Nolen Racing’s Axsom Finishes Third In Tony Elliott Classic at Anderson Speedway
ANDERSON, Ind., Oct. 9 — The late Tony Elliott had a great deal of success driving for Nolen Racing.
Emerson Axsom only met Elliott “a couple of times” and Axsom was very young when those encounters occurred, but one has to think Elliott would have been pleased if he had seen Axsom drive the Nolen Racing entry to a podium finish of third Thursday night in the seventh annual Tony Elliott Classic at Anderson Speedway.
It was the second podium finish of the year at Anderson Speedway for the Whiteland, Ind.-based team, as Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind., finished third in the race named for the team’s founder, Gene Nolen, in July.
Axsom, of Franklin, Ind., qualified fourth in the field of 24 for Thursday night’s race, which was part of the 500 Sprint Car Tour Presented by Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Part Stores. He qualified just 0.169 of a second off the fastest time, which was a 11.203 set by defending race winner Tyler Roahrig. The latter picked a 10 in the inversion draw, however, so Axsom was relegated to the seventh starting spot for the 100-lap race on Anderson’s high-banked, quarter-mile oval with the black-and-white Driven 2 Save Lives/Z Max/KECO No. 47BC. The car is powered by a Tranter-prepped Chevy V6 engine.
Axsom, who turned 18 on Sept. 30, got a good start but was scored in eighth on lap two as the top runners jockeyed for position. On lap three he rose to sixth by passing both Kody Swanson and Billy Wease, and then he stayed in sixth place for the next 17 laps.
He moved into the top five on lap 21 after Kyle O’Gara, Axsom and Swanson all passed polesitter Derek Bischak. The top cars ran in a row at that point of the race, about a tenth of a second apart.
There were three yellows during the 100 laps, but yellow-flag laps weren’t scored. The first caution flew with 34 laps down when Kyle Robbins hit the Turn 4 wall after an incident with a lapped car.
Six laps after that restart, on lap 40, Axsom charged under the point leader going into this race, Dakoda Armstrong, to nab fourth place.
Lap 54 was the turning point of the event. Chris Neuenschwander, who started second, led the race until Bobby Santos III passed him on that lap. Axsom and O’Gara passed Neuenschwander on the same lap to make the top three Santos, O’Gara, and Axsom. The top trio ran nose to tail the rest of the way in that order, including during the second yellow-flag period on lap 68 for debris and the third one on lap 81 when Wease stopped in Turn 1.
Santos won by just 0.192 seconds over O’Gara. Axsom was just 0.118 seconds behind O’Gara in third. He was 0.250 seconds ahead of the fourth-place driver and new point leader, Swanson, who was trailed closely by Roahrig.
“I think our car was equal to the top two, but tonight it was tough to pass; it was hard to make moves on a guy,” Axsom said afterwards. “I stayed patient and saved my tires to try to put us in a good position, but it was tough to do anything at the end.
“We had a really good car,” he emphasized. “It was really good on entry and in the center of each turn.
“One of my goals is to get a lot of laps in a short amount of time, and with running these 100-lappers and the Little 500, we’re doing that,” he added. “Dad tells me what I’m doing wrong, and we’re getting faster. I just stayed patient and tried to be consistent. We ran our own race, and we’re happy with a podium finish tonight.”
Axsom said that although the team’s plans are not finalized, he hopes to be in a Nolen Racing USAC Silver Crown car for that series’ next race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., on Oct 15.
Thursday’s race was streamed live by MAVTV on Flo Racing. The USAC Silver Crown events are also on Flo.
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