Kevin Swindell dominated last night's 62nd running of the Night Before the 500 USAC National Midget race at O'Reilly Raceway Park, leading the 50 lap event flag to flag. Starting from the pole, he beat outside pole sitter Bobby Santos III to Turn...
Kevin Swindell dominated last night's 62nd running of the Night Before the 500 USAC National Midget race at O'Reilly Raceway Park, leading the 50 lap event flag to flag. Starting from the pole, he beat outside pole sitter Bobby Santos III to Turn 1 and was never headed. Over a 33 lap green run, he stretched his lead to almost a straightaway. Behind him, Billy Wease held onto second for most of the race. During the early stages fastest qualifier Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson and Bradley Galebridge battled for third. By mid-race Kody Swanson had joined the third-place combat and Stephanie Mockler had moved to mid-field from her 24th starting position.
A yellow on lap 33 bunched the field. By then Swindell had lapped several cars, which gave him a buffer for the restart. He kept the lead and soon stretched it out again. Behind him, Swanson and Santos were on the move. Swanson moved into third and Santos was in fifth.
With three laps to go, Swanson made his move on Wease, looking low as they went into Turn 1. They ran side by side down the back stretch and Swanson took the position coming out of Turn 3. As they entered Turn 1, still nearly wheel to wheel, Swanson's car went up in smoke. He coasted to a stop on the back stretch, while Chuck Gurney Jr. spun on the oil before the yellow came out.
That set up a two lap shootout, with no lapped cars between the leaders. Swindell made his usual good start. Wease stayed with him, making a good challenge on the first green lap, but could not hold it and dropped back slightly. A lap later Santos got under Wease in Turns 1 and 2 for second place.
The evaporated lead and final restart were on Kevin Swindell's mind in Victory Lane after the race.
"The lady always kills me," he said. "We came and got the white flag and I'm thinking we got one more in it - and the yellow comes out. And we rode around and I had to think about what I was going to do.
"This is just a testament to Davy Jones and Willy Kahne and all those guys at Kasey Kahne Racing and Mopar. To do this in such a short time and put this team together - and they've been excellent so far. We've been close a couple of times and we finally got one. This was definitely the one on the midget schedule that I really wanted to win. And now we got it.
Bobby Santos III, last year's winner, finished second after starting eighth. He was pleased with his night's work.
"I'm happy with second," Santos said. "These guys did a good job. They had a good car all day. We just weren't good enough on the long run. We were good on the restarts. We'll go home with second.
"It's a fun race track," he continued. "I've just got to thank Rick Gerhardt and K&N Filters and the whole team. First time I drove for them in a couple of years. We haven't had much luck with them. Hopefully we'll get some luck and win when we come back."
Billy Wease was disappointed that he did not get the win.
"We did have a pretty good car," he said, "but it's still a heartbreaker to lose this race. This race really meant a lot to me and everybody. We came up a little short, we were a little too loose and just kind of sideways all the way through the corners. But, other than that, the car was good enough and we finished third.
"Thanks to all the fans for coming out today."
Bobby East, Kyle Nicholas and fast qualifier Brady Bacon rounded out the top six.
Stephanie Mockler, a sensation last year with a 15th to 3rd run, put on an equally impressive performance. Last night she started in 24th and finished 7th, moving up strongly through the evening.
The next USAC National Midget Race will be June 1, at Dodge County Fairgrounds Speedway in Beaver Dam, WI.