Indianapolis — Much is and has been written about racing drivers and their exploits over the last century plus. However, journalists and historians alike sometimes overlook the other tangibles that help winning drivers get into victory lane. In horse racing it is the mount that gets the lion’s share of the publicity and sometimes the jockey, no matter how successful takes second stage. In auto racing the driver gets the biggest share of the attention while the mount that takes him to victory lane sometimes takes a backseat.
While Kody Swanson is getting attention for his shot at tying Al Unser’s remarkable record of winning four consecutive Hoosier Hundred races at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, overlooked perhaps is the possibility that his mount, a Maxim chassis also has a shot at history.
When Swanson joined forces with Bob Hampshire and Ralph DePalma in 2014 the team prepared a black framed Maxim (headquartered in Springfield, Illinois) chassis complete with snow white body panels and the familiar red number 63 for the Kingsburg, California driver. Legendary Jack Hewitt, a three-time winner of the Hoosier Hundred, piloted a similarly painted Stanton Chassis during the mid-80’s for Hampshire winning two Silver Crown titles in the process and nearly all of the events on the 1986 schedule.
The team clicked immediately with Swanson winning at Terre Haute and the Indy Mile among their 5 victories in 2014, with three more wins on the clay coming in 2015 and Swanson’s second consecutive Silver Crown title to boot. Last season the Maxim carried Kody to his third consecutive Hoosier Hundred victory. Together the pair have 9 Silver Crown victories on the dirt.
Which car are they chasing one might ask? None other than a 1969 Grant King creation that carried two of the most iconic paint schemes in auto racing. This car made its debut with the newly formed (for 1969) Vel’s-Parnelli Jones Racing Team at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in August with Al Unser at the wheel. Two weeks later the pair won their first 100-mile dirt race at DuQuoin and followed that up with another 100-mile victory at Sacramento.
Getting a dark blue coat of paint over the winter with lightning bolt trim, the now “Johnny Lightning” dirt car was unbeatable in 1970 winning all 5 of the dirt races including the September Hoosier Hundred. Carrying the number 1 in 1971 the car was entered only twice on the dirt but won the Hoosier Hundred again.
Sporting a roll cage and the red and white Viceroy colors for 1973 Al Unser and the dirt car won Springfield and the Hoosier Hundred to capture the 1972 Silver Crown title. Racing against a newer sister car piloted by Mario Andretti, the car won its fourth consecutive Hoosier Hundred in 1973. The car won at Syracuse in July of 1974 but was badly damaged in an accident at Sedalia in August. It returned for DuQuoin and nearly won a fifth consecutive Hoosier Hundred in September finishing a close second to Jackie Howerton.
The 1974 Hoosier Hundred was the car’s last race. It was taken off the track and kept in the same condition over the years and has been parked at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum as part of the Parnelli Jones collection, pockmarks and all. In 20 starts over six seasons the 1969 Grant King built car won 12 times.
Kody Swanson’s car has a chance to equal the four consecutive Hoosier Hundred races that Al Unser’s 1969 Grant King car won. Nearly 40 drivers are entered for Thursday’s event, the largest anticipated car count for the race since 2005 and you can get in on the action with a special discount price.* USAC and Track Enterprises have teamed up to present a Superticket for admission to three of its upcoming marquee events – the “Tony Hulman Classic,” the “Hoosier Hundred” and the “Carb Night Classic” on May 24-25-26 – leading up to the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 2017 Hoosier Hundred takes place May 25 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.* Practice is slated to begin at 5 p.m. with qualifications after 6.* Tickets can be obtained by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200.*
-Track Enterprises Press Release
-Photo Credit: Jim Viviano