INDIANAPOLIS — Since leaving California for the Midwest, Jake Swanson had won multiple USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship races, but had never had the good fortune of winning a USAC feature in his newly adopted home state of Indiana.
On Wednesday, during the opening night of the Circle City Salute, Swanson and Team AZ Racing made Circle City Raceway feel like home sweet home.
Swanson wheeled his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Stratis Construction – USW Cat Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy to the lead on lap 12 past Robert Ballou, then sped away to a convincing 2.114-second victory at the quarter-mile dirt oval to earn his first USAC points race victory of the season.
Back in February, Swanson collected a non-points special event triumph down in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park.
“I’m so pumped for my guys on this race team,” Swanson exclaimed. “It’s so cool that I’ve got all these guys from Arizona and we’re able to figure out how to win here. We’ve had help from different guys here and there, but for the most part, it’s Mike and Craig (Burkhart) and I week-in and week-out. We’re going to make it on stubbornness, and we finally have. It feels really good to finally check that off the list, and now we can just keep racking them up.”
Swanson began his quest from the fourth starting spot in the 30-lap event, giving chase to pole sitter Robert Ballou who spurted out to the early lead. However, the feature’s only stoppage came amid trouble on lap two as 13th running Kevin Thomas Jr. flipped in turn three.
On the resumption, Swanson immediately began making his presence felt, sliding first-time USAC National Sprint Car feature starter Rylan Gray for the second spot on the fourth lap before taking aim at Ballou.
Swanson’s next shot fired saw him swipe the lead from Ballou momentarily in turn four on lap 11. However, Ballou was cognizant of Swanson’s trajectory up the racetrack and promptly cut back under to retake the lead by the time the two reached the stripe separated by a mere car length.
The next time around on lap 12 found a different set of circumstances to navigate, however. In turn three, 21st-running Ricky Lewis occupied the top groove that Ballou had been attached to thus far.
Nonetheless, with Lewis there, Ballou was forced to jump down low, and as he slid up the surface across the nose of Lewis, Swanson launched off the cushion midway through turns three and four and shot to the bottom of four to make it three-wide with both Swanson and Ballou splitting around each side of Lewis with Swanson edging Ballou by a single chrome horn.
Swanson slid up in front of Ballou on entry to turn one a moment later with Swanson’s rear bumper and Ballou’s front bumper grazing each other before Swanson took off for good.
“I was kind of biding my time,” Swanson said. “I didn’t want to show him where I was; I wanted to strike and not even let him know that I was coming. Unfortunately, I did that. He was able to get through the rough down there better than I was, but we were so much better through the black and everywhere else. We were really good. Even though he knew we were there, I knew he had such a train of lapped cars in front of him that, as long as we were smart, we’d be able to pull it off and I knew it was going to be a good race between us.”
On lap 13, Cummins swept past Ballou for the second spot in turn three. Ballou knew it was coming, turned down under Cummins to edge ahead at the exit of turn four when contact between Ballou’s right rear tire and Cummins’ left front sent Cummins on a near collision course with the outside wall. Cummins maintained control without losing a position.
Cummins picked off Ballou for second with an outside turn-two pass on lap 17 while Bacon slipped under Ballou on lap 21.
Up front, however, it was all Swanson who accumulated his third career USAC National Sprint Car feature victory over Cummins, Bacon, fast-qualifier Justin Grant and Ballou.
With his runner-up finish, Kyle Cummins took over the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point lead by five markers over C.J. Leary, who finished seventh.
USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Circle City Raceway, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 24, 2023
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.205; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.253; 3. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-12.351; 4. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.398; 5. Rylan Gray, 81G, Gray-12.483; 6. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-12.612; 7. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-12.614; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.626; 9. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-12.643; 10. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-12.660; 11. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-12.676; 12. Kevin Thomas Jr., 17GP, Dutcher-12.689; 13. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-12.699; 14. Jadon Rogers, 5, Baldwin/Fox-12.709; 15. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-12.738; 16. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-12.774; 17. Scotty Weir, 24, Simon-12.779; 18. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.781; 19. Thomas Meseraull, 2E, Epperson-12.919; 20. Gabriel Gilbert, 10G, GGR-12.963; 21. Tye Mihocko, 2H, Hayden-12.967; 22. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-12.977; 23. Ricky Lewis, 41, Brown-12.992; 24. Tyler Hewitt, 118, Evans-13.032; 25. Koby Barksdale, 16K, Knight-13.037; 26. Kevin Newton, 16TH, Newton-13.110; 27. Sterling Cling, 34, SCR-13.205; 28. Jackson Slone, 16, Borzio/Slone-13.313; 29. Kayla Roell, 5K, KO-13.410; 30. Ivan Glotzbach, i1, Glotzbach-13.574.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Charles Davis Jr., 6. Emerson Axsom, 7. Chase Stockon, 8. Koby Barksdale, 9. Jackson Slone, 10. Brandon Mattox. 2:09.22
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Garrett, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Scotty Weir, 5. Rylan Gray, 6. Jadon Rogers, 7. Gabriel Gilbert, 8. Kayla Roell, 9. Ricky Lewis, 10. Kevin Newton. 2:13.69
T.J. FORGED/CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Mitchel Moles, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Matt Westfall, 7. Tyler Hewitt, 8. Sterling Cling, 9. Ivan Glotzbach, 10. Logan Seavey. 2:15.26
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Tyler Hewitt, 7. Ricky Lewis, 8. Kayla Roell, 9. Kevin Newton, 10. Koby Barksdale, 11. Jackson Slone, 12. Gabriel Gilbert, 13. Sterling Cling, 14. Ivan Glotzbach, 15. Brandon Mattox. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jake Swanson (4), 2. Kyle Cummins (3), 3. Brady Bacon (5), 4. Justin Grant (6), 5. Robert Ballou (1), 6. Mitchel Moles (8), 7. C.J. Leary (12), 8. Chase Stockon (10), 9. Daison Pursley (16), 10. Carson Garrett (7), 11. Emerson Axsom (17), 12. Rylan Gray (2), 13. Logan Seavey (9), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (14), 15. Scotty Weir (18), 16. Thomas Meseraull (19), 17. Jadon Rogers (15), 18. Matt Westfall (11), 19. Kevin Thomas Jr. (13), 20. Tye Mihocko (20), 21. Tyler Hewitt (22), 22. Ricky Lewis (21). NT