INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Courtney used a restart with seven laps remaining to pass leader Kevin Thomas Jr. and win a bittersweet Hoosier Hundred Thursday night, in the final running of the event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Courtney kept pace with Thomas, following him for 92 straight laps until making the winning move on a restart that made all the difference, one that came with a bit of advice courtesy of a voice from above.
“(Tyler Ransbottom), who’s my crew chief on the sprint car and midget, and my spotter tonight, told me on the open red that Jason McDougal had been making up time on restarts doing that same move,” Courtney said. “KT was lifting on restarts into one. So, I knew that if I could just outbrave him a little bit getting in and make sure I didn’t blow past it, it would work. Luckily, it did. You get the open track, no lapped cars, nothing, I got to run as hard as I wanted to for the last eight laps and that’s what I did. If it was going to blow, it was going to blow with me trying.”
Courtney is aware of the list of illustrious drivers who have won the Hoosier Hundred.
“My name is now alongside a lot of great names,” Courtney realized. “Including Kody Swanson, one of the best Silver Crown drivers in our lifetime. Foyt, Andretti, Pancho Carter, all those names. It’s incredible.”
Courtney started third as Chris Windom got the jump on the field on the initial start from his outside front row starting position. Windom led the first five trips around the one-mile dirt oval, but Thomas and Courtney were able to make up ground and close the gap. Thomas ducked to the inside of Windom coming off turn four with Courtney a car length behind in third when all broke loose.
Seemingly without warning, Windom’s right-rear tire shredded, sending the 2016 Silver Crown champ into one of the most harrowing crashes witnessed in the century-plus history of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Windom’s car immediately veered his car right, hitting nose first into the outside wall, which sent him barrel-rolling seven times and lasting nearly a half-straightaway.
Windom climbed from the mangled wreckage unscathed.
Following the lengthy red flag, Thomas dominated, driving for four-time Hoosier Hundred winning team Foxco Racing to lead a race-high 87 laps.
By lap 16, Thomas had already infiltrated lapped traffic and the interval between he and Courtney rarely fluctuated as Thomas built a half-straightaway lead over Courtney with a quarter of the laps in the books.
Just after halfway, four-time Hoosier Hundred winner Kody Swanson put the heat on Courtney for second while Thomas managed to stretch his lead over the following ten laps.
Six-time All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Chad Kemenah found the turn-two wall in his maiden Silver Crown start.
Though Swanson applied pressure, Courtney wasn’t going to allow him to make any sort of run at him as he bid his time in anticipation of making his own move.
“I knew if I kept KT within sight and Kody behind me, I was going to be at a good pace,” Courtney realized. “We tried not to let KT get too far. If he got too far, then I’d pick up the pace a bit. Luckily, we got that last red there and made a few adjustments, timed the restart right and made a bold move. I wanted it really bad.”
On the lap-69 restart, Swanson turned up the wick, getting to second briefly by going underneath Courtney between turns one and two. Courtney fought back on the outside and regained second by the exit of turn two as Swanson slipped back to third. Jason McDougal, meanwhile, making his second career Silver Crown start was mega-impressive using the cushion long thought to be extinct to travel from his 25th starting spot and into the top-five with 25 laps remaining.
Thomas worked through lapped traffic once again, getting hung up ever so slightly, allowing Courtney to close the gap briefly while Thomas nudged ahead, yet Courtney remained within striking distance, chopping down Thomas’ lead to a half-second with nine to go.
With Thomas and Courtney’s battle set to rage on down the stretch, just in front of them in turn two was two-time ALMS champion Chris Dyson who banged the turn-two wall and endured his own upside-down thrill ride from which he escaped injury.
Courtney’s team made some chassis adjustments during the red flag.
It appeared the changes helped immensely when the green flag waved on the lap-93 restart. Without lapped traffic on the horizon now, Courtney showed no hesitation, aiming for the top and driving it into turn one harder than he had all night up to that point.
Thomas showed no vital signs of reestablishing the top spot down the stretch as Courtney grew his lead by leaps and bounds to win his second career Silver Crown race, but first on one of the historic one-mile dirt ovals where he became the first driver won in all three USAC National divisions in 2019.
Thomas finished his fourth-straight USAC Silver Crown race on dirt in the runner-up spot.
Swanson’s bid for a fifth-straight Hoosier Hundred victory to break a tie with Al Unser (1970-’73) came up short, finishing third ahead of Justin Grant and Brady Bacon.
To see full results, turn to the next page.