By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Bravery, machismo, bravado, call it what you will. On a late restart with seven laps remaining, Tyler Courtney used every ounce of it in his figurative tank to rip around near-race-long leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. to win a bittersweet “Hoosier Hundred” Thursday night, in the final running of the event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Courtney, the Indianapolis, Ind. native whose parents were part of the promotion team for the 2005 Hoosier Hundred, kept pace with Thomas, following him for 92 straight laps until making the winning move on a restart that made all the difference, one that came with a bit of advice courtesy of a voice from above.
“(Tyler Ransbottom), who’s my crew chief on the sprint car and midget, and my spotter tonight, told me on the open red that Jason McDougal had been making up time on restarts doing that same move. KT was lifting on restarts into one. So, I knew that if I could just outbrave him a little bit getting in and make sure I didn’t blow past it, it would work. Luckily, it did. You get the open track, no lapped cars, nothing, I got to run as hard as I wanted to for the last eight laps and that’s what I did. If it was going to blow, it was going to blow with me trying.”
The Hoosier Hundred’s illustrious history runs the gamut in terms of the names that have won since its debut in 1953. Courtney is fully aware of the history, and Thursday night’s win was something he doesn’t take for granted.
“My name is now alongside a lot of great names,” Courtney realized. “Including Kody Swanson, one of the best Silver Crown drivers in our lifetime. Foyt, Andretti, Pancho Carter, all those names. It’s incredible.”
Courtney started third on the grid as Chris Windom got the jump on the field on the initial start from his outside front row starting position. Windom led the first five trips around the one-mile dirt oval, but Thomas and Courtney were able to make up ground and close the gap. Thomas ducked to the inside of Windom coming off turn four with Courtney a car length behind in third when all broke loose.
Seemingly without warning, Windom’s right rear tire shredded, sending the 2016 Silver Crown champ into one of the most harrowing crashes witnessed in the century-plus history of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Windom’s car immediately veered his car right, hitting nose first into the outside wall, which sent him barrel-rolling seven times and lasting nearly a half-straightaway.
Brian Tyler and Brady Bacon took evasive action, swerving to miss the helpless Windom machine as it bounced aimlessly toward the middle of the racetrack.
Miraculously, Windom climbed from the mangled wreckage unscathed and plans to move on with his weekend, which includes his Indy Lights debut Friday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Friday night Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and a 500-lap Sprint Car race in Anderson, Ind.
Following the lengthy red flag, Thomas dominated up front, driving for four-time “Hoosier Hundred” winning team Foxco Racing to lead a race-high 87 laps. By lap 16, Thomas had already infiltrated lapped traffic and the interval between he and Courtney rarely fluctuated as Thomas built a half-straightaway lead over Courtney with a quarter of the laps in the books.
Just after halfway, four-time “Hoosier Hundred” winner Kody Swanson put the heat on Courtney for second while Thomas managed to stretch his lead from 1.5 sec. to 2.5 sec. over the following ten laps. Six-time All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Chad Kemenah then found t the turn two wall in his maiden Silver Crown start.
Though Swanson applied pressure, Courtney wasn’t going to allow him to make any sort of run at him as he bid his time in anticipation of making his own move.
“I knew if I kept KT within sight and Kody behind me, I was going to be at a good pace,” Courtney realized. “We tried not to let KT get too far. If he got too far, then I’d pick up the pace a bit. Luckily, we got that last red there and made a few adjustments, timed the restart right and made a bold move. I wanted it really bad.”
On the lap 69 restart, Swanson turned up the wick, getting to second briefly by going underneath Courtney between turns one and two. Courtney fought back on the outside and regained second by the exit of turn two as Swanson slipped back to third. Jason McDougal, meanwhile, making his second career Silver Crown start was mega-impressive using the cushion long thought to be extinct to travel from his 25th starting spot and into the top-five with 25 laps remaining.
Meanwhile, following an early-race pit stop that sent him to 28th, Brady Bacon had been shot out of a cannon and drove into the top tier nearing the race’s end and into the top-five.
Thomas worked through lapped traffic once again, getting hung up ever so slightly, allowing Courtney to close the gap briefly while Thomas nudged ahead, yet Courtney remained within striking distance, chopping down Thomas’ lead to a half-second with nine to go.
With Thomas and Courtney’s battle set to rage on down the stretch, just in front of them in turn two was two-time ALMS champion Chris Dyson who banged the turn two wall and endured his own upside-down thrill ride from which he escaped injury.
During the open red flag, Joe Devin, chassis builder for Courtney’s Hans Lein-owned entry, came over and talked to my crew chief Greg Nelson and I told him I was lacking sidebite in the middle of the corner. So, we made a couple of adjustments that helped me a ton.”
It appeared the changes helped immensely when the green flag dropped on the lap 93 restart. Without lapped traffic on the horizon now, Courtney showed no hesitation whatsoever, aiming for the top and driving it into turn one harder than he had all night up to that point. Thomas showed no vital signs of reestablishing the top spot down the stretch as Courtney grew his lead by leaps and bounds to win his second career Silver Crown race, but first on one of the historic one-mile dirt ovals where he became the first driver won in all three USAC National divisions in 2019.
Thomas finished his fourth-straight USAC Silver Crown race on dirt in the runner-up spot. Swanson’s bid for a fifth-straight “Hoosier Hundred” victory to break a tie with Al Unser (1970-73) came up short, finishing third ahead of Justin Grant and Bacon.
Contingency award winners Thursday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds included Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Jason McDougal and Mike Haggenbottom (WIlwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: May 23, 2019 – Indiana State Fairgrounds – Indianapolis, Indiana – 64th “Hoosier Hundred”
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: (Top-24 locked into feature) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 56, Foxco-32.929; 2. Chris Windom, 17, Goodnight/Byrd-33.011; 3. Tyler Courtney, 97, Lein-33.600; 4. Kody Swanson, 20, Nolen-33.671; 5. Brian Tyler, 12, Galas-33.810; 6. David Byrne, 40, Byrne-33.831; 7. Johnny Petrozelle, 8, Cornell/Petrozelle-33.884; 8. Brady Bacon, 6, Klatt-33.894; 9. Austin Nemire, 16, Nemire/Lesko-33.973; 10. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-34.067; 11. Jacob Wilson, 07, WBR-34.099; 12. Dallas Hewitt, 57, Hewitt-34.140; 13. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-34.235; 14. Billy Puterbaugh, Jr., 22, Rice/PBR-34.298; 15. Jeff Swindell, 21, Swanson-34.434; 16. Jimmy Light, 123, Two-Three-34.519; 17. Steve Buckwalter, 53, Five Three-34.523; 18. Mike Haggenbottom, 24, Haggenbottom-34.680; 19. Shane Cottle, 81, Williams-34.682; 20. John Heydenreich, 43, Felker-34.757; 21. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-34.931; 22. Chris Dyson, 9, Dyson-34.953; 23. C.J. Leary, 10, DMW-35.061; 24. Chris Phillips, 4, Phillips/Nolen-35.075; 25. Jason McDougal, 27, Phillips-35.106; 26. Eric Gordon, 78, Armstrong/Slinkard-35.188; 27. Kyle Steffens, 08, Steffens-35.249; 28. Chad Kemenah, 15, Hampshire-35.267; 29. Chuck Leary, 30, Leary-35.294; 30. Dave Darland, 14, McQuinn-35.361; 31. Korey Weyant, 99, Weyant-35.665; 32. Austin Mundie, 47, Butler-36.034; 33. Bill Rose, 66, Rose-36.045; 34. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-38.013; 35. Casey Buckman, 74, C-Buck-NT; 36. Joey Schmidt, 25, Pierce-NT; 37. Aaron Pierce, 26, Pierce-NT; 38. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-NT; 39. Shane Cockrum, 71, Hardy-NT.
QUALIFYING RACE: (12 laps, top-6 transfer) 1. McDougal, 2. Gordon, 3. Steffens, 4. Kemenah, 5. Darland, 6. Mundie, 7. C. Leary, 8. Weyant, 9. Rose, 10. Buckman, 11. Robbins, 12. Berkheimer. 7:16.97
FEATURE: (100 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (3), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (1), 3. Kody Swanson (4), 4. Justin Grant (13), 5. Brady Bacon (8), 6. Jason McDougal (25), 7. David Byrne (6), 8. Steve Buckwalter (17), 9. Brian Tyler (5), 10. Jacob Wilson (11), 11. C.J. Leary (23), 12. Russ Gamester (10), 13. Mike Haggenbottom (18), 14. Jimmy Light (16), 15. Kyle Steffens (27), 16. Matt Goodnight (21), 17. Chris Phillips (24), 18. Dave Darland (29), 19. Chris Dyson (22), 20. Austin Nemire (9), 21. Kyle Robbins (31), 22. Eric Gordon (26), 23. Shane Cottle (19), 24. Chad Kemenah (28), 25. Jeff Swindell (15), 26. Billy Puterbaugh, Jr. (14), 27. Johnny Petrozelle (7), 28. Austin Mundie (30), 29. John Heydenreich (20), 30. Bill Rose (32), 31. Chris Windom (2), 32. Dallas Hewitt (12). NT
**Windom flipped on lap 6 of the feature. Dyson flipped on lap 92 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Windom, Laps 6-92 Thomas, Laps 93-100 Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Jason McDougal (25th to 6th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Mike Haggenbottom
NEW USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES POINTS: 1-Swanson-216, 2-Grant-125, 3-Thomas-149, 4-Bobby Santos-134, 5-Byrne-120, 6-Kyle Hamilton-116, 7-Schmidt-114, 8-Haggenbottom-113, 9-Nemire-108, 10-Dyson-102.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES RACE: May 24, 2019 – Lucas Oil Raceway – Brownsburg, Indiana – “Dave Steele Carb Night Classic”