Nolen Racing's Axsom Finishes Fourth in Tony Elliott Classic at Anderson Speedway to Conclude 2021
ANDERSON, Ind., Oct. 19 — Emerson Axsom qualified fourth and finished fourth in the Nolen Racing No. 4 Saturday night at Anderson Speedway in the fourth and final non-wing sprint car race of the season at the quarter-mile, high-banked asphalt oval.
The event was the sixth annual “Tony Elliott Classic,” named in memory of the former Nolen Racing driver who was tragically killed in a private airplane accident in 2015. The event was on Paint the Night Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, and it was presented by CB Fabricating, “The Herald Bulletin,” and Sherwin Williams.
It was the last race of the season for both the track and for the New Whiteland, Ind.-based Nolen Racing team, as well as the final points race for the Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Super Series, which sanctioned the 125-lap race.
Axsom, 17, of Franklin, Ind., duplicated his best finish of fourth, as he finished fourth and sixth in two other 125-lap races driving for Nolen Racing at Anderson Speedway this season. Once again the young star drove a yellow Beast chassis sponsored by KECO Coatings and powered by a Tranter-prepped Chevy V6 engine.
Axsom qualified fourth with a lap in 11.377 seconds. That was only 0.385 off the fastest qualifier and eventual winner, Tyler Roahrig. It was also better than the qualifying time recorded by the defending race winner, Bobby Santo III, who qualified fifth on a brisk autumn evening with temperatures in the low fifties.
The top eight cars were inverted for the start, however, so Santos was fourth and Axsom was fifth at the drop of the green. The invert put Kyle O’Gara on the pole, and he led the most laps.
Axsom dropped to sixth on lap two and seventh on lap three after the always hectic start, and he remained in seventh until lap 25, including when he set his fastest lap of the race on lap 12 and the sixth-fastest overall with a time of 11.626 seconds. On a restart on lap 25 after the first yellow for a minor spin by another competitor, Axsom regain sixth by passing Brian Gerster.
That put Axsom right behind Jerry Coons Jr., and he applied pressure to Coons for many laps as he continued to run in sixth place through lap 79.
He moved into fifth place when the second-place driver, Santos, had an incident with a car he was lapping and spun to bring out the second yellow on lap 80.
Axsom got fourth on a restart on lap 102 when Coons ran into problems in front of him.
Axsom remained in fourth until lap 118, when Santos got around him again to push him back to fifth. Santos passed Caleb Armstrong for third on lap 121, which put Armstrong right in front of Axsom.
With four laps to go Axsom made a nice pass to move by Armstrong, and he was fourth at the checkered.
Behind Roahrig at the checkered were O’Gara, Santos, Axsom and Armstrong. Axsom was only 0.136 of a second behind Santos at the checkered, and he was 0.816 of a second ahead of Armstrong.
Only eight of the 17 starters finished.
“I feel like we caught the invert wrong; it’s really hard to pass here,” Axsom said after the race. “I felt like we had a top-three car, but with my lack of experience we got fourth. But anytime we race is good, because it’s important track time.
“That was the most comfortable I’ve been in this car yet,” he reported. “The team really worked hard to tune the car to my liking. We’re getting more speed every time we hit the track. The car never really fell off. I had no real close calls either. Finishing was important, so we’ll take the fourth. I can’t thank the Nolen Racing team enough for all the hard work they put into the No. 4.”
Nolen Racing competed in six pavement sprint car races in 2021 with three drivers: Tanner Swanson, Shane Hollingsworth and Axsom. Its best finish was Swanson’s third in the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway May 29.
Now the team will go over all its cars carefully over the winter and prepare for the 2022 season.
For more information see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
(Linda Mansfield photos)