By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Brownsburg, Indiana (August 19, 2020)………Two years ago, it was a Carb Night to forget for Kyle Hamilton. It seemed as if everywhere he turned, bad luck was staring back at him square in the eyes.
One year later, the Carb Night tide turned in his favor when Hamilton scored his first career USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series victory in the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway, the event which resumes for its next edition this Friday night, August 21, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.
“In 2018, it didn’t seem like anything could go right mechanically,” Hamilton recalled. “Our Little 500 car broke, my teammate (Brady Bacon’s) dirt car broke, we broke right out the box here at (LOR) and had to start the race from the tail with no practice laps.”
After qualifying third for the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic in 2019, Hamilton thought, “‘Well, this is going a lot better,’ but honestly, tonight was the night I was a little bit more worried about being slow. We’ve always struggled here, and I didn’t want to disappoint my team, but I was a little nervous inside.”
Standing second behind Silver Crown superhero Kody Swanson just past the halfway mark of the 2019 100-lapper, the yellow flag came out. When the green came back out, Hamilton couldn’t have imagined what occurred next when Kody failed to take off on the lap 54 restart, handing over the lead to Hamilton with a clear track ahead of him. Kody coasted around to the pit area with an apparent engine issue that put an end to his night.
On a later restart, on lap 73, Bobby Santos used a run on the inside of Hamilton, sliding up in front of Hamilton in turn one to secure the position as the pair exited turn two. One lap later, the roles were reversed, and Hamilton drove it hard into turn one underneath Santos to slot into the top spot. From there, Hamilton was unheeded as he captured his initial series victory.
“I grew up about 15 minutes from here and I’d always tell my buddies that we’re racing at LOR,” Hamilton, of nearby Danville, Ind. said. “But I kind of hesitated because I was always so bad here. To say we pulled one off in a Silver Crown car on a big night is pretty cool to me.”
Brothers Kody and Tanner Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. each have the opportunity on Friday to become the winningest USAC Silver Crown driver of all-time at Lucas Oil Raceway. Both possess five Silver Crown wins apiece at the .686-mile paved oval, which is tied with Mike Bliss for the most all-time.
Kody, the five-time series champion and current point leader, just won his 30th career Silver Crown race last Saturday night at Salem (Ind.) Speedway. Kody won his most recent outing at LOR last Fall and is a two-time winner of the Carb Night Classic, leading all 100 in 2017 and the final 99 in 2018. In 2016, Kody finished 2nd to Tanner, and dropped out after leading the first 53 laps in 2019 with engine trouble. Kody was the fastest qualifier at Carb Night in 2017 & 2019 as well.
Tanner, meanwhile, has easily been the hard charger the last couple of years at the Carb Night Classic, driving from 22nd to 2nd in 2018 and 17th to 2nd in 2019. The inaugural Carb Night winner in 2016 led the last 20 laps that year, then finished 3rd in 2017 – the only driver to finish on the podium in all four previous runnings of the event. Tanner was the fastest Carb Night qualifier in 2018 before opting to start from the tail of the field. The fast time that night paid him a $1,000 bonus from Mac & Carol Steele who are putting up the same bonus award once again this Friday.
Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.) aims to join the “Party of Five” at the top of Lucas Oil Raceway’s Silver Crown win list. He’s won four times at LOR in 2009, twice in 2012 and again in 2017. Last Saturday’s runner-up at Salem has led three of the four Carb Night Classics thus far. He led the first 80 in 2016 before mechanical trouble forced him to the sideline, and has finished 2nd, 4th and 3rd in each of the last three years of 2017-18-19, leading one lap early in 2018 and one lap late in 2019.
David Byrne, of Shullsburg, Wisc., is a past LOR Silver Crown winner, picking up the victory in last-lap fashion during the summer of 2014. He’s alternated 7th and 6th place runs throughout his Carb Night Classic career, finishing 7th in 2016, 6th in 2017, 7th in 2018 and 6th in 2019. He’s aiming for a little luck to drop on his side after two early exits in the first two Silver Crown races of 2020.
Fortville, Indiana’s Eric Gordon is a three-time winner at LOR, all in a Sprint Car, back in 1990-91-92. The 1990 Milwaukee Silver Crown winner and nine-time Little 500 winner finished 9th at the Carb Night Classic in 2018 and 5th in 2019’s 100-lap race.
Russ Gamester (Peru, Ind.) has yet to make a Carb Night Classic start in his career, but the 197-time Silver Crown starter (3rd all-time) has a victory to his credit in his career with the series at Lucas Oil Raceway back on a Sunday afternoon in 2000. The 1989 USAC National Midget champion would tie Brian Tyler for 2nd in all-time in Silver Crown starts with one more on Friday at LOR.
New Castle, Indiana’s Kyle Robbins (2nd in points) sits just one, single point behind Kody Swanson in the Silver Crown championship standings coming into the event and, incredibly, is the only driver to have finished inside the top-ten in both events run thus far at Selinsgrove (3rd) and Salem (8th). He’s made two previous Carb Night Classic starts but is looking for his first top-ten result in the event.
Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway Silver Crown season opener winner Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) aims to make his first Carb Night Classic appearance since the 2016 campaign where he finished 13th. Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) is a three-time top-five finisher at the Carb Night Classic with a 3rd in 2016, 4th in 2017 and 5th in 2018. Justin Grant (3rd in Silver Crown points), had his best career Carb Night finish of 4th in 2019 following results of 6th in both 2016 and 2018.
Three-time Silver Crown winner Aaron Pierce is the owner of three top-five finishes in his three career Carb Night Classic starts, including a 5th in 2016, 5th in 2017 and a best of 3rd in 2018. Additional Carb Night returnees include last Saturday’s Salem hard charger Austin Nemire (Sylvania, Ohio), 9th at Carb Night in 2019; Edwardsville, Illinois’ Patrick Lawson (10th in 2017); Pendleton, Indiana’s Travis Welpott (11th in 2018) and Levittown, Pa.’s Mike Haggenbottom – a two-time Carb Night starter.
One-time Silver Crown winner John Heydenreich of Bloomsburg, Pa., a 2nd place USAC Sprint finisher at LOR in 1998, is entered, as is Winchester, Indiana’s Matt Goodnight (2 Carb Night starts), plus 2012 USAC Regional Midget champ Jim Anderson of Joliet, Ill. (8th in 2018) and 2019 Silver Crown Rookie of the Year, Derek Bischak (Angola, Ind.), who made his Carb Night (and Silver Crown) debut two years ago in 2018 and just finished a career-best 5th with the series last Saturday at Salem.
Beech Grove, Indiana’s Kyle O’Gara has prior midget and Silver Crown experience at LOR, but none since 2014. His Silver Crown return at Salem last Saturday was exceptional, finishing 7th after starting 14th in the field. Dave Berkheimer (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), likewise, gained previous LOR Silver Crown experience last Fall. Both will be making their Carb Night debuts on Friday.
Series Rookie, Fort Collins, Colorado’s Bryan Gossel, is a pleasant surprise at 4th in the standings coming into the event. He will be aiming for his first Carb Night Classic start as is Brent Yarnal (Phoenix, Ariz.), a veteran of 19 career USAC Southwest Sprint Car starts during the 2017-18 seasons.
The event honors the legacy and memory of Dave Steele, a two-time USAC Silver Crown champion and one of the United States Auto Club’s most accomplished drivers during the 1990s and 2000s, who died in March of 2017 following a crash on the opening lap of a Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series-sanctioned event at Bradenton, Florida’s Desoto Speedway. He was 42 years old.
Steele ranks 14th on USAC’s national win list with 60 victories between 1996 and 2007. The Tampa, Florida native was dominant on the pavement tracks, which accounted for all 60 of his USAC National wins. Despite only competing in half the races, or less, on the schedule throughout most of his career, Steele’s win totals rank in the top echelon of USAC’s record book. His 16 Silver Crown wins are the fourth most all-time while his 26 Sprint Car victories rank 19th and his 18 Midget wins put him 37th on the list.
Pits open at noon ET on Friday with spectator gates opening at 3pm, Silver Crown practice starting at 3pm followed by practice for both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. Silver Crown Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying commences at 5:45pm ET, followed by the USF2000 race at 6:45pm, the Indy Pro 2000 race at 7:50pm and the 100-lap Silver Crown race at 9pm.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children age 11 and under. All HARF members will receive $5 off their general admission ticket when their card is shown. Pit passes are $30 for member and $35 for non-members.
Event tickets can be purchased at the gate on raceday or in advance at www.tinyurl.com/y8p9vxov.
Watch the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
DAVE STEELE CARB NIGHT CLASSIC ENTRY LIST: (25 Cars)
02 TANNER SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Bowman Racing)
06 ®BRYAN GOSSEL/Fort Collins, CO (Bryan Gossel)
1 ®KYLE O’GARA/Beech Grove, IN (SFHR Development)
2 PATRICK LAWSON/Edwardsville, IL (Patrick Lawson)
6 KYLE HAMILTON/Danville, IN (Klatt Enterprises)
7 KYLE ROBBINS/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
16 AUSTIN NEMIRE/Sylvania, OH (Nemire-Lesko Racing)
17 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Goodnight Racing)
18 TRAVIS WELPOTT/Pendleton, IN (Welpott Racing)
20 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Nolen Racing)
22 BOBBY SANTOS/Franklin, MA (DJ Racing)
24 MIKE HAGGENBOTTOM/Levittown, PA (John Haggenbottom)
26 AARON PIERCE/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
29 ®BRENT YARNAL/Phoenix, AZ (Brent Yarnal)
31 DAVE BERKHEIMER/Mechanicsburg, PA (Dave Berkheimer)
37 JOHN HEYDENREICH/Bloomsburg, PA (A.J. Felker)
39 MATT GOODNIGHT/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
40 DAVID BYRNE/Shullsburg, WI (Byrne Racing)
51 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)
78 ERIC GORDON/Fortville, IN (Armstrong Racing)
80 TONI BREIDINGER/Hillsborough, CA (Breidinger Racing)
81 SHANE COTTLE/Kansas, IL (Curtis Williams)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
92 JIM ANDERSON/Joliet, IL (Kazmark Motorsports)
131 DEREK BISCHAK/Angola, IN (Derek Bischak)
® Represent a USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year contender
USAC SILVER CROWN WINS AT LUCAS OIL RACEWAY:
1. (5) Mike Bliss, Kody Swanson & Tanner Swanson
4. (4) Bobby Santos
5. (3) Bobby East
6. (2) Kenny Irwin, Jr., Jim Keeker, Jason Leffler & Ken Schrader
10. (1) Pat Abold, Jeff Bloom, David Byrne, Bob Cicconi, Jay Drake, Bruce Field, Russ Gamester, Kyle Hamilton, Tracy Hines, Rick Hood, Kasey Kahne, Jason McCord, Ryan Newman, Johnny Parsons, George Snider, Dave Steele, Tony Stewart, Brian Tyler & J.J. Yeley
DAVE STEELE CARB NIGHT CLASSIC WINNERS:
2016: Tanner Swanson
2017: Kody Swanson
2018: Kody Swanson
2019: Kyle Hamilton