Nolen Racing's Tanner Swanson Finishes Third in Little 500 at Anderson Speedway
ANDERSON, Ind., June 1 — The late Gene Nolen, founder of Nolen Racing, dearly loved fielding cars powered by Chevy V6 engines against the V8s in the biggest asphalt sprint car race in the world, the Pay Less Little 500 presented by UAW at Anderson Speedway.
He would be pleased that his son, Greg, is continuing that tradition, and that Tanner Swanson drove a Nolen Racing V6 to a podium finish in the 73rd annual edition of the race Saturday night.
Swanson, of Kingsburg, Calif., started fifth and finished third in the Nolen Racing Beast No. 4 sponsored by KECO Coatings and powered by a Tranter-prepped Chevy V6.
Shane Hollingsworth of Lafayette, Ind., who finished second for the Whiteland, Ind.-based team in this race last year, made his way deliberately through the field from his 14th-place starting spot in the Nolen Racing Beast No. 20, which is also sponsored by KECO Coatings with a Tranter-prepped Chevy V6. He was as high as eighth. Unfortunately he was involved in a three-car accident in Turns 1 and 2 on lap 187 while running in tenth place, and was forced to make the walk back to the pits while his car returned there on the hook of a wrecker.
Swanson was as high as second during the race and never further back than seventh. He was sixth or seventh during the first 115 laps of the 500-lap race on the quarter-mile asphalt oval. He moved into fifth place on lap 116 by passing Derek Bischak, and fourth on lap 164 when the driver who had been fifth, Dakoda Armstrong, encountered a problem.
He moved into third on lap 175 when the driver in second, Caleb Armstrong, made a pit stop under one of the 13 caution periods during the race. Swanson made a pit stop himself under a yellow on lap 204, which dropped him back to sixth place, but he was back in the top five four laps later due to another rival pitting. He regained fourth on lap 224 by passing Bobby Santos III, and third one lap before the halfway point by passing Scott Hampton.
He moved into second on lap 258 by passing Caleb Armstrong, with the leader and eventual winner, Tyler Roahrig, about 2 seconds ahead. He cut Roahrig’s advantage to 0.577 of a second by lap 270 and remained in second place for 116 laps, about 1.2 seconds behind Roahrig while holding off his brother, Kody Swanson. The top three were the only drivers on the lead lap by that point.
His brother passed him on lap 373 to push him back to third, and he dropped to fourth on lap 387 when he made his second and final pit stop under caution about the same time Roahrig and Kody Swanson did. Hampton had pitted earlier, so Hampton got the lead at that point (lap 388) and rejoined the lead-lap cars followed by Roahrig, Kody Swanson and Tanner Swanson for the restart on lap 391.
Roahrig retook the lead from Hampton right after the restart, and the Swanson brothers were also able to pass Hampton almost immediately. The top three positions never changed from that point until the checkered, although there was one more caution for Travis Welpott’s spin from laps 471-478.
Roahrig, Kody Swanson and Tanner Swanson were the only drivers in the field of 33 who completed all 500 laps.
Hollingsworth was thinking “big picture” even before the start. He was focused on finishing, and was well on his way to joining the front-runners until the accident occurred.
He dropped two positions initially, but he was 15th on lap 12 after passing Jerry Coons Jr.; 14th on lap 20 after passing the driver who ended up fourth, Hampton; 13th on lap 23 after Bryan Gossel spun in front of him, and 12th from lap 75 through 100 after he passed Nick Hamilton.
He got 11th on lap 101 by passing Brian Gerster. He broke into the top 10 on lap 126 after the fourth yellow when Brian Vaughn spun in Turns 1 and 2 and Brian Tyler and Chris Neuenschwander also tangled, as Neuenschwander had been seventh at the time.
Hollingsworth advanced to ninth on lap 138 after the driver who was right in front of him, Kyle Hamilton, hit the wall in Turn 3. He took over eighth place on lap 164 when the fifth-place driver, Dakota Armstrong, pitted under the sixth yellow.
That yellow lasted 15 laps, so the Nolen Racing crew called Hollingsworth into the pits to make his first stop. It went well; he only lost two positions and he was in tenth place for the restart on lap 180.
Unfortunately on lap 188 he was one of the drivers involved in a three-car accident in Turns 1 and 2, and the Nolen Racing No. 20 sustained too much right-front damage to continue. Two drivers who were a couple laps down to him, Dameron Taylor and Neuenschwander, were the other drivers involved in the accident, which brought out the race’s seventh caution. All were done for the rest of the evening.
Hollingsworth ended up 22nd in the final rundown.
As far as times went, Tanner Swanson’s fastest race lap came early, on lap five, and it was the fifth-fastest in the field at 11.559 seconds. Hollingsworth’s came later, on lap 59, with a time of 11.869.
Swanson qualified fifth on Thursday with a combined four-lap combined time of 44.969 seconds, which was only 0.472 of a second off his brother’s pole-winning run. He was one of only five drivers to post a sub-45 second qualifying run.
Hollingsworth qualified 14th with a four-lap combined time of 45.893, which was only 1.396 seconds off the pole in the very competitive field and five positions better than last year, when he started 19th and finished second.
The team’s next race is scheduled to be the “Thursday Night Thunder Homecoming” on Thursday, June 17 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind., which will pay $5,000 to the winners of both the pavement sprint car and the midget races.
For more information please see NolenRacing.com and follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
Post-race quotes follow:
Tanner Swanson: “It was the best finish I’ve had so far in the Little 500, because in my previous two starts I had engine problems. It’s a long race. Of course we wanted to win, but coming in third behind those two cars was a good effort. Anytime you can get on the podium at the Little 500, it’s an accomplishment.
“The Nolen Racing team was awesome. The car was good and we had great pit stops. I thought we had a shot at it, but during the last stint we didn’t have the speed that the 56 and the 77 had.
“I’m looking forward to trying again at Lucas Oil Raceway on June 17.”
Shane Hollingsworth: “I’m OK today [Monday]. I was sore yesterday, but I’m OK now. I’m disappointed, but that’s how the Little 500 goes sometimes.
“We had just made our first pit stop. We had moved forward after the start, and we were on track to run our race. We were trying to save our equipment, manage the race, and stay in contention for a final push at the end, after the leaders had made their final pit stops.
“We were happy with the progress we’d made. The car was good. Our first pit stop went well. I think we were on track to be running with the leaders at the end.
“My contact was with the No. 8 car, which was a couple laps down. I saw that Chris Neuenschwander was involved too, but I have no idea how he got into it. The No. 8 car was one of the more challenging cars to lap; I had done it a couple of times before. I guess this year was our year to get bit.
“I’m not sure what my next race will be. It might be the Tony Elliott race at Anderson on Oct. 2, but we have a lot of work to do to repair the car now, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Prior to the start of the 2021 Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, team owner Greg Nolen poses beside the sprint car Tanner Swanson drove to a third-place finish.