IRP and Thursday Night Simply Goes Together

By Richie Murray – USAC Media
BROWNSBURG, IN-Bobby Santos had a night to remember during last year’s Thursday Night Thunder Homecoming at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Santos (Franklin, Mass.) had won the sprint car feature earlier in the night at the paved .686-mile paved oval, then finished the evening by scoring a win in the nightcap’s 40-lap Brown’s Oil Champion midget feature.
It sounds awfully similar to the fashion that Santos spent his most recent visit to IRP in May of this season when he followed up his midget victory with a USAC Silver Crown score.
During this week’s Thursday Night Thunder Homecoming, Santos and others will hold an opportunity in their hands to sweep all three features on June 30 at IRP.
The open wheel racing tripleheader encompasses the 500 Sprint Car Tour, the Browns Oil Champion Midgets and a Silver Crown Shootout. The Midget and Silver Crown races are sanctioned by USAC but are considered non-points special events under the USAC banner.
Santos charged from his fourth starting position to the lead in last year’s homecoming, making his way to the front with a turn one pass on lap three to secure his position at the front of the field, and now owns four midget victories at the IRP.
He and Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) possess 13 USAC wins apiece at IRP in their careers, tied for second all-time behind Tracy Hines at 15. With a triple sweep on Thursday, one of the two would find their way to the top of the chart.
Kody, himself, has won three midget features at IRP in his career. He was the fastest qualifier and runner-up finisher in the 2021 Homecoming. His younger brother, Tanner Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.), has earned his fair share of success at IRP, winning seven times total, including once in a midget during the 2010 Night Before the 500. Tanner finished 3rd in the Homecoming feature a year ago and was 5th this past May.
Cole Carter (Brownsburg, Ind.), son of four-time IRP USAC winner Pancho Carter, took 6th in the Homecoming feature last year. He turned in another top-ten performance with a 9th back in May.
Nick Hamilton (Danville, Ind.), Jake Trainor (Medway, Mass.) and Cody Gerhardt (Fresno, Calif.) each completed the distance of the Homecoming feature last year inside the top-ten. Hamilton collected a 7th, Trainor 8th and Gerhardt 9th. Trainor came back this past May and turned quite a few heads as the 17-year-old NEMA series regular finished as the runner-up to Santos.
Nathan Byrd’s grandfather, Jonathan Byrd, owned the car that Rich Vogler raced to four USAC National Midget victories at IRP between 1988-89. Now, Nathan (Goodyear, Ariz.) is in the process of establishing his own footprint behind the wheel. He scored an 11th at Homecoming in 2021 and upped his performance to a 10th this past May.
Rejoining the field from last year’s Homecoming lineup are Plainfield, Indiana’s Kevin Studley (12th), Hillsborough, California’s Toni Breidinger (13th) and Beech Grove, Indiana’s Kyle O’Gara (16th in 2021 & 15th in May), the 2014 USAC Pavement Midget champ.
The top-two drivers on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship circuit this year will be hitting the pavement this Thursday night. That includes point leader Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) and Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.). Kofoid, the defending USAC National Midget champ, scored a 6th place result this past May. Grant ran 5th in the midget at IRP in May of 2021.
They will both be making their Homecoming debuts as will a slew of others who competed last month during the Carb Night Classic. On that evening, Dakoda Armstrong (New Castle, Ind.) led the first 11 laps and finished 3rd. Chuck Gurney Jr. (Livermore, Calif.) posted back-to-back USAC Midget wins at IRP in 2008-09 and enters Thursday coming off a 4th place result in May.
Davey Hamilton Jr. (Boise, Idaho) was an 8th place finisher in May, ahead of 2016 USAC Western HPD Midget champ, Morgan Hill, California’s Blake Brannon (11th), plus 2017 Bay Cities Racing Association Midget titlist, Macdoel, California’s Maria Cofer (12th), Suffield, Connecticut’s Todd Bertrand (13th) and Mendon, Massachusetts’ Johnny Zych (19th).
Also aiming for their first Homecoming starts are Chad Nichols (Danville, Calif.) who captured three consecutive USAC Western States Pavement Midget titles in 2012-13-14 as well as POWRi WAR Sprint Car champion Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.), Ryan Shilkuski (Spring Valley, Ill.) and Brandon Maurer (Sherman, Ill.)
USAC’s Hall of Fame ceremony is slated to take place during opening ceremonies prior to the three feature events, which is scheduled to begin at 7:50pm Eastern as the new class of inductees are honored.
The Hall of Fame ceremony will be followed by a 30-lap, $5,000-to-win 500 Sprint Car Tour feature, a 25-lap, 10-car, $2,500-to-win race for the Silver Crown cars and finish up with the midgets going for $5,000 in a 35-lap A-Main.
The United States Auto Club has previously announced its eight inductees into its latest class. The list includes car owner/mechanic Doug Caruthers; driver Jay Drake; car owner/mechanic Galen Fox; driver Jeff Gordon; driver/car owner/builder/innovator Dan Gurney; car owner/mechanic Ray Nichels; car owner/official/promoter Johnny Vance; and track owner/promoter Joe Shaheen.
Jeff Gordon and representatives for the late Dan Gurney received their Hall of Fame awards during separate ceremonies in 2021.
Spectator gates will open at 4pm Eastern with practice set to begin for the three series starting at 4pm. Qualifying will start at 6:25pm with the opening ceremonies tabbed for 7:50pm and followed each of the three feature events.
General admission tickets are $25 apiece while tickets for kids age 12 and under are free.
The entire event from IRP will be shown live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3u7ID2N.
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MIDGET ENTRY LIST: (24 CARS)
2 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Rams)
4 DAVEY HAMILTON JR./Boise, ID (Klatt)
7 COLE CARTER/Brownsburg, IN (Bertrand)
7A DAKODA ARMSTRONG/New Castle, IN (C & A)
7K NICK HAMILTON/Danville, IN (Irwin)
7x TANNER SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (RMS)
9 JOHNNY ZYCH/Mendon, MA (Zych)
14 BRANDON MAURER/Sherman, IL (Maurer)
29 JAKE TRAINOR/Medway, MA (Seymour)
40 BLAKE BRANNON/Morgan Hill, CA (Western Speed)
44 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Bertrand)
47 TODD BERTRAND/Suffield, CT (Bertrand)
47x NATHAN BYRD/Goodyear, AZ (Bertrand)
48 RYAN SHILKUSKI/Spring Valley, IL (Shilkuski)
51 CHUCK GURNEY JR./Livermore, CA (3 Stooges)
57 MARIA COFER/Macdoel, CA (Abacus)
57K KEVIN STUDLEY/Plainfield, IN (Studley)
60 CODY GERHARDT/Fresno, CA (Gerhardt)
67 BUDDY KOFOID/Penngrove, CA (3 Stooges/KKM)
67K KYLE O’GARA/Beech Grove, IN (SFHR)
67z CHAD NICHOLS/Danville, CA (Nichols)
80 TONI BREIDINGER/Hillsborough, CA (Breidinger)
98 BOBBY SANTOS/Franklin, MA (3 Stooges)
99 MARIO CLOUSER/Auburn, IL (Guess)
THURSDAY NIGHT THUNDER HOMECOMING MIDGET RESULTS:
2021 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Bobby Santos, 2. Kody Swanson, 3. Tanner Swanson, 4. Josh Wise, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Cole Carter, 7. Nick Hamilton, 8. Jake Trainor, 9. Cody Gerhardt, 10. Tyler Roahrig, 11. Nathan Byrd, 12. Kevin Studley, 13. Toni Breidinger, 14. John Sluss, 15. Dalton Armstrong, 16. Kyle O’Gara, 17. Taylor Ferns. NT
THURSDAY NIGHT THUNDER HOMECOMING MIDGET WINS AT IRP:
1-Bobby Santos
THURSDAY NIGHT THUNDER HOMECOMING USAC MIDGET WINNERS AT IRP:
2021: Bobby Santos (6/17 – SE)
(SE) represents a non-points special event
USAC MIDGET WINS AT IRP:
7-Johnny Parsons
6-Dan Drinan, Tracy Hines, Mel Kenyon & Kenneth Nichols
5-Ryan Newman, Dave Steele, Tony Stewart & Rich Vogler
4-Jeff Gordon, Doug Kalitta, Jason Leffler & Bobby Santos,
3-Bob Cicconi, Stan Fox, Kasey Kahne, Don Schilling, Kody Swanson, Sleepy Tripp & Bob Wente
2-Mike Bliss, Billy Engelhart, Bryan Clauson, Jack Calabrase, Jimmy Caruthers, Aaron Fike, Nick Fornoro Jr., Brian Gerster, Chuck Gurney Jr., Darren Hagen, Jim Hettinger, Kenny Irwin Jr., Lee Kunzman, Mack McClellan & Andy Michner
1-Tommy Astone, Gary Bettenhausen, Merle Bettenhausen, Don Branson, Pancho Carter, Bobby East, Mike Fedorcak, Mike Gregg, Ron Gregory, Ted Hines, Sam Isenhower, Jim Keeker, Kyle Larson, Greg Leffler, Michael Lewis, Steve Lotshaw, Jan Opperman, Henry Pens, Stevie Reeves, Ken Schrader, Tanner Swanson, Kevin Swindell, Randy Tolsma, Billy Vukovich & Josh Wise
USAC MIDGET WINNERS AT IRP:
1961: Don Branson (8/27)
1965: Bob Wente (9/26)
1968: Billy Vukovich (8/10) & Merle Bettenhausen (9/21)
1969: Bob Wente (5/29), Henry Pens (5/29), Billy Engelhart (7/12), Mel Kenyon (8/2) & Lee Kunzman (9/20)
1970: Lee Kunzman (5/29) & Jimmy Caruthers (7/16)
1971: Jimmy Caruthers (5/28)
1974: Tommy Astone (5/25)
1975: Billy Engelhart (5/24), Johnny Parsons (7/16) & Sleepy Tripp (8/20)
1976: Sleepy Tripp (4/11), Bob Wente (5/29), Johnny Parsons (6/30), Sleepy Tripp (7/14) & Jan Opperman (8/18)
1977: Gary Bettenhausen (4/17), Mel Kenyon (5/28), Johnny Parsons (6/15), Johnny Parsons (7/20) & Johnny Parsons (8/10)
1978: Johnny Parsons (4/30), Rich Vogler (5/27) & Pancho Carter (6/14)
1979: Mel Kenyon (5/26) & Mel Kenyon (5/27)
1980: Mel Kenyon (5/24) & Mel Kenyon (8/31)
1981: Mack McClellan (5/23) & Mack McClellan (8/29)
1982: Greg Leffler (7/3)
1983: Ken Schrader (5/28)
1984: Steve Lotshaw (5/26)
1985: Nick Fornoro Jr. (5/25)
1986: Sam Isenhower (5/24)
1987: Nick Fornoro Jr. (5/23)
1988: Jack Calabrase (5/28), Jim Keeker (6/23), Bob Cicconi (6/30), Mike Gregg (7/14), Jack Calabrase (7/21), Rich Vogler (8/4) & Rich Vogler (8/11)
1989: Jeff Gordon (5/27), Rich Vogler (6/22), Jeff Gordon (7/6), Don Schilling (7/20), Rich Vogler (8/3) & Don Schilling (8/17)
1990: Jeff Gordon (5/26), Jeff Gordon (7/28) & Don Schilling (8/11)
1991: Bob Cicconi (5/4), Mike Fedorcak (5/25), Stan Fox (6/22), Stan Fox (7/6), Bob Cicconi (7/20), Jim Hettinger (8/23 – SE) & Stan Fox (8/24)
1992: Kenneth Nichols (5/2), Dan Drinan (5/16), Doug Kalitta (5/23), Doug Kalitta (5/30), Kenny Irwin Jr. (7/18), Dan Drinan (7/18) & Kenneth Nichols (8/15)
1993: Kenneth Nichols (5/8), Stevie Reeves (5/22), Mike Bliss (5/29), Kenneth Nichols (6/12), Randy Tolsma (6/19), Jim Hettinger (7/10) & Kenny Irwin Jr. (8/21)
1994: Tony Stewart (5/14), Brian Gerster (5/21), Ted Hines (5/28), Andy Michner (6/11), Tony Stewart (6/30), Dan Drinan (7/21) & Mike Bliss (8/18)
1995: Brian Gerster (5/6), Dan Drinan (5/13), Andy Michner (5/28), Dan Drinan (7/13), Johnny Parsons (7/27), Dan Drinan (8/2) & Tony Stewart (8/17)
1996: Kenneth Nichols (5/11), Kenneth Nichols (5/25), Doug Kalitta (6/23), Doug Kalitta (7/17) & Tony Stewart (8/14)
1997: Tony Stewart (5/10), Ryan Newman (5/24), Tracy Hines (7/23) & Ryan Newman (8/13)
1998: Dave Steele (5/24), Tracy Hines (8/12) & Ryan Newman (9/19)
1999: Ryan Newman (5/29), Ryan Newman (8/18) & Jason Leffler (9/18)
2000: Kasey Kahne (5/27), Jason Leffler (8/23) & Jason Leffler (9/16)
2001: Kasey Kahne (5/27) & Kasey Kahne (9/15)
2002: Jason Leffler (5/25), Dave Steele (9/27) & Dave Steele (9/27)
2003: Aaron Fike (5/24), Aaron Fike (9/27) & Dave Steele (9/27 – SE)
2004: Ron Gregory (5/29)
2005: Michael Lewis (5/28)
2006: Bobby Santos (5/27) & Dave Steele (7/1)
2007: Kevin Swindell (5/26) & Bryan Clauson (6/16)
2008: Bobby East (5/24) & Chuck Gurney Jr. (7/24)
2009: Chuck Gurney Jr. (5/23) & Bryan Clauson (7/23)
2010: Tanner Swanson (5/29) & Kody Swanson (7/22)
2011: Darren Hagen (5/28) & Kyle Larson (7/28)
2012: Tracy Hines (5/26) & Tracy Hines (7/26)
2013: Darren Hagen (5/25) & Tracy Hines (7/27)
2014: Tracy Hines (5/24 – P)
2020: Bobby Santos (8/22 – SE)
2021: Kody Swanson (5/29 – SE), Bobby Santos (6/17 – SE), Kody Swanson (7/3 – SE) & Josh Wise (8/14 – SE)
2022: Bobby Santos (5/27 – SE)
(SE) represents a non-points special event
(P) represents a USAC Pavement Series Midget event