Nolen Racing's Hollingsworth Finishes Second in Little 500 at Anderson
ANDERSON, Ind., Sept. 8 — Nolen Racing’s Shane Hollingsworth only races once a year, but he made it memorable Saturday night when he came from 19th to finish second in the 72nd annual Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, the most prestigious asphalt sprint car race in the world.
It was the Lafayette, Ind.-based driver’s best finish ever in this race, which is presented by the United Auto Workers.
He led 63 laps in the bright yellow Nolen Racing No. 20, which is powered by a V6 Chevrolet engine prepared by Tranter Race Engines. The team is sponsored by KECO Coatings, Goodridge and K&N Filters.
Hollingsworth’s teammate was defending and three-time Little 500 champion Kody Swanson of Zionsville, Ind., who won this race driving for Nolen Racing in both 2018 and 2019. The two Nolen Racing cars and Eric Gordon’s were the only cars with V6 engines in the 33-car starting field.
Swanson earned the pole position, led the second-most number of laps with 141 to Tyler Roahrig’s 156, and posted the fastest lap of the race in the Nolen Racing No. 4. For most of the race he seemed to be in a great position to win again, but his car had a motor issue that forced him to drop out of the race with 424 laps complete while he was running second to Hollingsworth. His official finishing position was 14th.
While Swanson led the first 140 laps, Hollingsworth ran in 17th place in the early going, moving up to 14th on lap 21 after he passed two cars and one in front of him crashed. He passed Shane Butler for 13th around lap 53, and advanced to 12th due to more attrition. He passed Aaron Pierce for 11th place around lap 95, and entered the top 10 for the first time when he passed Jerry Coons Jr. around lap 114.
He passed Derek Bischak for ninth place on lap 122, and about five laps later he passed Kyle Hamilton for eighth. He vaulted from eighth to sixth around lap 163 when Brian Gerster dropped back and Hollingsworth passed Dakoda Armstrong. He broke into the top five after the fourth yellow around lap 205 when the leader, Caleb Armstrong, ran out of fuel.
Both Hollingsworth and Swanson made their first of two pit stops under that yellow, as did several of their rivals. Hollingsworth had advanced from fourth to third and Swanson had gone from third to fifth when the green flew again on lap 218.
Hollingsworth remained in third place until about lap 238, when both Gerster and Swanson got by to push him back to fifth. He stayed in fifth place, the last driver on the lead lap, until he made his second and final pit stop on lap 339 under the eighth yellow. A few others pitted too but the Nolen Racing team’s stop was quick, and Hollingsworth was third for the restart on lap 350, although he was one lap down to the two leaders, who were the eventual winner, Bobby Santos III, and Swanson.
Hollingsworth got second when Santos pitted under the ninth yellow on lap 404, which put the two Nolen Racing cars first and second. Swanson made his second pit stop a little later on the same lap, which vaulted Hollingsworth into the lead. It was Hollingsworth, Santos and Swanson for the restart. Swanson slipped under Santos on lap 417 with an inside pass on the frontstretch, but then Swanson unexpectedly slowed and retired with engine woes with 424 laps complete.
Hollingsworth had a 0.349-second lead over Santos with 50 laps remaining in the race. Santos’s Hoosier tires had approximately 64 fewer laps on them than Hollingsworth’s tires did, and he was able to keep close behind. They were the only drivers on the lead lap at that point.
Following the tenth and final caution flag, Santos passed Hollingsworth on the backstretch on the restart working lap 468 and went on to victory. Hollingsworth had a scary moment around lap 470 when he almost spun out, but he took the checkered in second place, about 7 seconds behind Santos and a lap ahead of the driver who finished third, Roahrig. Kyle O’Gara and Gordon rounded out the top five.
“We weren’t real happy with our middle set of tires,” Hollingsworth said later. “Because of that, we opted to pit a little bit early. I drove the hell out of it but just didn’t have enough to hold off Santos.
“We’re here because of Gene [Nolen, the team founder who passed away April 8]. I’m just glad Greg [Nolen, Gene’s son] kept the team going and we could finish second. I think Gene would have been proud of his team tonight. We’re really happy with second; we’ll take it; thanks to the whole team. I’ve been third here and I was fourth last year and second this year; it’s my best finish here so far. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to try to make some improvements and come back next year.”
When asked about the scary moment around lap 470, Hollingsworth said he wasn’t sure what happened, but it was a moment that caught his attention. “It definitely reminded me that I had to focus on finishing,” he said. “There are lots of moments in the Little 500 because you’re running so close to the people you’re racing with as well as the lapped cars, and there are lots of opportunities to get caught up in things,” he added. “The crew did a good job in the pits. It seems these last few years it’s always been Kody, Bobby and I competing for the win. Kody probably was in the best position to win so it was a shame that he couldn’t finish. Five hundred laps at Anderson is definitely challenging. I think this was my overall best race, but I was still short of that victory.”
Swanson earned the pole position on Thursday with a four-lap average speed of 80.46 miles per hour for the quarter-mile, high-banked asphalt oval. His total for the four laps was 44.745 seconds. Roahrig was second with a time of 44.956; Hamilton was third with a time of 45.017 and Santos started seventh with a time of 45.301. Hollingsworth had to get in on Bump Day on Friday with a qualifying time of 46.077 in the very competitive field.
Swanson led the famous 11 rows of three to the green flag, got a great start, and led the first 140 laps. He set the fastest lap of anyone in the race on lap 93 with a time of 11.665 seconds. Roahrig was second-fastest with a 11.707 on lap 46.
Swanson’s rivals made him work hard to stay ahead in the early going, but he was able to pad his lead to more than 1 second over Hamilton by lap 104. Things got tight again when Roahrig passed Hamilton for second a few laps later. There were three cautions during the first 140 laps where Swanson had to fight off his rivals on restarts and night fell during that stint, but Swanson was up to the task.
The pressure was intense, however, and on lap 141 both Roahrig and Caleb Armstrong got under Swanson to shuffle him back to third place. He remained in third until O’Gara passed him around lap 185 to push him back to fourth. He regained third when Armstrong ran out fuel, but dropped to fifth after he made his first pit stop under that yellow around lap 209.
He regained fourth when he passed Hollingsworth around lap 238. He was still scored in fourth place until the pit stops under the eighth caution around lap 340, when he vaulted to second behind only Santos. He and Santos were the only drivers on the lead lap at that point. Swanson was 0.827 seconds behind Santos on lap 355, but Swanson remained within striking distance.
When Caleb Armstrong suffered mechanical difficulties and stopped on the frontstretch to bring out the ninth yellow around lap 400, Swanson got into him but he was able to continue. He got the lead on lap 404 for one lap when Santos pitted under that yellow, but then Swanson pitted too, giving the lead to Hollingsworth. When the pit stops were completed Hollingsworth was leading, Santos was second and Swanson was third for the restart.
Swanson slipped under Santos for second on lap 417. That put the Nolen Racing cars first and second with just 83 laps remaining. They remained that way until Swanson’s night ended prematurely with the engine problems working lap 425, just 75 laps short.
“We really had a great week, so it is tough to have the final result that we did,” Swanson said. “We had a fast car all week, won the pole on Thursday, and were just managing our race. We led early, but I felt like the way the lapped cars were racing each other it was creating more risk than I wanted to take with more than 300 laps left to go. So when there was much pressure for the lead, I didn't want to try too hard to keep it and get ourselves in a bad spot that early.
“We had a great first pit stop but lost positions after an issue with the push truck; that’s all just part of the uniqueness of this race. Although you never like having a setback, we still had plenty of race left. We lost the handle a little bit during that second run, so we made sure to take care of our equipment and set ourselves up to be the best car to the finish.
“We had a good second pit stop, made the right adjustments, and had fresh tires with less than 100 laps to go, so it was finally "time to go." The car was great after that final stop. In just a few laps we had already made the difficult passes we needed to in traffic, and I believe we had a really strong chance to win if we could have made it to the end. I'm thankful for everyone's hard work this week, and just disappointed we didn't get to finish it.
“Once I was out of the race and in the infield, I was pulling really hard for Shane, and I was glad for him to get a good finish.”
Nolen Racing’s next race is the USAC Silver Crown season finale at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio on Oct. 4. Swanson is second in those point standings, 22 points behind Justin Grant, 177 to 199. Kyle Robbins and Matt Goodnight are tied for third with 167 and Chris Windom is fifth with 166.
For more information please see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
From left to right: Third-place finisher Tyler Roahrig, winner Bobby Santos III and the runner-up, Nolen Racing's Shane Hollingsworth, celebrate in victory lane at the Little 500 Saturday night. (Anderson Speedway photo)