By Richie Murray
Brownsburg, Indiana (August 18, 2020)………Ken Schrader, Tanner Swanson and Bobby Santos have each shared their taste of Night Before the 500 glory once in their careers behind the wheel of a midget.
This Saturday night, August 22, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind., these three, amongst many others, will have their opportunity to become the first to place their name on the winners’ list in a sprint car at the NB4500, a USAC non-points special event.
Ken Schrader (Fenton, Mo.), the 1982 USAC Silver Crown and 1983 USAC National Sprint Car champion, won the event in a midget back in 1983. The four-time NASCAR Cup series winner, and 23-time pole starter, also corralled victories in a Silver Crown car at LOR in both 1986 and 1989.
Tanner Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) notched his NB4500 victory in 2010. He’s been a victor in two of the three series of USAC National racing in his career at LOR, winning a record-tying five Silver Crown races along with one in the midget. He finished 2nd and 3rd in his two most recent USAC Sprint outings at LOR in 2011.
Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.) won his very first career USAC National Sprint Car race at LOR back in 2006. The 2006 NB4500 winner is one of just eight drivers to win a USAC National Midget, National Sprint and Silver Crown feature event at LOR in his career, taking a total of three USAC Sprint wins there in 2006-07-11. This past June at LOR, Santos was the fastest qualifier in a Must See Racing Sprint Car event at LOR, then finished 2nd in the feature.
The man who won the feature that night in June at LOR was Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.), who also won in 2011 for his first and still only career USAC National Sprint Car feature win. Like his younger brother Tanner, Kody also possesses five Silver Crown wins at LOR, but none yet in a midget. In seven prior NB4500 starts, all in a midget, the five-time Silver Crown titlist has collected five top-tens, including a 3rd in 2010, 4th in 2008, 5th in 2012, 6th in 2009 and 7th in 2014.
The last time Sprint Cars raced on the .686-mile paved oval on Independence Day weekend in July, Kyle Hamilton (Danville, Ind.) was the winner in an Auto Value Super Sprint Series event. Hamilton, the 2017 Little 500 winner at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway, is also a Silver Crown winner at LOR, taking the win in May of 2019 at the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic. A midget victory at LOR has eluded him thus far, but he has had two solid NB4500 midget results in his career, a 6th in 2013 and an 8th in 2011.
It’s been 24 years since Russ Gamester (Peru, Ind.) last made a Night Before the 500 start in 1996. The 1989 USAC National Midget champion made the first of his seven NB4500 starts in 1984 and scored a best of 8th in 1986, both coming in a Midget. The six-time Silver Crown series winner has one of those six victories right at Lucas Oil Raceway back on a Sunday afternoon in 2000.
Billy Wease (Noblesville, Ind.) finished in the 6th position in each of his two LOR Sprint Car starts this year in June with Must See and in July with Auto Value. The 2006 Turkey Night Grand Prix midget winner has made seven career NB4500 midget starts, recording a best of 3rd in 2007 to go along with a pair of 6th place finishes in 2006 and 2010 and a 9th in 2008.
Kyle O’Gara (Beech Grove, Ind.) has been knocking on the door for a victory at LOR throughout his career. His two recent sprint car efforts this year at LOR resulted in a 3rd in June and a 2nd in July. The 2014 USAC Pavement Midget driving champion has been a stalwart at the front of the pack in two career NB4500 starts with a 2nd in 2014 and a 4th in 2013.
Dakoda Armstrong (New Castle, Ind.), a veteran of 133 career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, was 8th in his June sprint car appearance at LOR. His NB4500 experience in a midget dates to the year 2009 where the 2004 USAC Kenyon Midget champion finished a personal best of 7th in the event in addition to 12th place results in both 2010 and 2011.
Aaron Pierce (Muncie, Ind.) is prepared to make his first NB4500 appearance this Saturday as one of eight drivers to pull double-duty in both sprints and midgets. His last NB4500 appearance came back in 2002 where he finished 9th in the midget feature. Pierce owns 17 career Silver Crown starts at LOR with seven top-five finishes.
Derek Bischak (Angola, Ind.), made his NB4500 debut an impressive one, finishing 3rd in his lone midget start in the event in 2014. Bischak, a past ESPN The Magazine academic all-district honoree in track and field at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, finished 9th in a sprint car run at LOR this past July.
Nick Hamilton (Danville, Ind.), brother of Kyle Hamilton, earned a top-five finish in Auto Value Sprint Car action in July at LOR. Nick finished 4th in his lone previous NB4500 start, in a midget, in 2014. Chris Neuenschwander (New Haven, Ind.), meanwhile, was the 5th place finisher in June’s sprint at LOR. Tyler Roahrig (Mishawaka, Ind.) was a 4th place finisher in June at LOR and won back in July in sprint car action at Anderson.
Experienced LOR combatants who are making their NB4500 debuts Saturday in the sprint car are Tony Main (Farmland, Ind.), 8th in July at LOR; Justin Harper (Denver, Ind.), 9th in June at LOR; Ronnie Wuerdeman (Cincinnati, Ohio), 10th in June at LOR; Chris Jagger (Warsaw, Ind.), 10th in July at LOR; Brian Vaughn (Shirley, Ind.), 18th in June and 13th in July at LOR; Gary Dunkle (Lincoln, Neb.), 23rd in June and 17th in July at LOR; and Christian Koehler (South Bend, Ind.), 26th in June at LOR.
They’ll be joined by fellow NB4500 first-timers Cord Ehrhart (Antwerp, Ohio), Joey Vallone (Crestwood, Ill.) and Nick Landon (Dorr, Mich), part of the famed Landon racing family out of the Wolverine State.
A combined 50 cars have already pre-entered for the 70th running of the Night Before the 500, featuring a USAC non-points special event for both sprint cars and midgets in the famed race to be run on Saturday, August 22, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.
The tradition is being renewed at the .686-mile paved oval west of Indianapolis after the event has been on hiatus since its last edition run in 2014. Midgets have been a staple of the event, dating back to its origins in 1946 at the former 16th Street Speedway, across the street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The festivities begin on Saturday, August 22, with pit gates/credentials opening at 7am ET. Spectator gates open at 10am, Midget practice from 10am-10:55am, Sprint Car practice 1 from 11am-11:55am, Midget practice 2 from noon-12:55pm, Sprint Car Practice 2: 1pm-1:55pm, Midget practice 3 from 2pm to 2:55pm, Sprint Car practice 3 from 3pm-3:55pm before a break at 4pm.
Action resumes with Midget qualifying from 4:30pm-5:55pm, Sprint Car qualifying from 6pm-7:25pm, then opening ceremonies from 7pm-7:30pm, followed by racing action that culminates with the $5,000-to-win Midget feature and the $10,000-to-win Sprint Car feature.
Tickets are $25 for ages 12 and up, $5 for ages 5-11 and free for ages 4 and under. Tickets can be ordered at http://tinyurl.com/y8p9vxov.
The big racing weekend kicks off Friday, August 21, with the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic featuring USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series, USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. Pits open at noon ET, spectator gates open at 3pm, Silver Crown practice from 3pm-3:40pm, USF2000 practice from 3:55pm-4:15pm, Indy Pro 2000 practice from 4:30pm-5:45pm, a break at 4:50pm, Silver Crown qualifying at 5:45pm, USF2000 race at 6:45pm, Indy Pro 2000 race at 7:50pm and the Silver Crown race at 9pm.
Friday’s Dave Steele Carb Night Classic tickets prices are $25 for adults, $10 for children 11 & under. HARF members receive $5 off general admission when card is shown. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members.
Watch the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic and the Night Before the 500 LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
SPRINT CAR ENTRY LIST – NIGHT BEFORE THE 500:
0z Cord Ehrhart/Antwerp, OH (C.O. Racing)
4 Kody Swanson/Kingsburg, CA (Nolen Racing)
5 Kyle Hamilton/Danville, IN (Klatt Enterprises)
7A Dakoda Armstrong/New Castle, IN (Armstrong Racing)
7T Joey Vallone/Crestwood, IL (Joey Vallone)
10 Christian Koehler/South Bend, IN (Christian Koehler Racing)
12 Billy Wease/Noblesville, IN (Wease Racing)
12N Chris Neuenschwander/New Haven, IN (Jerry Powell)
22 Bobby Santos/Franklin, MA (DJ Racing)
26 Aaron Pierce/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
27 Nick Landon/Dorr, MI (Karl Schwarz)
27 Chris Jagger/Warsaw, IN (Chris Jagger)
31 Derek Bischak/Angola, IN (Performance Assurance)
32 Ronnie Wuerdeman/Cincinnati, OH (Terry Broadus)
32 Nick Hamilton/Danville, IN (Mike Hamilton)
34 Gary Dunkle/Lincoln, NE (Gary Dunkle)
51 Russ Gamester/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)
53 Justin Harper/Denver, IN (Cheri Harper)
56 Tyler Roahrig/Mishawaka, IN (Tyler Roahrig)
67 Kyle O’Gara/Beech Grove, IN (SFH Racing Development)
71 Brian Vaughn/Shirley, IN (Freddie & Cathy Carmany)
74 Tony Main/Farmland, IN (Glenn & Virginia Main)
77 Tanner Swanson/Kingsburg, CA (Doran Enterprises)
78 Ken Schrader/Fenton, MO (Armstrong Racing)