BROWNSBURG, IN – Coming into Saturday night’s inaugural Hoosier Classic, the only absent piece Kody Swanson had on his Lucas Oil Raceway puzzle from the 2021 season was a sprint car victory.
He filled in that missing space just fine in the 50-lap main event, becoming just the second driver to win a USAC Silver Crown, Midget and Sprint Car feature at Brownsburg, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway in the same season. Mike Bliss had been the only prior driver to accomplish the feat, doing so during back-to-back years in 1993 and 1994.
Swanson’s $10,000 victory was the third sprint car win of his career under the USAC banner at the .686-mile paved oval, leading the final 29 laps in his Doran Enterprises/Glenn Farms – Lykins Energy Solutions/Beast/Binks Chevy. The race was a USAC non-points special event for the sprint cars.
Saturday’s feature was just the fourth 50-lap Sprint Car race at the track and the first in half a century. Parnelli Jones won the first 50-lap USAC Sprint Car feature at Lucas Oil Raceway, then known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, in 1961. A.J. Foyt followed Parnelli with a 50-lap score in 1962 while Gary Bettenhausen won the most recent in 1970.
Though it originated under auspicious beginnings with not being able to discover the speed they thought they’d have in hot laps and qualifying, Swanson and team found what they needed in the feature and picked their way back to the place Swanson had been 11 previous times in his LOR career – victory lane.
“That sprint car race was tough because we weren’t where we needed to be,” Swanson stated. But once I got to the lead, there were no excuses left. I had to finish it.
I’m thankful for everyone at Doran Racing and for how hard they worked today,” Swanson continued. “It wasn’t pretty. We missed a lot of practice chasing some gremlins, but nobody ever gave up. We kept going until the buzzer sounded in qualifying. We took a gamble in the feature and, luckily, it paid off for us.”
Swanson started seventh in the 26-car field after qualifying fourth overall in a unique two-lap qualifying average format. With a 10-car inversion, that moved Swanson to the inside of row four on the grid and, from there, he quickly moved to fifth on lap one, then split between Caleb Armstrong and Billy Wease in turn four to stake third on lap two. By lap 12, Swanson had charged to second underneath Taylor Ferns in turn one and was well on his merry way toward the front.
Meanwhile, Aaron Pierce had blasted by everyone on the initial start, leading the opening lap after starting in the fourth spot, opening up a sizable lead through the first 20 laps. However, the yellow flag dropped on lap 20 as early challenger Ferns slowed to a stop in turn four, closing the gap for the frontrunners on the ensuing restart, thus setting up the game changing move by Swanson.
A lap after the restart, on lap 22, Swanson dove to the bottom of turn one underneath Pierce. When Swanson slid up, he found himself in a side-by-side silhouette with Pierce. The two were seemingly tethered together all the way from the entry of turn one to the exit of turn four before Swanson broke free, beating Pierce to the stripe by a half car length.
“I felt like the only place I was really gaining on Aaron, at that point in time, was on entry,” Swanson explained. “I had to just get in there and try to get beside him. He left me room and I tried to leave him room too. Once I got there, I had to finish it because if I didn’t clear him then, I may not ever get another chance. It was a hard race, and hard coming from seventh.”
Once Swanson slipped by Pierce on lap 22, it was a free-for-all behind his back bumper as Kyle O’Gara slotted into second underneath Pierce in between turns three and four, and ditto for Bobby Santos who corralled third from Pierce in the same locale on the 24th circuit.
Swanson went undenied and unchallenged for the remainder of the way, racking up his 12th Lucas Oil Raceway USAC feature victory and his first Kenny Irwin Jr. Memorial trophy. O’Gara finished second with Santos third, Tanner Swanson fourth and Pierce rounding out the top-five.
Tyler Roahrig earned a $500 bonus from PJ1 for his two-lap qualifying average time of 20.799. The 2021 Little 500 winner dropped out of the feature while running seventh with 18 laps remaining.
USAC SPRINT CAR SPECIAL EVENT RACE RESULTS: August 14, 2021 – Lucas Oil Raceway – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Track – Hoosier Classic
PJ1 QUALIFYING: (Two-Lap Average) 1. Tyler Roahrig, 5, Klatt-20.799; 2. Bobby Santos, 22A, DJ-20.893; 3. Kyle O’Gara, 67, SFHR-20.985; 4. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran-21.051; 5. Taylor Ferns, 55F, Ferns-21.121; 6. Tanner Swanson, 4, Nolen-21.128; 7. Aaron Pierce, 26, Pierce-21.130; 8. Caleb Armstrong, 7c, Neal-21.144; 9. Billy Wease, 12w, Wease-21.185; 10. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-21.316; 11. Joe Liguori, 13, Liguori-21.435; 12. Nick Hamilton, 32, Hamilton-21.448; 13. Dakoda Armstrong, 1, Neal-21.501; 14. Kyle Robbins, 17R, KR-21.652; 15. Bryan Gossel, 6G, Gossel-21.662; 16. Jake McElfresh, 12, Powell-21.673; 17. Tony Main, 74, Main-21.698; 18. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-21.800; 19. Chris Neuenschwander, 10, Koehler-21.947; 20. Brian Vaughn, 71, Carmany-22.118; 21. Justin Harper, 53, TCJ-22.126; 22. Mark Hall, 45, Hallmark-22.600; 23. Chris Jagger, 27, Jagger-22.802; 24. Gary Dunkle, 34, Dunkle-23.591, 25. Nathan Byrd, 11, Hamilton/Byrd-NT; 26. Derek Bischak, 131, Bischak-NT.
FEATURE: (50 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kody Swanson (7), 2. Kyle O’Gara (8), 3. Bobby Santos (9), 4. Tanner Swanson (5), 5. Aaron Pierce (4), 6. Caleb Armstrong (3), 7. Joe Liguori (11), 8. Nick Hamilton (12), 9. Kyle Robbins (14), 10. Dakoda Armstrong (13), 11. Bryan Gossel (15), 12. Tony Main (17), 13. Travis Welpott (18), 14. Brian Vaughn (20), 15. Jake McElfresh (16), 16. Mark Hall (22), 17. Billy Wease (2), 18. Tyler Roahrig (10), 19. Chris Neuenschwander (19), 20. Justin Harper (21), 21. Taylor Ferns (6), 22. Chris Jagger (23), 23. Gary Dunkle (24), 24. Russ Gamester (1), 25. Nathan Byrd (25), 26. Derek Bischak (26). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-21 Aaron Pierce, Laps 22-50 Kody Swanson.