CLERMONT, Ind. — Throughout the first four races of the USAC Silver Crown season, Kody Swanson felt a bit guilty that he hadn’t yet broken through for victory.
Entering the first turn on the opening lap of Thursday Night Thunder Homecoming’s unique 10-car USAC Silver Crown Shootout at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, the Kingsburg, Calif., native pulled no punches, taking a deep dive to the apron to successfully pass both occupants of the front row.
After making a close shave of the turn one infield grass blades, Swanson went virtually unchallenged for the 25-lap distance in his Doran-Dyson Racing/Glenn Farms – Henry U.S.A. – Duncan Oil/Beast/Lanci Ford.
Swanson became the first winner of a USAC Silver Crown non-points special event since Jack Hewitt at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 1996. Swanson is also the first victor of such an event on a paved oval since George Snider tamed Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Mile in 1979.
Swanson’s early season winless drought remains the furthest along in a Silver Crown season he’s gone without a victory since 2013. Points or no points, the six-time series champion wanted this one badly, and he made sure he took care of business immediately.
“This time, I really wanted to show what a good car these guys give me because they’ve been giving me great cars all year,” Swanson said. “I hate that I hadn’t won anything for them yet.”
Due to the nature of the event, it was, for all intents and purposes, a sprint race featuring Silver Crown cars. That afforded Swanson the opportunity to be uncharacteristically aggressive on the opening lap instead of having to preserve and conserve for a normal 100-lap distance.
“Silver crown races are tough because when your car is good, you can’t show it. You’ve got to take care of it until the end,” Swanson explained. “It was a blast to go four wheels on the apron there to try and get the lead and just show them what these cars are capable of.”
The resulting 14th career USAC feature triumph at IRP moved Swanson to within one score of 15-time IRP winner Tracy Hines on the track’s all-time USAC win list.
Swanson jetted from third to first on the first corner of the opening lap, briefly making it three-wide for the lead, by charging past pole sitter Nick Hamilton and outside front row starter C.J. Leary. Leary immediately slipped under Hamilton off turn two and ventured his way toward Swanson.
Nearing midway, Swanson’s lead stood strong at a clip of two full seconds over Leary, but a sudden charge from fifth row combatants Tanner Swanson and Bobby Santos formed a formidable duo in positions four and five, respectively, both of whom were on the hunt to track down Kody in the latter stages.
Suddenly, second-running Leary spun all by his lonesome in between turns one and two on lap 16, the culprit being a flat left rear tire which initiated the spin. Leary did not return for the restart.
Bumped up another position due to Leary’s incident, Tanner ultimately cleared Hamilton at the exit of turn two to snare second on the lap 16 restart. Santos followed suit a lap later and blitzed underneath Hamilton to take over third on lap 17.
Yet, once Tanner and Santos were in the clear, they were no match for Kody throughout the last eight circuits around the .686-mile paved oval as Kody steadily increased his lead to 1.969 seconds at the finish line in the $2,500-to-win, $1,000-to-start event.
Tanner Swanson corralled a second in the final tally with Bobby Santos third, Taylor Ferns in the fourth position and Nick Hamilton rounding out the top five in just his second time behind the wheel of a Silver Crown car.
Twelve cars and drivers made an attempt to qualify for the 10-car field. Among the top-10 qualifiers, a blind draw was held prior to the main event to determine the starting positions. Series veterans Brian Tyler and Russ Gamester, who missed the cut to make the starting lineup for the event by qualifying in positions 11 and 12, respectively. Tyler and Gamester rank first and second in all-time career Silver Crown starts.