Nolen Racing's Axsom Is Top Rookie at Du Quoin
DU QUOIN, Ill., Sept. 5 — The 69th running of the Ted Horn 100 USAC Silver Crown race at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds attracted a big field of 35 drivers on Saturday, 10 of whom were rookies. Nolen Racing’s Emerson Axsom of Franklin, Ind., was the class of the rookie field, as he was both the highest qualifying rookie and the highest finishing rookie.
Driving the famous bright yellow Nolen Racing No. 20, a Maxim/Tranter Chevy sponsored by KECO Coatings and Advanced Racing Suspensions, Axsom qualified 12th and finished seventh in the 100-lap race on the 1-mile dirt oval.
The top-10 finish was an impressive accomplishment for the 17-year-old driver, who was making his first start at this particular track and only his fifth race ever in USAC’s top division.
Gaining experience was his primary goal. That started in practice, when he ran 34 laps as the Whiteland, Ind.-based team worked to develop its set-up for the test ahead. Only one other driver among the 35 who participated in practice ran any more. Axsom ended up seventh in practice with a lap in 31.187. Track conditions changed somewhat for qualifying, when he was 12th with a 33.035. He set the sixth-fastest lap of anyone in the race when he was timed in 31.834 on lap 77.
But the timing beacon told only part of the story. The other valuable experience Axsom gained had more to do with saving his equipment in order to finish the race, avoiding trouble and completing all 100 laps, and dicing with the veterans, sometimes only inches apart.
After a complete restart for Casey Buckman’s spin after the initial start, Axsom passed Mario Clouser for 11th place on lap three. He moved into the top 10 on lap 13 when he passed Kyle Steffens. Four laps later he passed Chase Stockon for ninth. On the following lap he was scored eighth after both he and Shane Cockrum passed Shane Cottle.
Not counting the first restart, there were only three caution periods during the race. The first waved on lap 28 when Kaylee Bryson slowed in Turns 1 and 2. Axsom remained in eighth until shortly before the halfway point, when he passed current point leader Logan Seavey for seventh on lap 48.
The battle had been strong up to that point, but it got even more intense in the second half of the race. Axsom passed USAC Triple Crown champion Jerry Coons Jr. for sixth place on lap 53, but Coons got him back three laps later to push him back to seventh. Seavey hadn’t given up either, and he passed Axsom back on lap 61 so suddenly Axsom was back in eighth before a second yellow waved on lap 64 when Buckman spun in Turn 3.
Under that yellow the fifth-place driver, Davey Ray, pitted because his car was overheating due to a hole in its radiator. That moved Axsom up to seventh. Following the final yellow on lap 82 when the right-rear tire expired on Stockon’s car, Axsom brought the No. 20 home in seventh place.
Polesitter Justin Grant led all but the first lap to win the race by 0.99 over fellow front-row starter C.J. Leary, the only other leader. Defending champion Kody Swanson placed third. Cockrum finished fourth and Seavey placed fifth. Coons, Axsom, Wayne Johnson, Taylor Ferns and Steffens rounded out the top 10.
Nolen Racing won this particular race twice: in 1992 with Johnny Parsons, and in 1999 with Tony Elliott.
The race was streamed live on Flo Racing.
For more information see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter @NolenRacing.
Photo credits: Don Figler