Nolen Racing's Swanson Leads All the Way in 'Night Before the 500' Saturday
WHITELAND, Ind., Aug. 25 — Seeing its driver, Kody Swanson, earn the pole and lead every lap to win the 40-lap asphalt sprint car feature during the “Night Before the 500” show Saturday night at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. was the highlight of a busy weekend for Nolen Racing.
Things also started perfectly for the Whiteland, Ind.-based team for the two USAC Silver Crown races held over the Indy 500 weekend when Swanson qualified on the pole for the headliner of the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway on Friday night. His 31st pole extended his record as the driver who has won more USAC Silver Crown pole positions than anyone in history.
He also led the first 40 laps of the 100-lap race before he was forced to pit under yellow on lap 56 while running second due to a problem with a brake caliper. However, he returned to the track and still finished tenth.
Neither USAC Silver Crown cars nor Swanson flip very often, but that happened with nine laps down during the 65th running of the Hoosier Hundred Sunday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Luckily Swanson wasn’t hurt in the five-car accident. He was credited with a 26th-place finish and the team is now in second place in the overall point standings, 22 points behind Justin Grant, who has 199 points to Swanson’s 177.
The team’s next race is the Pay Less Little 500 asphalt sprint car race Saturday, Sept. 5 at Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Ind. It won that event in both 2018 and 2019 with Swanson.
The Sept. 6 Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds USAC Silver Crown race has been postponed and no new date has been announced for it yet. The Eldora Four-Crown Nationals have been canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19. The only known date remaining on the Silver Crown schedule for now is the Oct. 4 race at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.
Nolen Racing is sponsored by KECO Coatings, Goodridge and K&N Filters. Its website is at NolenRacing.com. Fans can also follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
Night Before the 500 Saturday
Simply put, things couldn’t have gone any better for Nolen Racing Saturday night at the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway, which was a special non-points USAC sprint and midget event. Nolen Racing competed in the sprint car portion.
After winning a Must See Racing asphalt sprint car race at the same track in June with a V6 Tranter-prepped Chevrolet engine, the team installed a Tranter V8 in its Beast chassis for Saturday’s contest.
Swanson won the pole with a time of 20.973 seconds, which was 0.046 better than fellow front-row starter Aaron Pierce’s 21.019, and he led all 40 laps of the race for the top prize of $10,000.
There was only one yellow, which occurred at the start when Ken Schrader and Nick Hamilton tangled in Turn 2. Neither were hurt.
Pierce chased Swanson the whole way. At first Pierce was 0.4 or 0.5 behind Swanson’s yellow No. 4, but he was only 0.247 behind on lap 17 as Swanson had to slow a bit due to traffic he was lapping. But by lap 25 the lapped cars weren’t a problem and Swanson was able to extend his lead to 1.135 seconds. He then padded his advantage. He was 2.170 ahead by lap 29, 3.110 seconds ahead by lap 38, and his margin of victory over Pierce was a whopping 4.092 seconds.
Kyle Hamilton finished third, Tyler Roahrig was fourth and Tanner Swanson, Kody Swanson’s younger brother, was fifth in the 23-car field.
Kody Swanson and Pierce both set their fastest race laps on lap 4, with Swanson again faster with a 21.202 to Pierce’s 21.251.
“I’m so thankful to everyone on this Nolen Racing team; they worked hard and we had a great sprint car,” Swanson said afterwards. “We do this in memory of Gene [Nolen], and I’m so thankful for his son, Greg, who is carrying the torch for us and doing a great job of running a race team. These guys are first class and I’m thankful to be racing for them.”
Dave Steele Carb Night Classic Friday
Kody Swanson extended his record as the driver who has won more USAC Silver Crown pole positions than anyone in history when he got number 31 Friday at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Later that night the five-time and reigning series champion led the 100-lap race that headlined the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic from laps 1-40. Struggling with a brake problem, he motioned his fellow front-row starter, Tanner Swanson, to go by him. Kody Swanson was still in second place when he pitted under a yellow on lap 56 for minimal repairs. He then rallied back to finish tenth despite having no real brakes. Tanner Swanson went on to win the race.
“We had to pit; the rear caliper was dragging on the ground underneath the car,” Kody Swanson said. “The team did great to secure the caliper on the caution and cap off the line so we’d stop losing [brake] fluid. That at least allowed me to have some front brakes to try to avoid a crash ahead of us for the remainder of the race, but I still had no real brakes to race with on our way back through the field. We had a really good car, and rallied to finish tenth without the brakes.”
Prior to the mechanical issue Kody Swanson was flying. He had over a 1-second lead by lap 4, and he had built up a 10-car-length lead over his younger brother before the mechanical issue.
The Swanson brothers were the only leaders.
Kody Swanson won the Fatheadz pole award with a time of 20.732 seconds for the 0.686-mile asphalt oval, which was 0.245 of a second faster than Tanner Swanson’s best time. That accomplishment earned him a $1,000 bonus from Mac and Carol Steele, parents of the late Dave Steele, for whom this race is named.
Hoosier Hundred Sunday
Driving one of the team’s Maxim USAC Silver Crown cars, Kody Swanson qualified eighth for the 100-lapper on the 1-mile dirt oval at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Sunday with a time of 32.150, just 0.724 off the pole. He started sixth after two drivers ahead of him (Kyle Larson and Shane Cockrum) changed their right-rear tires and thus had to go to the rear of the 32-car field for the start.
Swanson passed Jimmy Light on the first lap to take fifth place. Tyler Courtney passed Swanson on the second lap to push him back to sixth. He stayed in sixth place until Larson, the eventual winner, passed him on lap seven. He was running in seventh place between Brady Bacon and Jake Swanson (no relation) when the trouble occurred.
Kyle Robbins slowed coming out of Turn 4 to bring out the yellow with nine laps down. As the field was still slowing down in a dark portion of Turn 2, there was contact between several drivers. Kody Swanson, who has won this race four times in the past, flipped on the backstretch as did David Byrne, who was running 11th. Austin Nemire, Light and Terry Babb were also involved. Luckily all were unhurt, but all of those cars were done for the night except for Robbins’ car.
Swanson’s official finishing position was 26th.
Six drivers flipped during the race. In addition to Swanson and Byrne’s flips, Carmen Perigo, Bacon and John Heydenreich flipped following a restart still with nine laps down. Bryan Gossel flipped on lap 34. All were unhurt except Heydenreich, who suffered a concussion, a fractured left cheekbone and some broken bones around his eyes. He is expected to be released from the hospital today.
Photo credit: USAC