Two-time and defending USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson has been the beacon of excellence in the series over the past two-plus seasons, but on Saturday night, the Kingsburg, California native added yet another amazing feat on his ever-growing resume by etching his name in “Hoosier Hundred” lore, earning the victory in the 62nd edition of the prestigious event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, joining Indianapolis 500 winners Jimmy Bryan (1954-56) and Al Unser (1970-73) as the only wheelmen to claim three straight “Hoosier Hundred” victories.
Swanson stayed in the hunt all race long, but just as he did one year ago, Swanson decided it was go-time near the two-thirds mark of the 100-lap event. In 2015, Swanson took the lead from A.J. Fike with 33 laps to go. This year, Swanson took care of business one lap earlier, sailing past Cottle with 34 to go before holding off multiple challenges from Cottle down the stretch to take his 13th career series victory, surpassing three-time Silver Crown champ Jimmy Sills and placing himself 7th on the all-time win list.
In the first quarter of the race, all eyes were on the battle at the front between Jerry Coons, Jr. and Brady Bacon. At the start, pole-sitter Bacon was overtaken by Coons for the lead, before shooting back to the top spot on lap two. On the 27th circuit, just two laps after a restart, Coons squeezed between Bacon and the outside wall, outdueling Bacon for the lead in a drag race into turn one.
Meanwhile, Cottle began his charge, entering the top-five with a pass on Justin Grant in the first turn. By lap 44, Cottle had assumed second with an inside maneuver on Bacon as Coons, Cottle and Swanson ran nose-to-tail.
On lap 58, Cottle’s persistence paid off as he ran down Coons for the lead with Swanson and Grant in hot pursuit, while Coons slipped to 4th.
With 35 laps to go, longtime series veteran Russ Gamester went for a wild end-over-end ride in turn two, bringing out the night’s first red flag. On the ensuing restart, Swanson turned up the wick, eventually clamping down on leader Cottle using his patented patient, calculating, methodical approach, overpowering Cottle for the top spot on lap 67.
Swanson’s prowess on the dirt-miles wasn’t able to force Cottle into submission during the final stretch. With 15 laps remaining, Cottle flexed his muscle by attempting to split between Swanson and the lapped car of Terry James, nearly colliding with each other as the pack trekked down the front straightaway.
Cottle refused to go away quietly, giving it one more shot with just nine laps to go, pulling to within a tail tanks’ length of Swanson as the pair stormed into turn one. Catching and passing were proven to be two completely separate scenarios, as Cottle could only reel Swanson in briefly on occasion, but Swanson was simply too strong down the stretch, pulling away for the landmark win over Cottle, Coons, Indy 500 competitor Bryan Clauson and Chris Windom, who took over the seat of scheduled driver Brian Tyler in the McQuinn no. 14 after his primary ride, the RPM/Fred Gormly no. 98 suffered mechanical issues in practice.
Swanson has made the Indiana State Fairgrounds look like his own, personal playground in the last three years and this night was no different in his DePalma Motorsports/Radio Hospital – Champion Oil/Maxim/Hampshire Chevy.
“The mile is probably my favorite and I don’t really know why,” Swanson said. “There’s just something about it. Part of it is because it’s the ‘Hoosier Hundred,’ which is so cool, but there’s a lot of challenges that the Indy Mile presents. People say it’s narrow and it’s hard to get a hold of and you have to be precise. For some reason, the more other people don’t like race tracks, the more I like them. Getting three in a row is hard to put into word how much it means. It puts me in a category with a group of guys that I don’t feel like I belong with, but it wasn’t just me. Our team won this race three times; not just me. I’m just so thankful to be a part of it.”
Kokomo, Indiana’s Shane Cottle took second in the Curtis Williams/Roger Williams Precision Engines – QS Components/Maxim/Chevy after leading nine laps and throwing a slew of challenges to Swanson in the final run, thereby earning his best series finish since his 2007 victory in the “Ted Horn 100” at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
“Kody was a lot better getting into the corner and through the center, but it just came down to him conserving his tires a lot longer than I did,” Cottle admitted. “He had a little more left at the end and I had to save mine after the red and that allowed him to get by me. I think we were a little faster than he was; I just couldn’t ever catch him. This car is really fast and it’s been good ever since I got in it. So, hopefully, our time will come soon.”
Two-time “Hoosier Hundred” winner Jerry Coons, Jr. led 32 laps on his way to a third place result in the Nolen Racing/KECO – Columbus Container/Maxim/Tranter Chevy.
“I saw Bryan on the outside a couple times, but I wasn’t worried about him doing something silly,” Coons said. “I just needed a little bit more everywhere. I just couldn’t believe the pace those guys were setting early. I got to the lead and just tried to cruise and conserve because that’s what you do here, but Kody went by me with 50 to go and I couldn’t believe how quick they were running. But these cars change over the years and this is our first mile with the Maxim, so we’re pleased to come away with a third.”
“Hoosier Hundred” contingency award winners included Brady Bacon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Terry James (KSE Hard Charger) and Austin Nemire (Wilwood Brakes 13th place finisher).
USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 26, 2016 – Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana State Fairgrounds – 62nd “Hoosier Hundred”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 48, Martens-34.396; 2. Jerry Coons Jr., 20, Nolen-34.402; 3. Kody Swanson, 63, DePalma-34.910; 4. Bryan Clauson, 6, Klatt-35.130; 5. Austin Nemire, 91. Hemelgarn-35.272; 6. David Byrne, 40, Byrne-35.583; 7. Dave Darland, 17, Dutcher-35.589; 8. Shane Cottle, 81, Williams-35.747; 9. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary/6R-35.842; 10. A.J. Fike, 3, RFMS-35.862; 11. Chris Windom, 14, McQuinn-35.907; 12. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 27, Phillips-36.058; 13. Joey Moughan, 29, Moughan-36.060; 14. Aaron Pierce, 26, Pierce-36.135; 15. Mark Smith, 99, RPM/Gormly-36.135; 16. Justin Grant, 8, Carli-36.205; 17. Casey Shuman, 55, Bateman-36.288; 18. Davey Ray, 25, Sachs-36.292; 19. Jacob Wilson, 07, WBR-36.317; 20. Shane Cockrum, 71, Hardy-36.355; 21. Terry Babb, 00, Babb-36.659; 22. Joe Liguori, 58, Liguori-36.712; 23. Neil Shepherd, 7, Shepherd-36.972; 24. Steve Buckwalter, 53, SET-37.033; 25. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-37.061; 26. Danny Long, 44, Long-38.779; 27. Terry James, 23, Satterthwaite-41.994; 28. Jeff Swindell, 21, Swanson (Time of 35.418 disallowed), 29. Mitch Wissmiller, 0, Barker/Thackery-NT; 30. Chris Windom, 98, RPM/Gormly-NT; 31. Chris Fetter, 88, Fetter-NT; 32. J.C. Bland, 5, Bland-NT; 33. Tad Roach, 84, Spivey-NT.
FEATURE: (100 laps) 1. Kody Swanson, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Jerry Coons Jr., 4. Bryan Clauson, 5. Chris Windom, 6. C.J. Leary, 7. David Byrne, 8. Davey Ray, 9. Mark Smith, 10. Dave Darland, 11. Jacob Wilson, 12. Casey Shuman, 13. Austin Nemire, 14. Terry James, 15. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 16. Justin Grant, 17. Jeff Swindell, 18. Brady Bacon, 19. Russ Gamester, 20. Shane Cockrum, 21. Neil Shepherd, 22. Aaron Pierce, 23. Steve Buckwalter, 24. Terry Babb, 25. Joey Moughan, 26. Joe Liguori, 27. A.J. Fike, 28. Danny Long, 29. Mitch Wissmiller, 30. J.C. Bland. NT
**Gamester flipped on lap 66 and Swindell flipped on lap 85 during the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Coons, Laps 2-26 Bacon, Laps 27-57 Coons, Laps 58-66 Cottle, Laps 67-100 Swanson.
NEW USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Swanson-137, 2-Leary-125, 3-Cottle-122, 4-Windom-116, 5-Coons-110, 6-Clauson-110, 7-Grant-104, 8-Bacon-91, 9-Byrne-89, 10-Darland-86.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Terry James (27th to 14th)
UMP MODIFIED RESULTS
1) 77 Joey Kramer
2) 9 Ken Schrader
3) X Jesse Snyder
4) 42 Justin Gregory
5) 9B Charles Baker
6) 19 Michael Kettnich