Kody Swanson Wins Sprint Car Portion of the Night Before the 500

Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) captured Saturday's Night Before the 500 Sprint Car victory at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. (Rich Forman Photo)

From Richie Murray

BROWNSBURG, IN (August 22, 2020) – Following a discouraging conclusion to a superb first half performance in Friday night’s USAC Silver Crown event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind., Kody Swanson and Nolen Racing were opted to claim a sense of redemption in Saturday night’s Night Before the 500 USAC Sprint Car non-points special event.

Swanson, the Silver Crown point leader, led the first 40 laps of Friday’s main event before a rear brake caliper failed on his car, relegating him out of contention for a win. Come Saturday, Swanson and the Nolen team weren’t keen on having their winning plans thwarted once again, which they demonstrated by completing a night’s sweep as fast qualifier and feature winner, leading all 40 laps in wire-to-wire fashion to claim the $10,000 top prize.

After Friday’s whirlwind, the lost opportunity ate at Swanson, and he along with the Greenwood, Ind. based team weren’t going to let opportunity slip through their fingers when they rolled their car onto LOR’s pit lane bright and early on Saturday morning for the Sprint Car debut at the 70th Night Before the 500.

“It was actually pretty rough, I tell you,” Swanson admitted of his two-race losing “‘streak.'” Last night was actually tough because we put so much into the Silver Crown series and the effort there. We had one whale of a racecar last night.”

Well, they had one whale of racecar on this night as well by any measure. Kody was Saturday’s fastest qualifier in both the midget and sprint car divisions, which set him up for a spot on the pole in both of the night’s features with the races lining up “straight up” based on qualifying time.

A win this past June at LOR in Must See Racing Sprint Car competition came with the team’s trusty V6 engine. This time, the otherwise traditional V8 was under the hood of the Nolen Racing/KECO Coatings – Goodridge – K & N Filters/Beast/Tranter Chevy.

“It’s the first time we’ve had this engine in this racecar,” Swanson revealed. “We’re a V6 team but we didn’t know if we’d be able to hold everybody off here in a big race like this with it.”

Right off the bat, the first lap spelled doom for eighth starting Nick Hamilton and fifth starting Ken Schrader, who was making his first Sprint Car start at LOR in his long, illustrious career. Both drivers and their cars wound up against the SAFER barrier in turn two, putting a sudden conclusion to each of their nights.

Early on, outside front row starter Aaron Pierce presented a steady challenge to Swanson as he kept pace to the inside of Swanson throughout the duration of the opening circuit. Swanson reached the start/finish line first at the end of lap one by a mere nose over Pierce, who promptly fell into line behind Swanson and gave chase to the five-time Silver Crown titlist.

Throughout the middle stages, Swanson’s main culprit was the slew of traffic that lie ahead of him. As Swanson darted around and in-between the cars at the tail end of the lead lap, second-running Pierce inched his way closer to Swanson to within a couple car lengths away from the lead.

By lap 25, Swanson was in the clear as he ripped by the last remaining tail-end lead lap car, for the time being, that stood in his path to victory. Once clear, Swanson’s field of vision only involved one car within his sight that shared the same straightaway as himself, providing him ample time to open his lead back up and distance himself from Pierce.

It was easy-peasy from that point forward as Swanson was switching to glide to lead the remainder, and the entirety, of the feature event for his second LOR win in the past two nights, and third of the year. It was a more-than-welcome sight for the Kingsburg, Calif. native after the wrinkle that dogged the team the night before in the Silver Crown race.

“Today, they rallied and gave us a great sprint car,” Swanson remarked. “I appreciate the effort of everyone that’s a part of this Nolen Racing team. We do this in memory of Gene (Nolen), and I’m so thankful for his son, Greg, who’s carrying the torch for us and doing a great job of running a race team. These guys are first class and I’m thankful to be racing for them.”

Pierce finished 2nd to a Swanson for the second consecutive night at LOR. Friday night, it was Tanner, and on Saturday, the culprit was Kody keeping Pierce at Bay. Kyle Hamilton recorded a pair of third-place results on Saturday in both the midget and the sprint car feature. Tyler Roahrig (Mishawaka, Ind.) took 4th in the final tally while Tanner Swanson finished 5th on the heels of a Silver Crown victory the night before. Bobby Santos, meanwhile, scored a 6th after winning the Midget feature earlier in the evening.

USAC SPRINT CAR SPECIAL EVENT RACE RESULTS: August 22, 2020 – Lucas Oil Raceway – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Oval – Night Before the 500

QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 4, Nolen-20.992; 2. Aaron Pierce, 26, Pierce-21.103; 3. Tanner Swanson, 77, Doran-21.159; 4. Tyler Roahrig, 56, Roahrig-21.184; 5. Ken Schrader, 78, Armstrong-21.225; 6. Bobby Santos, 22, DJ-21.233; 7. Kyle Hamilton, 5, Klatt-21.307; 8. Nick Hamilton, 32H, Hamilton-21.429; 9. Billy Wease, 12, Wease-21.495; 10. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-21.507; 11. Kyle O’Gara, 67, SFHR-21.515; 12. Derek Bischak, 31, Performance Assurance-21.663; 13. Chris Neuenschwander, 12N, Powell-21.774; 14. Teddy Alberts, 44, Wolverine-21.893; 15. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-21.934; 16. Bryan Gossel, 6G, Gossel-22.010; 17. Joe Liguori, 8A, Reiser-22.051; 18. Christian Koehler, 10, Koehler-22.160; 19. Brian Vaughn, 71, Carmany-22.243; 20. Charlie Schultz, 9s, Reiser-22.397; 21. Mario Clouser, 92, Guess-22.716; 22. Gary Dunkle, 34, Dunkle-23.604; 23. Chris Jagger, 27J, Jagger-23.711; 24. Ronnie Wuerdeman, 32, Broadus-NT; 25. Tony Main, 74, Main-NT; 26. Justin Harper, 53, Harper-NT.

FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kody Swanson (1), 2. Aaron Pierce (2), 3. Kyle Hamilton (7), 4. Tyler Roahrig (4), 5. Tanner Swanson (3), 6. Bobby Santos (6), 7. Billy Wease (9), 8. Kyle O’Gara (11), 9. Derek Bischak (12), 10. Travis Welpott (15), 11. Bryan Gossel (16), 12. Joe Liguori (17), 13. Brian Vaughn (19), 14. Teddy Alberts (14), 15. Charlie Schultz (20), 16. Gary Dunkle (22), 17. Chris Jagger (23), 18. Mario Clouser (21), 19. Russ Gamester (10), 20. Christian Koehler (18), 21. Chris Neuenschwander (13), 22. Nick Hamilton (8), 23. Ken Schrader (5). NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Kody Swanson.