Nolen Racing’s Hollingsworth and Axsom Finish In the Top 10 In the Little 500 at Anderson Speedway
ANDERSON, Ind., May 30 — Both of the Nolen Racing drivers finished in the top 10 in the 74th annual Lucas Oil Little 500 presented by UAW Saturday night at Anderson Speedway.
Veteran Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind., started 12th, was as high as fourth on lap 205, ran in fifth place for 45 laps, and finished eighth in the 500-lap classic.
Emerson Axsom of Franklin, Ind., started seventh, was as high as second for four laps before his first pit stop, ran in third place for 42 laps, and finished tenth in his first Little 500.
Hollingsworth drove the yellow No. 20 sponsored by KECO Coatings, while Axsom was in the white Driven 2 Save Lives/Z Max No. 47 for the Whiteland, Ind.-based team. Both cars used Tranter-prepped Chevy V6 engines.
Seventeen-year-old Axsom was second around lap 200 and third just before the lap 300-mark. But a tangle with a car he was lapping working lap 308 while he was running fourth knocked him back to 18th position, and he had to claw his way back up the standings in the last 200 laps of the race to record the top-10 finish.
The race’s distance of 500 laps on the high-banked, quarter-mile asphalt oval; a three-abreast start, and pit stops were all new to Axsom, but Hollingsworth has finished as high as second in this event before and he knew what was in store.
Before the race Hollingsworth said he just wanted to finish the grueling test. He had to overcome several challenges but he accomplished his goal despite having what in horse racing is called “a rough trip.”
Around lap 215 Hollingsworth lost a wheel on the frontstretch after a pit stop. He had to pit a second time for a new wheel, which cost him several laps and dropped him to 12th after he was as high as fourth about 10 laps earlier.
With 259 laps complete Hollingsworth and the leader, Tanner Swanson, bumped wheels on the frontstretch, which knocked Hollingsworth sideways. Behind them Bobby Santos III and the eventual winner, Tyler Roahrig, checked up and made contact. Santos flipped, coming down on the rear of Hollingsworth’s car during one of his revolutions. That brought out a red flag, but luckily everyone escaped injury.
There was a great deal of contact all night, and only the top two finishers, Roahrig and Dakoda Armstrong, finished all 500 laps. C.J. Leary, Kyle O’Gara, Caleb Armstrong, Brian Gerster, Kody Swanson, Hollingsworth, Dalton Armstrong and Axsom were the top-10 finishers in the 33-car field.
Axsom set the fourth-fastest lap of anyone in the race on lap five with a time of 11.584 seconds. Hollingsworth set the seventh-fastest lap of the race on the same lap in 11.658 seconds.
Axsom topped the charts in practice on Wednesday with a 11.100-second lap, and he qualified seventh on Thursday afternoon with a four-lap time of 44.554 seconds, just 1.077 seconds off Roahrig’s new track record. Hollingsworth qualified 12th with a time of 44.851 seconds. The top 15 cars were locked into the starting lineup on Thursday on CB Fabricating Pole Day.
The race was broadcast by MAVTV Plus.
The team’s next event is scheduled to be the inaugural Gene Nolen Classic, another 500 Sprint Car Tour race, on July 30 at Anderson Speedway. It is named in memory of Nolen Racing’s founder, who was a member of the Little 500 Hall of Fame.
For more information see NolenRacing.com and follow Nolen Racing on Facebook and Twitter.
Hollingsworth: “It was a tough night. We had a good car at the beginning, but during our first pit stop we didn’t get the right-front wheel on right and it came off. I don’t remember where I was on the track exactly.
“We had to make three pit stops I think. We survived to finish, so that’s better than some can say.
“We had a really good race car, but an unfortunate set of events put us in survival mode instead of race mode.”
Axsom: “I got wrecked by a lapped car in Turn 2.
“We were running P2 or P3 for a lot of the race before that. I was just sitting there, trying to put us in a good position for the end.”
Anything surprise you about your first Little 500?
“I knew we’d be good, but I didn’t think we’d be as strong as we were. I can’t thank the Nolen Racing team enough for all their hard work.
“We had two pit stops. I thought we had a good strategy.”
How tired are you, since this was your longest race to date?
“I couldn’t go 500 more laps tonight, but I was fine for the whole race.”