It appeared to be all Kody Swanson early in the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN) as the four-time USAC Silver Crown champion was untouchable for the first half of the 100-lap race. However, his quest for an all-time series leading 27th win went up in smoke after a restart just past halfway, opening the door for several other drivers to earn a rare asphalt Silver Crown win.
Kyle Hamilton claimed the lead after losing it to Bobby Santos III on the final restart with 28 to go and held off a charge by Tanner Swanson for his first career USAC Silver Crown win.
The win for Hamilton was special because of the connection he has with the late Dave Steele. He was driving the same car for Klatt Enterprises Steele drove during his Silver Crown days, so to pick up his first career win at the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic made it that much sweeter.
“To do it on a Dave Steele night is pretty impressive,” Hamilton told Speed51. “Dave was a big hero of mine. He mentored me for a while when I was coming up. He was somebody you want to model yourself after and it’s pretty cool to get it done here at Raceway Park. He actually drove the car I was driving tonight here at Raceway Park, so it’s a pretty cool moment.”
Hamilton first inherited the lead after race-long leader Kody Swanson could not fire off on a restart with 55 laps complete, and would lead all but one lap the rest of the way.
While Hamilton wishes he would have been able to race Swanson straight up, he will take the win however it may come.
“I saw his car starting to smoke just a little bit but I couldn’t figure out what it was, and on the restart it just didn’t go,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of that and I hate to see that, but you got to take them how you can get them.”
Hamilton’s win added to the success Klatt Enterprises has seen during this busy week. On Thursday, Hamilton qualified second for Saturday’s Little 500 in the team’s Sprint Car, before Brady Bacon finished in the top five in the USAC Silver Crown Hoosier Hundred.
“We’re all super pumped. It’s a long week for the whole team,” he said. “We’ve been at Anderson since Wednesday, they ran the dirt car last night, we ran tonight, and we’ll run the Little 500 tomorrow night, my guys are hustling.”
For the second year in a row, Tanner Swanson accepted the Back Row Challenge for a chance to win $10,000 if he were to win the race. After getting to the tail tank of his brother before finishing second one year ago, he repeated his efforts with another second place finish.
Swanson drove through the field twice during the race. He worked his way into the top five before going to pit road for adjustments just after halfway. He was back in the top five within ten laps of the pit stop and made it to within a few car lengths of Hamilton, but that was as close as he would get.
“We opted to start in the back but I felt like we had the best chance of doing it other than Kody, who has to race for the points,” Swanson said. “We drove up through the field and got to fifth, but we were just way too tight. We lost all our stagger and we made the call to come in. Within ten laps, we drove back to where we were and had a chance there, made him work a little bit on that last restart, but we just didn’t have enough when it came down to the end.”
Tanner’s older brother Kody Swanson appeared to be on his way to yet another USAC Silver Crown win, but a mechanical failure in his Gene Nolen No. 20 ended his night just after a restart with 55 laps complete. After his first loss on a pavement track since the 2018 season opener at ISM Raceway, he now sits just a few points ahead of Justin Grant in the standings.
Kody Swanson was left with what-ifs after the early exit.
“Right before that caution, I felt a miss in the engine,” the elder Swanson said. “I tried to radio in and talk about it, but at that point, I pretty much knew what’s done was already done and gave our shot to keep going and we had no power, something broke inside. At that point, our day was done. it’s a shame because I’m usually better in the second half than in the first, and I led the first half.”
After sweeping both USAC Silver Crown races and the Little 500 one year ago, he has yet to go to victory lane this week. Swanson will start on the pole for tomorrow night’s race looking for a better outcome than at Lucas Oil Raceway, one that will land him a third race win in four years.
“I’ve been the defending winner every night this week and I haven’t won any of them yet,” he said. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but we got to put the work in to be ready, and hopefully we’ll be a little bit more ready tomorrow.”
Starting between Swanson and outside front row starter Tyler Roahrig for Saturday night’s Little 500 is none other than Kyle Hamilton. After Friday night’s win at the Carb Night Classic, the 2017 Little 500 winner is more ready than ever to look for his second race win in three years on Saturday night.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Hamilton said. “Anderson’s always been a good track for us. Honestly, I was more worried about tonight than tomorrow night and to knock off a win already, I’m pretty much ready to roll into tomorrow night now that we got a little momentum.”
Bobby Santos finished third, followed by Justin Grant and David Byrne to round out the top five.
The next stop for the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series sees them return to the dirt for the Horn-Schindler Memorial at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo