CLERMONT, Ind. — Kyle Hamilton pocketed $14,750 for his first USAC Silver Crown Series victory during Friday night’s Dave Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“Last year, it didn’t seem like anything could go right mechanically,” Hamilton recalled. “Our Little 500 car broke, my teammate Brady (Bacon)’s dirt car broke, we broke right out the box here at (LOR) and had to start the race from the tail with no practice laps. This year, we’re on the front row of the ‘Little 500’ and we qualified third tonight at LOR. I thought, ‘Well, this is going a lot better.’ But, honestly, tonight was the night I was a little bit more worried about being slow. We’ve always struggled here, and I didn’t want to disappoint my team, but I was a little nervous inside.”
Hamilton put his Klatt Enterprises/Beast Chassis – Wilwood Disc Brakes/Beast/Ford on the outside of the front row for the 100-lapper at the .686-mile paved oval.
Meanwhile, up front was Kody Swanson who started from the pole after taking the Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier Award and $1,000 bonus from Mac and Carol Steele. Swanson dominated the first half as he attempted to go three-for-three in pavement races on the season and extend his series-record of consecutive pavement Silver Crown wins to seven.
Four-time LOR Silver Crown winner Bobby Santos charged past Hamilton on the ninth lap with an inside turn one pass to move to second. From there, Santos began to reel in Kody and applied pressure for the lead as those two separated from Hamilton in third.
One of the major storylines developing throughout the race was Tanner Swanson’s decision to accept the “Come from the Back Challenge” during driver introductions.
By doing so, he forfeited his outside front row spot to start from the tail and go for a $10,000 bonus by way of Legacy Motorsports and Gatekeeper Services. By lap 13, Tanner was already in the top-ten, and by lap 30, had entered the top-five, reminiscent of his 22nd to second charge through the field one year prior.
On the 33rd lap, Hamilton caught up to Santos, driving to the inside of Santos in turn one before prevailing off turn two with the second spot, but trailing Kody in the lead by over a second.
Swanson and Hamilton weaved their way through lapped traffic, Hamilton mimicking every Swanson move and not allowing the four-time Silver Crown champ to slip away just as Matt Goodnight stopped on the back straightaway to bring out the caution just one lap short of halfway.
Under yellow, fifth-running Tanner Swanson pitted to let air out of his left rear tire, to which he later admitted to using up too much of his tires early on.
With the yellow, that cleared the traffic situation for the time-being, although, for Hamilton in second, he couldn’t have imagined what occurred next when Kody Swanson failed to take off on the lap-54 restart, handing over the lead to Hamilton with a clear track ahead of him. Kody Swanson coasted around to the pit area with an apparent engine issue that put an end to the four-time LOR Silver Crown winner’s bid for five.
Hamilton continued to build his lead up through lap 63 when the caution came out for Chris Windom, who’s nightmarish 24 hours came to an end crumpled against the turn-one wall after smoke poured from the back of the car entering one. Derek Bischak was also caught up in the incident, riding over Windom’s front end, putting an end to the evening for both drivers.
Windom rode out a hellacious flip during the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Thursday night, and rode out a frightening Indy Lights wreck on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday afternoon.
On the lap-73 restart, Santos used a run on the inside of Hamilton, sliding up in front of Hamilton in turn one to secure the position as the pair exited turn two. One lap later, the roles were reversed, and Hamilton drove it hard into turn one underneath Santos to slot into the top spot.
“Honestly, I don’t have a ton of experience leading Silver Crown races,” Hamilton admitted. “I didn’t know how aggressive to be on the restart. I’d say Santos is one of the more aggressive guys and one of the best who does it. He sent it on down there and it stuck. Immediately, once I got behind him, I could tell I was really digging better than him coming off the corners. I had to throw another haymaker at him going into one and it stuck again.”
Incredibly, Hamilton proceeded to reel off his best four laps of the race on laps 74-77. But on the move was Tanner Swanson, who ripped around the outside of Santos in turn two on the 76th lap. Tanner Swanson began to chip into Hamilton’s lead, cutting the interval down to less than a second as the two began to work lapped traffic with less than 20 laps remaining.
Hamilton dipped under the lappers down the stretch as Tanner Swanson tried everything he could to keep up the pace, but Hamilton’s car seemed to get better and better in the final laps, stretching out to a comfortable advantage that proved to be a tall and impossible task for his closest competition.
“As the laps went on, the car kept getting better and better,” Hamilton explained. “I have to give hats off to Bob East. He sure knows how to set up a car to get around here. We just kept working at it and working at it. It really wasn’t as much the setup as it was Bob’s coaching. He just kept telling me to keep my momentum up and explained to me how LOR is such a momentum track. We were able to roll the center a lot better than we’d ever have here.”
Hamilton closed out his winning performance with a victory margin of 4.186 over Tanner Swanson, Santos, Justin Grant and Eric Gordon.
To see full results, turn to the next page.