Nolen Racing's Axsom Finishes Sixth in Niebel Classic
ANDERSON, Ind., July 12 — Emerson Axsom is a quick learner.
The 16-year-old driver from Franklin, Ind., drove a Nolen Racing asphalt sprint car to a sixth-place finish in the 20th annual CB Fabricating Glen Niebel Classic Saturday night at Anderson Speedway.
He also set the third-fastest lap of the race with a time of 11.486 seconds on lap five of 125. Only the race’s initial leader, Billy Wease, and its winner, Kody Swanson, posted a faster lap than Axsom did during the race.
The event was Axsom’s first in a pavement sprint car, and he’d only driven a dirt sprint car once in the past. It was also his first time to compete on Anderson Speedway’s quarter-mile, high-banked paved oval.
He drove the team’s Beast chassis, No. 4, which is sponsored by KECO Coatings and has a V6 Tranter-prepared Chevy engine.
Axsom, the son of another Nolen Racing driver, Joe Axsom, qualified seventh with a time of 11.373, which was just 0.257 off the time posted by the fastest qualifier, Swanson.
Derek Bischak passed Axsom at the start and Axsom ran in eighth place, holding off veteran Bobby Santos III, for the first 35 laps. Santos finally got the position on lap 36 to push Axsom to ninth, but he regained eighth on lap 64 when the early leader, Wease, dropped out with a mechanical issue.
Shortly thereafter Axsom was the meat in a three-car sandwich consisting of Chris Neuenschwander, Axsom and Kyle O’Gara. The trio ran nose-to-tail for many laps, just inches apart, with lap times in the mid-11-second and low-12-second range.
Axsom passed Neuenschwander for seventh on lap 83, and O’Gara passed Neuenschwander shortly thereafter. Axsom took sixth from Bischak on lap 108.
Around lap 122 O’Gara finally got around Axsom but Axsom remained in sixth because the driver who had been fifth, Dakota Armstrong, dropped out.
At the checkered flag Axsom was just 1.142 seconds behind the fifth-place driver, O’Gara, and a lap ahead of seventh place, Neuenschwander.
“It was a lot of fun,” Axsom said afterwards. “I have a lot of learning to do, but I was surprised that we were this close for my first pavement sprint car race. We were fast, but I have some learning to do to be able to beat Kody Swanson.
“You have to be really patient,” he continued. “The closing rate is a lot different than what I’m used to with dirt midgets. It was fast. I expected that; watching the races here helped a lot. The only time I ever raced on pavement before was in quarter midgets.
“I want to thank everyone on the Nolen Racing team for their hard work, and to Greg Nolen for the experience!”
“Emerson did a great job,” said team owner Greg Nolen. “He showed much maturity for a young driver.”
The race was broadcast live on MAVTV Plus.
For more information on Nolen Racing, please see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.