Disappointment for Bobby Santos III with eight laps remaining gave Kody Swanson back to back wins in the Gene Nolen Classic. In the fourth event of the year for the 500 Sprint Car Tour presented by Auto Value Bumper to Bumper stores Saturday at Anderson Speedway, Santos’s mount ran out of fuel on a lap 93 restart which gave Swanson and the Mission Foods sponsored team the victory.
The early lead was taken by Chris Neuenschawander following the inversion of the top six qualifiers that were led by Tyler Roahrig. Neuenschwander surrendered the lead to Santos on lap 18 with Caleb Armstrong moving into the second spot four laps later. There were three caution periods in a five-lap span near the halfway mark that saw Santos leading Caleb Armstrong, Swanson, Neuenschwander and Roahrig.
The driver on the move was Kyle O’Gara who had started 14th in the 22-car field. He climbed from the eighth spot to third by passing Dakoda Armstrong, Roahrig and Caleb Armstrong in the space of 15 laps. The eighth and final caution flag waved on lap 93 when Shawn Bonar made contact with the turn four retaining wall. On the restart Santos ran out of fuel, slowing and heading into the pit area. Swanson took over the point winning by a half-second over O’Gara with Roahrig, Dakoda Armstrong and rookie competitor Jackson Macenko rounding out the top five.
Swanson won is first Lucas Oil Little 500 driving a Gene Nolen owned and prepared sprint car. “Gene was a friend, and this is an honor,” Swanson said in the Peterman Brothers Victory Lane. “Bobby (Santos) did a great job but ran out of fuel or something weird happened. “We were capable of winning but some nights you get lucky and some nights it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said.
In an unusual happening in racing, Florida teenager Colton Bettis scored the victory in his first ever Kenyon Midget race. Bettis was also making his first Anderson Speedway start in the Don and Mel Kenyon Classic, the longest race of the year for the series. Kyle Ford coming off his first victory two weeks ago set fast time during qualifying with the invert of four putting Logan Huggler and Bettis on the front row. Huggler jumped into the lead at the start chased by Dameron Taylor and Bettis. Bettis got underneath Taylor on the back straight on lap seven and nine laps later used the same move to pass Huggler. Clayton Gaines who started fifth in the field climbed from sixth to second on laps 20 and 22 but brought out the caution flag on lap 26 bouncing off the back straight wall and coming to rest in the infield. Ford started a climb to the front on lap 48 passing Tanner Tecco and Ryan Huggler to be running second. The final caution flag waved on lap 51 but although Ford challenged on the restart Bettis went on to win by 1.3-seconds over Ford with Tecco coming home third followed by Cash Wyke and Kyle Sheard.
“Brad (Hayes) said it was up to me on the restarts to shift or not to shit,” Bettis said in the Peterman Brothers Victory Lane. “I just let it rip and hoped for the best.”