The 64th Hoosier Hundred was a bittersweet race for many in attendance Thursday night, as it was the last one to be held at the famed Indiana State Fairgrounds. “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney made a bold pass around the outside of Kevin Thomas Jr. on the final restart with eight laps to go to score his second career USAC Silver Crown win and his first in the prestigious event.
Thomas inherited the lead on lap 6 after a nasty flip by then-leader Chris Windom and dominated most of the event. He was untouchable through the middle stages of the race as he built leads upwards of four seconds. However, a red flag with eight laps to go bunched the field back up and allowed Courtney to make his move.
Courtney’s move came after his spotter had seen another competitor work his way into the top five from deep in the field by using the outside. He said it was the only way he was going to get by Thomas, and he was able to make it stick for the win in the Hans Lein-owned No. 97.
“My spotter under that open red told me that McDougal had been making some passes to get through the field by going a little bit higher than the rest of the guys and I knew that was probably going to be my only chance to get by him cleanly,” Courtney told Speed51.com. “I tried to time it right to where I knew he’d be lifting kind of early going into one. I tried timing it to where I go around him there without overrunning the corner, and I was able to clear him pretty early into the corner. Then I had to run my own race there the rest of the race.”
As a someone who has lived in Indianapolis his entire life, the win meant a lot to the 25-year-old who began his racing career racing Quarter Midgets on the small track located at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It was special to not only win the final Hoosier Hundred held at the State Fairgrounds, but to do it where his racing career began.
“It’s bittersweet, man,” he said. “It’s obviously incredible that we got to win but it’s pretty sad that it’s the last one. But I’ll forever be known as the last guy to win here and hopefully we can keep the event going somewhere; it’s obviously not going to be here, unfortunately. Hopefully something pops up to where we keep something going so we don’t lose another mile.”
While Courtney was celebrating in victory lane, Kevin Thomas Jr. had to settle for second after leading 86 laps. A dejected Thomas mentioned that despite the disappointment in not winning the final race at the State Fairgrounds, it was still special to have a good run.
“We led ninety laps of the last Hoosier Hundred, so that’s pretty special, but do you want to be known as the guy who led ninety laps or the guy who got passed with eight to go?” he said. “I don’t like losing in anything, especially after you dominate a race like that, it’s frustrating. We had a good car from start to finish and we didn’t win the race, so that’s on the race car driver.
“That what sucks the most, you can’t come back here next year and redeem yourself,” he continued. “You’re stuck as the guy that led ninety laps and didn’t win the race. It sucks but it’s also pretty special to live here and see this place year in and year out and set quick time at the last one and run a good race there to end it all. It’s frustrating to have lost the race, but at least we had a good showing.”
The scariest moment of the Hoosier Hundred happened just six laps in when Chris Windom shredded a right rear tire and turned into the frontstretch wall, flipping wildly across the start-finish line. Fortunately, he was able to climb out of the car under his own power. With a busy week still ahead for the former USAC Silver Crown champion, he will play it by ear and see how he feels before competing in Friday’s Freedom 100 and Dave Steele Carb Night Classic.
“The right rear tire cut down going down the front straightaway and it just turned me right into the wall and I started barrel rolling to the left,” he said. “It happened very fast. It rung my bell a little bit, so we’ll take a night and see how I feel tomorrow. As of now, everything’s still going to be as planned. I’ll make sure I feel okay in the morning and make sure I’m good to go. I feel okay right now, so I’m hoping for the best.”
With Thursday night’s Hoosier Hundred win, Courtney has now won in all three USAC National Series this season. He says the win will be a big momentum boost as he chases two championships and the USAC Super License for the second year in a row.
“It’s definitely a momentum booster, you know,” Courtney said. “We’ve had a really good Midget and Sprint Car with the Clauson-Marshall gang and Hans gives me a good car night in and night out. We’ve just had some misfortunes last year leading both the miles last year. We blew up one time and ran out of fuel in the other. We just got to keep chugging forward and win as many races as we can.”
Four-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson’s quest for a record-breaking fifth straight Hoosier Hundred win ended with a third-place finish, while Justin Grant finished the race fourth. Jason McDougal completed the top five after starting deep in the field.
The busy week of racing in Indy continues on Friday as the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series heads to Lucas Oil Raceway for the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic, their second race in two nights. Speed51.com will be on location with coverage on our PFC Brakes Twitter feed.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Mark Funderburk