By RICHIE MURRAY
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – As you dance your eyes down the list of “Hoosier Hundred” winners throughout the past six decades, it’s easily recognizable to see and feel the history that this race carries.
You’ve got Indianapolis 500 winners, all seven of them: Bob Sweikert (1953), Jimmy Bryan (1954-55-56), Rodger Ward (1959-63), A.J. Foyt (1960-61-64-65-68-69), Parnelli Jones (1962), Mario Andretti (1966-67) and Al Unser (1970-71-72-73).
You’ve got USAC Hall of Famers Tom Bigelow (1975), Pancho Carter (1977), Gary Bettenhausen (1980), Larry Rice (1981), Chuck Gurney (1982-83), Sheldon Kinser (1985) and Jack Hewitt (1986-88-89).
And you’ve got the heroes of today, those of which are entered for this Thursday’s 63rdrunning of the famed race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds dirt mile, namely Jeff Swindell (1991-1993), Dave Darland (1995-96-2004), Jerry Coons, Jr. (2011-12) and Kody Swanson (2014-15-16).
Following last year’s rain out, Kingsburg, California’s Swanson resumes his chase of history this Thursday when he aims for a fourth-straight “Hoosier Hundred” victory. It’s something that’s only been accomplished once, by Al Unser between 1970 and 1973. The current series point leader recently became just the second driver to reach the 20-win club in the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car division with his early May win on the pavement at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway in the DePalma Motorsports No. 63. Swanson holds a 27-point lead in the standings after three rounds in his quest for an unprecedented fourth series title.
Swanson’s methodical, calculating precision has seen him take the lead at about the same point of the race in each of his three “Hoosier Hundred” triumphs. In 2014, he took the lead from Bobby East on the 78th lap. A year later, in 2015, it was lap 68 when he reached the front with a pass on A.J. Fike. In 2016, Swanson ripped past Shane Cottle on lap 67 and led the rest of the way for the win.
Two-time “Hoosier Hundred” winner Jerry Coons, Jr. is always a consistent frontrunner on the miles. In fact, his last two appearances on a dirt mile in the Gene Nolen Racing No. 20 have resulted in pole position starts at Springfield and Du Quoin in 2017 and his last start at the Indy Mile had him starting from the outside of the front row, leading 32 laps and finishing third. He has two wins on the Indy Mile already and is the only driver not named Kody Swanson to win back-to-back races at the track in the last 17 seasons.
At first, it appeared as if three-time “Hoosier Hundred” winner Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana may not have a ride for this year’s race. A possible deal to jump in a second car for another established team did not materialize. However, longtime Darland competitor Bill Rose came to the rescue, providing a second car to the USAC Triple Crown champ. Rose will compete in the No. 66 while Darland will take the wheel of the 75. Rose also came to the aid of Chris Windom in the series’ lone dirt appearance at Terre Haute, supplying a car to the 2016 champ who charged from 13th to 4th in the 100-lapper.
Jeff Swindell has pretty much done it all and seen it all in dirt track racing. He owns three Silver Crown wins on the Indy Mile, including “Hoosier Hundred” victories in 1991 and 1993. The Germantown, Tennessee driver was excellent on the dirt miles in 2017, charging from 28thto 3rd at Springfield and then led a race-high 68 laps at Du Quoin en route to another 3rdplace result aboard Mark Swanson’s No. 21.
Second in points, Justin Grant was the victor in the series’ lone appearance on the dirt in April at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. Grant has also found success on the dirt miles, winning on the very similar Illinois State Fairgrounds track in Springfield a year ago. Back in 2015, the Ione, California native recorded a career-best Indy Mile finish of 5th.
After dipping his toes back in Silver Crown racing last September at Du Quoin, Fenton, Missouri’s Ken Schrader will make his return to the “Hoosier Hundred” for the first time since 1985. It’s an unprecedented 33-year gap between appearances in the race for any driver. However, drivers returning to the “Hoosier Hundred” after extensive sabbaticals have been successful in recent years. In 2015, Rickey Hood returned to the race following a 19-year absence, finishing an impressive seventh.
Chris Windom’s extensive resume is absent a “Hoosier Hundred” victory thus far, but he does have a dirt mile track Silver Crown win under his belt at Du Quoin in 2016. This year, the Canton, Illinois driver is a teammate with Coons in the Gene Nolen Racing stable, a team that has won this race on three occasions: 2000 and 2001 with Tony Elliott and in 2009 with Shane Hollingsworth.
Additional entries come from past USAC National champions Brady Bacon (2014-16 National Sprint Car), Brian Tyler (1996-97 National Sprint Car) and Russ Gamester (1989 National Midget), plus past Silver Crown race winners Aaron Pierce, C.J. Leary, David Byrne, Shane Cockrum and Tyler Courtney.
Race Rookies entered for the event include USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. who makes his Indy Mile debut with the Foxco team operated by Galen Fox, the owner of five Hoosier Hundred victories with drivers Steve Chassey (1984), Kenny Jacobs (1987) and Darland (1995, 1996 & 2004). Additionally, Fox won a pair of “Hulman Hundred” races at the Indy Mile with Chuck Gurney (1988) and Darland (1995).
The rest of the Rookie class is represented by leading series first-year driver Travis Welpott, Kyle Robbins, Johnny Petrozelle, Chris Dyson, Dave Berkheimer, Daniel Robinson, Austin Mundie, Korey Weyant and Mike Haggenbottom.
The May 24 “Hoosier Hundred” presented by TBA Oil & Warehouse begins with the pits opening at noon, grandstands opening at 3pm, practice at 5pm and racing at 7pm. The 100-mile main event is scheduled for an 8pm start.
Tickets can be obtained by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or at the gate on raceday. A three-day special Superticket for the full Week of Indy including the “Tony Hulman Classic” at the Terre Haute Action Track featuring the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars on Wednesday, May 23, the “Hoosier Hundred” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Thursday, May 24 and the “Carb Night Classic” at Lucas Oil Raceway on Friday, May 25 is also available at https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-week-of-indy.
The “Hulman Classic,” “Hoosier Hundred” and the “Dave Steele Carb Night Classic” will all be streamed LIVE on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/. A day following each of the races, you can watch it again, on-demand, at http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.
“HOOSIER HUNDRED” ENTRY LIST:
04 (R) NEIL SHEPHERD/Warsaw, IN (Shepherd Racing)
07 JACOB WILSON/Crawfordsville, IN (Wilson Brothers Racing)
2 PATRICK LAWSON/Edwardsville, IL (Patrick Lawson)
4 JOE LIGUORI/Tampa, FL (Liguori Racing)
5 J.C. BLAND/Springfield, IL (Bland Brothers Enterprises)
6 BRADY BACON/Broken Arrow, OK (Klatt Enterprises)
7 (R) KYLE ROBBINS/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
8 (R) JOHNNY PETROZELLE/Denton, NC (Cornell-Petrozelle Racing)
9 (R) CHRIS DYSON/Pleasant Valley, NY (Chris Dyson Racing)
12 BRIAN TYLER/Mt. Pleasant, NC (Galas Motorsports)
14 KEN SCHRADER/Fenton, MO (Dennis & Dave McQuinn)
16 AUSTIN NEMIRE/Sylvania, OH (Nemire-Lesko Racing)
17 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Gene Nolen Racing)
18 KENNY GENTRY/Henderson, KY (Kenny Gentry)
20 JERRY COONS, JR./Tucson, AZ (Gene Nolen Racing)
21 JEFF SWINDELL/Germantown, TN (Swanson Racing)
26 AARON PIERCE/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
30 C.J. LEARY/Greenfield, IN (Leary Racing)
31 (R) DAVE BERKHEIMER/Mechanicsburg, PA (Berkheimer Racing)
39 MATT GOODNIGHT/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
40 DAVID BYRNE/Shullsburg, WI (Byrne Racing)
43 (R) DANIEL ROBINSON/Ewing, IL (Ricky Nix/A.J. Felker)
44 DANNY LONG/Bonne Terre, MO (Danny Long)
47 (R) AUSTIN MUNDIE/Dallas, TX (Les Butler)
51 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)
53 STEVE BUCKWALTER/Royersford, PA (SET Racing)
55 CASEY SHUMAN/Tempe, AZ (Bateman Racing)
56 (R) KEVIN THOMAS, JR./Cullman, AL (Foxco Racing)
63 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (DePalma Motorsports)
66 BILL ROSE/Plainfield, IN (Bill Rose Racing)
71 SHANE COCKRUM/Benton, IL (Hardy Boys Racing)
75 DAVE DARLAND/Lincoln, IN (Bill Rose Racing)
81 SHANE COTTLE/Kokomo, IN (Curtis Williams)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
97 TYLER COURTNEY/Indianapolis, IN (Hans Lein)
99 (R) KOREY WEYANT/Springfield, IL (Scott Weyant)
114 COLEMAN GULICK/Binghamton, NY (Team Scorpion)
118 (R) TRAVIS WELPOTT/Pendleton, IN (Welpott Racing)
124 (R) MIKE HAGGENBOTTOM/Levittown, PA (Haggenbottom Racing)
(R) represents a USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series Rookie of the Year contender.