By Richie Murray
Brownsburg, Indiana (May 27, 2022)………Bobby Santos never let last year’s Carb Night Classic USAC Silver Crown disappointment escape his memory bank.
He remembered it all too well after leading 63 laps before seeing Kody Swanson drive by him in traffic for the lead and the win.
Given the same scenario during Friday night’s latest edition of Carb Night at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Santos was bound and determined not to let it play out the same way.
Santos, of Franklin, Mass., led all but one circuit of the 100-lap, $10,000-to-win feature, briefly relinquishing the lead for a split second before surging back to the front and holding off his long-standing rival, Swanson, to earn his first series victory in more than four years, since the Phoenix round of the 2018 season.
It’s a victory that’s been a longtime coming for Santos, whose 11th career Silver Crown triumphant performance elevated him past Gary Bettenhausen and Mike Bliss and into a tie with Bobby East for ninth on the all-time list.
One year after Kody became the first driver to win in two different types of racecars in a single night at IRP, Santos did just the same on this night, and in a cycle-like fashion as well. Santos clocked in as the fastest qualifier for both the midgets and Silver Crown, then finished the racing smorgasbord with a midget feature icing and a Silver Crown cherry on top.
Santos’ 13th career IRP USAC win also matched Swanson for second all-time on that particular list, just two behind Tracy Hines’ 15. Five of Santos’ IRP scores have come in the Silver Crown division, the latest of them coming on Friday night in his DJ Racing/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Simpson Race Products/Beast/Speedway Chevy.
“This race beat me up pretty bad last year,” Santos remembered. “We had a perfect night, but we didn’t have a perfect racecar. Those guys were better than we were at the end and those guys are the best. There’s no arguing that. They are the standard for Silver Crown racing. It’s been tough chasing them, but it feels good to steal one from them tonight. It’s been a really long time since I’ve won one of these things, so I was driving pretty desperate. I just raced as hard as I could and did what I needed to do to win the race. Now we’ve just got to go back to work and get a little bit better with this thing.”
In his five previous Carb Night Classic Silver Crown starts, Santos had reeled off five consecutive top-four finishes between 2017-2021, with a runner-up result in both 2017 and 2021, a 3rd in 2019 and a 4th in 2018 and 2020. But this one was different and ultimately proved to be so.
With a full load of fuel, Santos burst away at the start to hold the early advantage before a barrage of turn one accidents early in the proceedings halted the action, kickstarted by 25th running Dave Berkheimer who slid up and smashed into the turn one SAFER barrier on lap six.
Santos continued to own the number one position by roughly five car lengths in a top-three breakaway along with Kody Swanson and Ryan Newman as a quarter of the race had been inked into the books. That’s when Austin Nemire (16th) became the next in line to smack the turn one wall and came to a halt in turn two on lap 27.
Just a few ticks before the halfway point, Kyle Robbins (16th) fell into the wicked trap of the “Wall of Voodoo” as he became the third victim of the turn one wall thus far. All drivers involved in the incidents walked away unscathed.
Three laps before halfway down-halfway to go, Russ Gamester executed the save of the year thus far when he and Nathan Byrd made wheel contact right underneath the flag stand while tussling for the 11th spot, sending Gamester into a half-straightaway slide toward turn one. With smoke billowing from each of his four Hoosiers while he stood on the brakes, Gamester avoided an altercation with both the wall and the back half of the field bearing down on him. Despite the harrowing act of survival, Gamester dropped out and did not return to the race.
Santos opened his lead to as much as 1.2 seconds over K. Swanson once racing resumed, but it didn’t last for long. Swanson steadily shrunk the gap between he and Santos down to a single car length with Swanson now draped all over the rear bumper of Santos.
Swanson got the bite he sought after and was able to pull alongside to the outside of Santos between turns three and four on lap 72, and promptly nipped Santos at the stripe by the width of a single wheel. Swanson expertly washed up the racetrack at the entrance to turn one to yank Swanson’s line for his own purposes and disallow a counterattack from Swanson.
The fight of Swanson was brought back front and center to Santos with nine laps remaining as Swanson got himself completely even to the inside of Santos with eight laps to go in turns three and four, but Santos, not giving an inch or a yard, never flinched, with Santos escaping the fracas.
A yellow flag on lap 93 for sixth running Justin Grant, who spun to a stop backwards at the entrance to the pits in turn three, tightened up the battle at the front and battened the hatches for the possibility of one more Swanson attack. Swanson decidedly took the high road, but Santos was strong through the middle, not allowing Swanson much room to maneuver high or low amid his pursuit.
On the final set of turns on the last lap, Swanson stuck his nose around the outside, but Santos had enough in the proverbial tank to fend off Swanson to make it his turn at victory this time around, with Santos winning his second feature of the night, this one by a 0.094 second margin.
Santos and Swanson were followed to the line by Taylor Ferns with a career-best 3rd place result. C.J. Leary, making his first Silver Crown pavement start in three seasons, was 4th. Logan Seavey, who initially had trouble starting the race, rounded out the top-five.
Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) challenged Santos immensely in the late stages of the 100-lapper but came up a 1/2-car length short to finish 2nd in his Doran-Dyson Racing/Glenn Farms – Henry U.S.A. – Duncan Oil/Beast/Lanci Ford. Swanson has now finished inside the top-two at the Carb Night Classic in five of its seven editions.
“I never did complete a pass, but I tried really hard to,” Swanson stated. “Bobby drove a great race, drove really hard and he had a great car, but so did I. We weren’t where we needed to be, and we made some changes and had a shot. That’s all you can ask for as a driver. On those long runs, I felt like I had a shot, but I just couldn’t quite figure it out. That was everything I had.”
Ferns (Shelby Township, Mich.) made history on Friday night as the first woman to finish on the podium of a USAC Silver Crown race. She already owned the prestige of having the best series finish by a female in series history, but tonight, she earned her best performance with a 3rd place result, after starting 10th, in her Taylor Ferns Racing/Sam Bernstein Law Firm – Tyme Auto Transportation/Beast/Stanton Mopar.
“I really wanted that win, but I knew we were probably all dealing with the same thing on our cars,” said Ferns, who is an operations manager at a law firm by day and is currently attending law school. “I was just so tight on acceleration coming off the corners, so I was almost kind of protecting, and you’ve got to kind of pick and choose whether to go for it or protect. I guess we’re in the middle there. When the last caution came out, I told my guys, ‘the gloves are off; I’m going for it.’ Congrats to them, but I want that win. The next Silver Crown pavement race, we’re going for it again.”
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 27, 2022 – Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Oval – Carb Night Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: (Times based on practice times due to rain) 1. Bobby Santos, 22, DJ-21.040; 2. Ryan Newman, 2v, Vance-21.139; 3. Kody Swanson, 1, Doran/Dyson-21.141; 4. Derek Bischak, 131, Bischak-21.221; 5. Nick Hamilton, 80, Breidinger-21.231; 6. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-21.284; 7. Tanner Swanson, 02, Bowman-21.291; 8. Logan Seavey, 222, Rice-21.402; 9. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-21.412; 10. Taylor Ferns, 55, Ferns-21.515; 11. Kyle O’Gara, 67, SFHR-21.547; 12. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-21.606; 13. Brian Tyler, 81, BCR-21.612; 14. Nathan Byrd, 11, Hamilton/Byrd-21.614; 15. Austin Nemire, 16, Nemire/Lesko-21.714; 16. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-22.017; 17. Patrick Lawson, 2, Lawson-22.103; 18. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams-22.161; 19. Mike McVetta, 94, Ram-22.253; 20. Bryan Gossel, 06, Gossel-22.290; 21. Eric Gordon, 99, Armstrong-22.374; 22. Davey Hamilton Jr., 14, Hamilton/Puglio-23.181; 23. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-25.699; 24. Mario Clouser, 92, Kazmark-26.109; 25. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-NT.
FEATURE: (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Bobby Santos (1), 2. Kody Swanson (3), 3. Taylor Ferns (10), 4. C.J. Leary (6), 5. Logan Seavey (8), 6. Brian Tyler (13), 7. Mario Clouser (24), 8. Davey Hamilton Jr. (22), 9. Eric Gordon (21), 10. Gregg Cory (18), 11. Kyle O’Gara (11), 12. Nathan Byrd (14), 13. Justin Grant (12), 14. Bryan Gossel (20), 15. Nick Hamilton (5), 16. Tanner Swanson (7), 17. Travis Welpott (25), 18. Ryan Newman (2), 19. Russ Gamester (9), 20. Kyle Robbins (16), 21. Austin Nemire (15), 22. Mike McVetta (19), 23. Patrick Lawson (17), 24. Derek Bischak (4), 25. Dave Berkheimer (23). 50:50.044
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-71 Bobby Santos, Lap 72 Kody Swanson, Laps 73-100 Bobby Santos.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-122, 2-Logan Seavey-119, 3-Justin Grant-107, 4-C.J. Leary-107, 5-Bobby Santos-76, 6-Brian Tyler-76, 7-Jerry Coons Jr.-67, 8-Taylor Ferns-64, 9-Brady Bacon-64, 10-Travis Welpott-64.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Robert Ballou-31, 2-Mario Clouser-29, 3-Jadon Rogers-27, 4-Buddy Kofoid-26, 5-Brady Bacon-25, 6-Tanner Thorson-23, 7-Justin Grant-20, 8-Thomas Meseraull-20, 9-Logan Seavey-18, 10-Shane Cockrum-18.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 18, 2022 – Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – Open Wheel Madness
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Bobby Santos
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Bobby Santos
Hard Charger: Mario Clouser (24th to 7th)