By Richie Murray
Indianapolis, Indiana (August 19, 2020)……… On a late restart with seven laps remaining in last year’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Tyler Courtney used everything he had in his figurative tank to rip around near-race-long leader Kevin Thomas Jr. to capture the victory on the one-mile dirt oval.
In what, at the time, was thought to be the final running of the grand event, Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) had the bittersweet belief that he had won the final Hoosier Hundred. Instead, he now has the rare opportunity to repeat as a Hoosier Hundred champion when the champ cars of the USAC Silver Crown series roar again for the 65th time at the Indy Mile this Sunday, August 23.
Courtney, 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), my spotter tonight, told me on the open red that Jason McDougal (further back in the pack) 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 last year’s win was something he didn’t and 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, the two-time USAC National champion is one of only two drivers to finish inside the top-three in the last two runnings of the event following a 3rd in 2018 to go along with his triumph in 2019.
The only other driver to do so is Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) who has the opportunity to become just the second driver with at least five Hoosier Hundred wins. The legendary A.J. Foyt owns six of them. Swanson, the five-time Silver Crown champ who earned his 30th career win and 30th career pole with the series last Saturday at Salem (Ind.) Speedway, won four in a row at the Hoosier Hundred in 2014-15-16-18. He also possesses a 4th place run in 2010 and a 5th in 2012 along with poles in both 2015 and 2018.
Elk Grove, California’s Kyle Larson, who’s been incomparable across the scope of dirt track racing this season in a variety of cars, will attempt to make his first Silver Crown start since 2012. The 2020 Indiana Midget Week champion has made just one previous Hoosier Hundred appearance, finishing 12th in 2011. The last time a driver with the surname of Larson won the Hoosier Hundred came in 1957 when National Sprint Car and USAC Hall of Famer Jud Larson (no relation) was victorious.
A number of drivers have been close, but no cigar in their Hoosier Hundred careers with 2nd place finishes, but not yet a win in the storied event. Those include Kevin Thomas Jr., a 2nd place finisher to Courtney in 2019 after leading a race-high 87 laps. Aaron Pierce (Muncie, Ind.) finished as the runner-up to Swanson in 2015 while also finishing 7th in both 2013-14 and 9th in 2004. Shane Cockrum (Benton, Ill.), a two-time winner on the Du Quoin, Ill. mile, was 2nd at the Hoosier Hundred in 2018 and 6th in 2015. Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) won the Silver Crown opener at Selinsgrove, Pa. and has finished 2nd in the “Hoosier” in 2016, 4th in 2018 and 9th in 2010.
Russ Gamester (Peru, Ind.) is the only driver in this year’s Hoosier Hundred lineup who was in the starting field of the event during the 1980s. That same year, 1989, he picked up the USAC National Midget title. At the “Hoosier,” he finished as the runner-up in 1999, 3rd in 1991 & 2005, 5th in 2006 & 2009, and 7th in 1992 & 1998. His 26 starts rank third all-time behind Johnny Parsons (29) and George Snider (28). His active streak of 23 consecutive starts, however, is a Hoosier Hundred record.
Gamester is one of four past Hoosier Hundred pole winners in Sunday’s field along with Swanson, Thomas and Brady Bacon. Gamester led the field to the green in both 1997 and 2013. Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) won the pole in 2016, and has top finishes of 5th in 2019 and 10th in 2015.
A smattering of Hoosier Hundred first-time winning hopefuls have won before in Silver Crown, but not as of yet at the Hoosier Hundred. Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), the 2016 Silver Crown champ, finished 5th in 2014 & 2016, and led the opening five laps of the 2019 race before walking away from one of the most harrowing crashes in Hoosier Hundred history.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) and his father Chuck Leary are the only father-son drivers to win a USAC Silver Crown race in series history. Chuck captured the victory at the 1997 Hoosier Hundred while C.J., the 2019 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion, has finished a best of 6th at the Hoosier Hundred thus far in his career.
John Heydenreich (Bloomsburg, Pa.) won the Hut 100 USAC Midget race in 1987 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the only time the event was held there. He has had several solid finishes in his Hoosier Hundred career with a 3rd in 2004, 4th in 2000, 7th in 2010-11, 8th in 2006 and a 10th in 2002 serving as his best.
Like Heydenreich, David Byrne (Shullsburg, Wisc.) is also a one-time Silver Crown winner, who aims to rise to the top of the Hoosier Hundred leaderboard for the first time in his career. Only three previous Wisconsin-born drivers have won the race – Tom Bigelow (1975), Pancho Carter (1977) and Billy Engelhart (1978). Byrne has scored HH results of 7th in both 2016 & 2019 and an 8th in 2018.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) finished a career-best 4th in the 2019 Hoosier Hundred after early garnering a 5th in 2015 and a 6th in 2013. His Hemelgarn Racing team, with crew chief Dennis LaCava, experienced its best ever weekend on Indianapolis 500 weekend 24 years ago in 1996, when the team raced to victory with Buddy Lazier at IMS.
Top-ten performances over the past several years at the Hoosier Hundred have been turned in by series veterans Patrick Lawson (Edwardsville, Ill.) who was an 8th place finisher in 2015; Dallas, Texas’ Austin Mundie, 10th in 2018; Elkhart, Illinois’ Chris Urish, 6th in 2009 and 8th in 2014; plus Pleasant Hill, Ohio’s Matt Westfall, 7th in 2002 and 9th in 2003, who is making his first appearance in the event since 2009.
One of the most talented groups of Rookies in recent Hoosier Hundreds, includes 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget champion Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), seven-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car winner Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.), 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.), 4th place Selinsgrove finisher Bryan Gossel (Fort Collins, Colo.), 5th place Selinsgrove finisher Carmen Perigo (Stoystown, Pa.), four-time Midwest Ford Focus Midget winner Ronnie Wuerdeman (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Brent Yarnal (Phoenix, Ariz.), a veteran of 19 career USAC Southwest Sprint Car starts during the 2017-18 seasons.
Hoosier Hundred veterans making their return to the event include six-time All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car titlist Chad Kemenah (Alvada, Ohio), who made wall contact in his debut in 2019, finishing 24th. Kemenah’s crew chief and father-in-law, Bob Hampshire, has won seven Hoosier Hundreds as the crew chief for Jack Hewitt and Kody Swanson. Fellow Ohioan, Dallas Hewitt (Troy, Ohio), nephew of three-time Hoosier Hundred winner Jack Hewitt, made an early exit in his Hoosier Hundred debut in 2019.
Jimmy Light (West Springfield, Pa.) finished 14th as a Rookie in 2019 while Casey Buckman (Chandler, Ariz.) took a wild ride in the 2020 Silver Crown opener, flipping at Selinsgrove on the first lap after getting collected by a spinning car. He aims to make his first Hoosier Hundred start on Sunday after missing the cut in the 2019 event.
Austin Nemire, the 2014 HPD Midget champion, returns for his fifth Hoosier Hundred appearance. His grandfather, Jerry Nemire, made 10 starts in the Hoosier Hundred between 1981 and 2003. Kyle Robbins (New Castle, Ind.), the 2018 Silver Crown Rookie of the Year, has made starts in each of the past two Hoosier Hundreds as has Mike Haggenbottom (Levittown, Pa.) and Matt Goodnight (Winchester, Ind.). Travis Welpott took 22nd in his 2018 Hoosier Hundred debut, while both Terry Babb (Decatur, Ill.) and Danny Long (Bonne Terre, Mo.) set sights on a third Hoosier Hundred feature appearance.
The Hoosier Hundred has been held annually since 1953, with only a handful of interruptions due to inclement weather. Today, it remains one of the oldest, most tradition-rich racing events on the planet. Many of its winners have gone to achieve legendary status in auto racing with a list that includes A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti who are among the seven drivers to have won both the Hoosier Hundred and the Indianapolis 500 in their careers along with Bob Sweikert, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, Parnelli Jones and Al Unser.
Advance tickets for the 65th running of the Hoosier Hundred are available online now at www.usactickets.com. Grandstand tickets are $30 apiece, $10 for children age 3-11 and free for kids age 2 and under. Infield tickets are $20 each, $5 for children age 3-11 and free for kids age 2 and under.
Furthermore, you can watch the Indianapolis 500 live from the Hoosier Hundred grandstands this Sunday. The green flag is scheduled to drop for the Indy 500 at 2:30pm ET. You can watch the event on the 10′ x 17′ Jumbo Screen, raised up to 15′ in the air for quality viewing from the grandstands.
Pits for the USAC Silver Crown race on Sunday will open at Noon ET on raceday, August 23, while grandstands open at 2pm, with on-track action beginning with practice at 4pm, qualifying at 5:15, vintage cars at 6:15, the qualifying race at 7pm and the 100-lap Hoosier Hundred at 8pm. Silver Crown cars are the only class featured in the event.
For more ticket information on tickets, contact Track Enterprises office at (217) 764-3200.
You can watch the Hoosier Hundred LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
2020 HOOSIER HUNDRED ENTRY LIST:
06 BRYAN GOSSEL/Fort Collins, CO (Bryan Gossel)
2 PATRICK LAWSON/Edwardsville, IL (Patrick Lawson)
6 BRADY BACON/Broken Arrow, OK (Klatt Enterprises)
7 KYLE ROBBINS/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
9 KEVIN THOMAS JR./Cullman, AL (Chris Dyson Racing)
10 JAKE SWANSON/Anaheim, CA (DMW Motorsports)
15 CHAD KEMENAH/Alvada, OH (Hampshire-Kemenah Racing)
16 AUSTIN NEMIRE/Sylvania, OH (Nemire-Lesko Racing)
17 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Goodnight Racing)
18 TRAVIS WELPOTT/Pendleton, IN (Welpott Racing)
19 KYLE LARSON/Elk Grove, CA (Sean Michael Motorsports)
20 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Nolen Racing)
22 LOGAN SEAVEY/Sutter, CA (Prestige Worldwide Motorsports)
24 MIKE HAGGENBOTTOM/Levittown, PA
26 AARON PIERCE/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
29 BRENT YARNAL/Phoenix, AZ (Brent Yarnal)
30 C.J. LEARY/Greenfield, IN (Leary Racing)
33 RONNIE WUERDEMAN/Cincinnati, OH (Ronnie Wuerdeman)
37 JOHN HEYDENREICH/Bloomsburg, PA (A.J. Felker Racing)
39 MATT GOODNIGHT/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
40 DAVID BYRNE/Shullsburg, WI (Byrne Racing)
44 DANNY LONG/Bonne Terre, MO (Danny Long)
47 AUSTIN MUNDIE/Dallas, TX (Patty Butler)
51 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)
52 CARMEN PERIGO/Stoystown, PA (John Stehman)
53 SHANE COCKRUM/Benton, IL (Five Three Motorsports)
54 MATT WESTFALL/Pleasant Hill, OH (Westfall Racing)
57 DALLAS HEWITT/Troy, OH (Dallas Hewitt)
69 KYLE CUMMINS/Princeton, IN (Pink 69 Racing)
74 CASEY BUCKMAN/Chandler, AZ (C-Buck Racing)
77 CHRIS URISH/Elkhart, IL (Chris Urish)
81 SHANE COTTLE/Kansas, IL (Curtis Williams)
88 TERRY BABB/Decatur, IL (Terry Babb)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
97 TYLER COURTNEY/Indianapolis, IN (Hans Lein)
123 JIMMY LIGHT/West Springfield, PA (Two-Three Motorsports)