The Californian Kody Swanson continued his dominance in the win column on the larger dirt tracks, taking the lead from Shane Cottle with 34 laps to go at the annual Hoosier Hundred. It was the 28-year-old’s third straight victory at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
“The mile races are so special and they said during pre-race that there are only three of them left,” Swanson, who most recently won the final USAC Silver Crown Series event at the New York State Fairgrounds, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “There’s something about this team and this car that seems to fit well on mile tracks. They are hard not to enjoy when you are driving a car that good. I’m just thankful to be a part of this team.”
It was a 100-lap race filled with several challenges and passes for the lead. Brady Bacon led the field of more than 30 open wheel cars to the green before swapping the top spot with two-time event winner Jerry Coons Jr. Near the middle stages, Cottle’s machine came to life and made a bid up front. All the while, Swanson would ride in the top five before ascending up the order and ultimately to the lead.
“It’s tough because this is a tire-eater and we have to make sure we have something left at the end,” Swanson indicated. “I didn’t want to push as hard as we did the whole race, but there were so many good cars that somebody was going to pass you if you didn’t keep up. I got lucky opportunities that presented themselves when they did and I could capitalize.”
Swanson added that at times he was not sure if he was going to get Cottle for the top spot, but catching a run at the right time played into what won him the race. Cottle conceded that tire management potentially made the difference.
“He’s just a master at saving his tires,” Cottle said regarding Swanson. “He saved them just a little bit longer than I did, which it showed there at the end. He still has a little tread on his and I was playing catchup and I burnt mine off.”
Coons held on for a third place finish, but was surprised about the fast pace his competitors were able to set with the warmer track conditions that were presented in this year’s running.
“They were just a little quicker,” Coons admitted. “I was pretty conservative early. Normally with the cold, the cars that we are used to running here this place burns off tires. The pace that they were setting was unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting that whatsoever.”
Bryan Clauson, who will be competing in Sunday 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, finished fourth. Chris Windom rounded out the top five in a borrowed ride after mechanical issues with his own car in practice. Bacon, who set fast time earlier in the evening, was sidelined late in the distance with a clutch problem.
Swanson’s achievement is only second to the legendary Al Unser, who scored four consecutive Hoosier Hundreds from 1970 to 1973. The two-time defending USAC Silver Crown Series champion was left nearly speechless initially and was holding back tears describing how special it is.
“I think it’s impossible to put into words, especially something like this,” a rather emotional Swanson said. “You didn’t want to think about it because you didn’t want to jinx it.
“I’m not a big name and I don’t deserve to be. I just happen to be the driver of the same team that won those other times. It wasn’t me alone. I’m just a piece to the puzzle, and a small piece. These guys all work so hard to build the engines in-house, and the DePalma family that owns it, they’ve been racing a long time. It’s something that I am thankful to be a part of just to be a guy on the team.”
The drivers and teams will have to switch their focus quickly as they compete in the Carb Night Classic at the paved Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis oval the following night.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com