Back in late 2020/early 2021, California-born driver Jake Swanson and Team Arizona packed up their lives, their possessions and their racing equipment, then headed east to make Indiana their new home.
Since then, they’ve won USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship points-paying main events in both of their respective home states – in 2021 at California’s Perris Auto Speedway and in 2022 at Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway.
Yet they had never had the good fortune of winning a USAC feature in their newly adopted home state of Indiana.
On Wednesday, during the opening night of the Circle City Salute, Swanson and Team AZ Racing made Circle City Raceway during the Week of Indy feel like home sweet home.
Swanson, originally hailing from Anaheim, Calif., wheeled his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Stratis Construction – USW Cat Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy to the lead on lap 12 past Robert Ballou, then sped away to a convincing 2.114 second margin of victory at the quarter-mile dirt oval to earn his first USAC points race victory of the season.
Back in February, Swanson collected a non-points special event triumph down in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park. Additionally, he entered Wednesday’s event as the most recent sprint car winner at Circle City, taking a local show held at the track in October of 2022.
No combo in the series has been as red hot lately as Swanson and Team AZ with Circle City being the pairing’s third consecutive top-three result following a runner-up finish at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway on May 6 and a third place result this past Tuesday at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
Yet, as far as a victory lane celebration in USAC competition, this one has been a long time coming, and the general feeling among the group’s brethren is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m so pumped for my guys on this race team,” Swanson exclaimed. “It’s so cool that I’ve got all these guys from Arizona and we’re able to figure out how to win here. We’ve had help from different guys here and there, but for the most part, it’s Mike and Craig (Burkhart) and I week-in and week-out. We’re going to make it on stubbornness, and we finally have. It feels really good to finally check that off the list, and now we can just keep racking them up.”
Swanson began his quest from the fourth starting spot in the 30-lap main event, giving chase to pole sitter Robert Ballou who spurted out to the early lead. However, the feature’s only stoppage came amid trouble on lap two as 13th running Kevin Thomas Jr. flipped over in turn three, necessitating a red flag. Thomas and his Michael Dutcher-owned No. 17GP spent time in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area before returning to the fray, finishing a distant 19th.
On the resumption, Swanson immediately began making his presence felt, sliding first-time USAC National Sprint Car feature starter Rylan Gray for the second spot on the fourth lap before taking aim at Ballou.
Swanson’s next shot fired saw him swipe the lead from Ballou momentarily in turn four on lap 11. However, Ballou was cognizant of Swanson’s trajectory up the racetrack and promptly cut back under to retake the lead by the time the two reached the stripe separated by a mere car length.
The next time around on lap 12 found a different set of circumstances to navigate, however. In turn three, 21st running Ricky Lewis occupied the top groove that Ballou had been attached to thus far. Nonetheless, with Lewis there, Ballou was forced to jump down low, and as he slid up the surface across the nose of Lewis, Swanson launched off the cushion midway through turns three and four and shot to the bottom of four to make it three-wide with both Swanson and Ballou splitting around each side of Lewis with Swanson edging Ballou by a single chrome horn. Swanson slid up in front of Ballou on entry to turn one a moment later with Swanson’s rear bumper and Ballou’s front bumper grazing each other before Swanson took off for good.
“I was kind of biding my time,” Swanson said of his pursuit of Ballou. “I didn’t want to show him where I was; I wanted to strike and not even let him know that I was coming. Unfortunately, I did that. He was able to get through the rough down there better than I was, but we were so much better through the black and everywhere else. We were really good. Even though he knew we were there, I knew he had such a train of lapped cars in front of him that, as long as we were smart, we’d be able to pull it off and I knew it was going to be a good race between us.”
From that point forward, Swanson was adamant that the only meaningful race for position was going to occur behind him. On lap 13, Cummins swept past Ballou for the second spot in turn three. Ballou knew it was coming, turned down under Cummins to edge ahead at the exit of turn four when contact between Ballou’s right rear tire and Cummins’ left front sent Cummins on a near collision course with the outside wall. Miraculously, Cummins expertly got his car whoa’d down and turned a full 75 degrees back to the left before resuming without any wall contact and without losing a single position.
Ultimately, Cummins picked off Ballou for second with an outside turn two pass on lap 17 while Bacon slipped under Ballou on lap 21 in a cloud of heavy traffic in turn four. Honest Abe Fast Qualifier Justin Grant soon performed likewise, driving by Ballou for the fourth position on lap 25 while Ballou slotted back into fifth.
Up front, however, it was all Swanson who accumulated his third career USAC National Sprint Car feature victory over Kyle Cummins, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant and Robert Ballou rounding out the top-five.
With his runner-up finish, Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) took over the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point lead by five markers over C.J. Leary who finished seventh. For Cummins, it's his seventh top-five finish in eight USAC starts this season and his second runner-up result in as many nights. In his last 21 USAC starts dating back to last year, Cummins owns 20 top-tens and 17 top-fives in his Rock Steady Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) followed up Tuesday night's feature victory at Terre Haute with a solid third place finish on Wednesday at Circle City. In four career USAC National Sprint Car starts at Circle City dating back to the 2021 season, Bacon has now finished 2nd, 3rd, 3rd and 4th in his Dynamics, Inc./A & B Sports Bar Café – Tel-Star Technologies – DriveWFX.com/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 24, 2023 – Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Circle City Salute
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.205; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.253; 3. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-12.351; 4. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.398; 5. Rylan Gray, 81G, Gray-12.483; 6. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-12.612; 7. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-12.614; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.626; 9. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-12.643; 10. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-12.660; 11. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-12.676; 12. Kevin Thomas Jr., 17GP, Dutcher-12.689; 13. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-12.699; 14. Jadon Rogers, 5, Baldwin/Fox-12.709; 15. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-12.738; 16. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-12.774; 17. Scotty Weir, 24, Simon-12.779; 18. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.781; 19. Thomas Meseraull, 2E, Epperson-12.919; 20. Gabriel Gilbert, 10G, Gilbert-12.963; 21. Tye Mihocko, 2H, Hayden-12.967; 22. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-12.977; 23. Ricky Lewis, 41, Brown-12.992; 24. Tyler Hewitt, 118, Evans-13.032; 25. Koby Barksdale, 16K, Knight-13.037; 26. Kevin Newton, 16TH, Newton-13.110; 27. Sterling Cling, 34, SCR-13.205; 28. Jackson Slone, 16, Borzio/Slone-13.313; 29. Kayla Roell, 5K, KO-13.410; 30. Ivan Glotzbach, i1, Glotzbach-13.574.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Charles Davis Jr., 6. Emerson Axsom, 7. Chase Stockon, 8. Koby Barksdale, 9. Jackson Slone, 10. Brandon Mattox. 2:09.22
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Garrett, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Scotty Weir, 5. Rylan Gray, 6. Jadon Rogers, 7. Gabriel Gilbert, 8. Kayla Roell, 9. Ricky Lewis, 10. Kevin Newton. 2:13.69
T.J. FORGED/CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Mitchel Moles, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Matt Westfall, 7. Tyler Hewitt, 8. Sterling Cling, 9. Ivan Glotzbach, 10. Logan Seavey. 2:15.26
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Tyler Hewitt, 7. Ricky Lewis, 8. Kayla Roell, 9. Kevin Newton, 10. Koby Barksdale, 11. Jackson Slone, 12. Gabriel Gilbert, 13. Sterling Cling, 14. Ivan Glotzbach, 15. Brandon Mattox. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jake Swanson (4), 2. Kyle Cummins (3), 3. Brady Bacon (5), 4. Justin Grant (6), 5. Robert Ballou (1), 6. Mitchel Moles (8), 7. C.J. Leary (12), 8. Chase Stockon (10), 9. Daison Pursley (16), 10. Carson Garrett (7), 11. Emerson Axsom (17), 12. Rylan Gray (2), 13. Logan Seavey (9), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (14), 15. Scotty Weir (18), 16. Thomas Meseraull (19), 17. Jadon Rogers (15), 18. Matt Westfall (11), 19. Kevin Thomas Jr. (13), 20. Tye Mihocko (20), 21. Tyler Hewitt (22), 22. Ricky Lewis (21). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Robert Ballou, Laps 12-30 Jake Swanson.
**Kevin Thomas Jr. flipped on lap 2 of the feature.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Kyle Cummins-543, 2-C.J. Leary-538, 3-Brady Bacon-527, 4-Justin Grant-522, 5-Jake Swanson-502, 6-Emerson Axsom-499, 7-Mitchel Moles-457, 8-Chase Stockon-450, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-440, 10-Robert Ballou-387.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-41, 2-Justin Grant-37, 3-Chase Stockon-32, 4-Carson Garrett-31, 5-Thomas Meseraull-26, 6-Matt Westfall-23, 7-Brady Bacon-21, 8-Kevin Thomas Jr.-20, 9-C.J. Leary-19, 10-Jake Swanson-17.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: May 25, 2023 – Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Circle City Salute
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Justin Grant (12.101)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Justin Grant (12.205)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Kyle Cummins
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Carson Garrett
T.J. Forged / Car IQ Third Heat Winner: Mitchel Moles
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Chase Stockon
Hard Charger: Daison Pursley (16th to 9th)