth consecutive Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Joe James-Pat O’Connor Memorial at Salem Speedway.
No driver had ever won five Joe James-Pat O’Connor Memorials, let alone five in a row. It broke Pancho Carter’s four consecutive victories in this race between 1974-1977.
It was Swanson’s 30th USAC Silver Crown career victory, extending that record.
Swanson also won his 30th career Fatheadz Eyewear pole here, another record. It was also his fifth consecutive pole at the 61st annual event on the paved 0.555-mile oval in Southern Indiana. He set the 1-lap record here at 15.923 seconds in 2017, but he got the pole on Saturday with a 16.107.
Bobby Santos III qualified second and didn’t make Swanson’s race easy. Santos got the lead on the first lap and led the first 49 laps of the 75-lap race with Swanson just a tenth of a second behind him, looking for any opportunity to get by.
At the two-thirds mark it finally occurred when Santos was hung up just an instant while the pair were poised to lap Joe Liguori. Swanson saw his chance and took it, passing Santos on the outside as the three cars raced through Turn 1.
Santos kept close at first and tried his best to regain the lead, but Swanson was able to extend his advantage to over a second by lap 58 and to 2 seconds by lap 64.
Two laps later the ninth-place driver, Kyle Hamilton, stopped on the frontstretch to bring out a caution flag and give Santos another shot on the restart on lap 70, but Swanson was up to the task.
His work wasn’t over, however, because Liguori spun to a stop on the inside of Turn 2 with 73 laps down to set up a green-white-checkered scenario and give Santos one more shot at Swanson.
Swanson was having none of it, however, and he took the checkered flag with a 1.013-second margin of victory over Santos with his yellow Nolen Racing No. 20. This time the team chose its Beast chassis, which is powered by a Tranter Chevy engine and sponsored by KECO Coatings, Goodridge and K & N Filters.
To underscore how close Swanson’s and Santos’s cars were, they tied for the fastest race lap with a 16.819 on the very same circuit, lap 21.
The top 10 were Swanson, Santos, Aaron Pierce, Justin Grant, Derek Bischak, Austin Nemire, Kyle O’Gara, Kyle Robbins, Mike Haggenbottom and Liguori.
The Whiteland, Ind.-based team brought two asphalt Silver Crown cars to Salem and worked on the set-up on both during practice.
Although the car he won with on Saturday isn’t his favorite Nolen Racing mount, Swanson credited the team with working hard to make it up to the task. “Everyone on this team fought hard,” he told a Flo Racing reporter. “We battled through it and worked harder. I did not want the start to go as it did. But later, when we went three wide for the lead in Turn 1 at Salem, that’s about as good as it gets and I hope the fans liked it. This is the first pavement Silver Crown race since we lost [team founder] Gene [Nolen], so it is important to all of us. Every win is important; you just don’t know when you’ll get another opportunity, and you have to cherish each one.”
Santos was philosophical about coming in second. “I made a wrong move and got passed; I’ll try again next time,” he said. “We just got a little too free and came up a little short. We gave him a run though.”
The coming week is an important and busy one. The Silver Crown action continues this coming Friday night, Aug. 21 with the David Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. The next day the team will return to Lucas Oil Raceway with one of its asphalt sprint cars for the Night Before the 500 program. Then on Sunday the Silver Crown series is back at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis with the resurrected 65th annual Hoosier Hundred.
Swanson leads the current USAC Silver Crown point standings with 114 points to Kyle Robbins’ 113.
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