Tanner Swanson maintained his dominance of the paved ovals on the USAC Silver Crown series schedule, winning his fourth race in his last five appearances on the hardtop, warding off threatening skies and an old-fashioned Midwestern thunderstorm in Saturday afternoon’s Vatterott College “Silver Crown Showdown” at the series largest venue, the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.
Tanner began the race from the pole position after taking ProSource Fast Qualifier honors earlier in the day, slotting him to start alongside his older brother, two-time defending series champ Kody Swanson.
Kody out-drag-raced Tanner into the first turn on the opening lap, but a substantial factor on the longer paved circuits is drafting and both Tanner and Chris Windom would demonstrate that fact as the top-three exited turn four at the conclusion of lap one.
Tanner was able to line up behind Kody’s tail tank and quickly erase the gap, slipstreaming by on the inside with Windom in tow to take the top-two spots as Kody dropped to third.
However, dropping two positions early in a 75-mile race was the least of Kody’s worries. On the ninth lap, Kody’s engine began to sound sour as he took a dramatic drop in speed while he lumbered down the front straightaway.
One lap later, as Kody entered turn one, one of the worst nightmares a driver can face – a stuck throttle – became his reality.
Just before the turn, Kody was hard on the brakes, veering hard left as he mowed through the infield grass and rumble strips before careening up the track and making near head-on contact with the SAFER Barrier.
Dark, heavy skid marks left by the four tires of Kody’s machine were highly visible on the pavement surface from the moment of realization of the stuck throttle until the moment of contact with the wall. Kody was uninjured.
During the lengthy yellow flag for the cleanup, lightning could be seen within the vicinity of the speedway. Fans were directed to exit the grandstands as a precaution, but since the track was dry, the racing resumed on lap 21.
With storms imminent, the urge to get to the front in a timely manner weighed heavily on each competitor as their race could be interrupted at the drop of a hat, and the drop of precipitation.
Just one lap after the restart, on lap 22, Tanner made a bid for the lead, chattering his teeth as he rode his left side wheels over the rigid turn one rumble strips to get by Windom, to no avail.
On the 27th circuit, Tanner used the draft to his advantage, running down leader Windom on the inside of turn three. Tanner ran his line a little wide as he entered the corner side-by-side, forcing Windom just a tad out of the groove at the bottom of the corner. It was just enough to slow Windom down and allow Tanner to slip by for the lead just three laps shy of the halfway point.
Meanwhile, young Austin Nemire was putting in his best performance in his year-and-a-half of Silver Crown series experience. Nemire had reeled in the two leaders, coming within roughly five car-lengths of Windom in second as the trio separated themselves from the rest of the field.
As flagman Tom Hansing threw up the crossed sticks indicating the halfway point, the temps had cooled considerably and the winds flared up as the sun-drenched St. Louis afternoon quickly became a distant memory and the main race now became the sprint to defeat the rain before the checkered.
In the second half of the race, Tanner, little-by little, was able to open up his lead over Windom as Nemire began to fade somewhat in the third spot.
With 10 to go, Tanner’s lead was three-plus seconds over Windom and his time up front went undaunted the rest of the way, except for a little precipitation on the white flag lap.
Tanner grabbed his first career victory at Gateway, leading the final 34 laps to defeat a distant Windom, who led 25 in the first half of the 60-lap event while Nemire, David Byrne and Joe Liguori rounded out the top-five.
During Tanner’s victory lane celebration, the skies finally relented, opening up a deluge of rain upon fans and competitors alike. But, it was not enough to throw a damper on the Kingsburg, California native’s celebration after racking up his second series victory of the season in his Bowman Racing/Bowman Properties – Bowman-Elmore Racing/Beast/Kistler Chevy.
“That was an exciting race,” Tanner exclaimed. “We were worried about the rain the entire time, but I feel like I wore my car out trying to get by Chris (Windom). We started picking up a vibration, but I don’t know if that’s just me being worried or what, but I think we were on seven cylinders there at the end. It’s just a testament to how good the Bowman guys got this car to cut the corners and give us a chance to win.”
USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 25, 2016 – Madison, Illinois – Gateway Motorsports Park – “Vatterott College Silver Crown Showdown”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Tanner Swanson, 02, Bowman-31.462; 2. Kody Swanson, 63, DePalma-31.714; 3. Jerry Coons Jr., 20, Nolen-31.979; 4. Austin Nemire, 91, Hemelgarn-32.305; 5. Chris Windom, 98, RPM-Gormly-32.325; 6. David Byrne, 40, Byrne-32.336; 7. Justin Grant, 8, Carli-33.285; 8. Casey Shuman, 55, Bateman-33.374; 9. Joe Ligouri, 99, RPM/Gormly-33.442; 10. Patrick Lawson, 2, Lawson-34.291; 11. Shane Cottle, 81, Williams-34.786; 12. Hunter Schuerenberg, 120, Nolen-35.835; 13. Tad Roach, 16, Logan-NT.
FEATURE: (60 laps) 1. Tanner Swanson, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Austin Nemire, 4. David Byrne, 5. Joe Liguori, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Casey Shuman, 8. Hunter Schuerenberg, 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 10. Shane Cottle, 11. Kody Swanson, 12. Patrick Lawson, 13. Tad Roach. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 T.Swanson, Laps 2-26 Windom, Laps 27-60 T.Swanson.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/MARTENS MACHINE SHOP HARD CHARGER: Joe Liguori (9th-5th)
NEW USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Windom-320, 2-K.Swanson-309, 3-Grant-272, 4-Byrne-239, 5-Coons-236, 6-Cottle-235, 7-Shuman-221, 8-Nemire-212, 9-Bryan Clauson-177, 10-Shane Cockrum-154.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 21 – Brownsburg, IN – Lucas Oil Raceway @ Indianapolis – “Rich Vogler/USACHall of Fame Classic”