Silver Crown
Sunday, 21 May 2017


Santos all business at Phoenix Raceway's "Copper Cup" in April. Santos all business at Phoenix Raceway's "Copper Cup" in April. Al Steinberg Photo


Richie Murray – USAC Media

Indianapolis Raceway Park, O’Reilly Raceway Park or Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.  No matter which name it has been called throughout its 57-year history, there are distinct eras at the .686-mile paved oval which have been defined by the domination of drivers who proved to be nearly unbeatable in USAC competition.

In the last 20 years alone, Mike Bliss, Dave Steele, Tracy Hines and the current authority displayed by brothers Tanner and Kody Swanson, have each reigned supreme for a period of time at LOR.  They are among a set of drivers that, when you saw their team unload their Midget, Sprint Car or Silver Crown in the pit area, it was nearly a foregone conclusion that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the race for the win at LOR would have to go through them.

Coming into the Friday, May 26 “Carb Night Classic” for the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series at Lucas Oil Raceway, we are reminded of the command of the mantle that Bobby Santos had for a stretch during the late 2000s/early 2010s.  The Franklin, Massachusetts native began 2006 with his first LOR victory in the “Night Before the 500” USAC National Midget race and, in July, won the first of his three career USAC National Sprint Car features at the track.  And it came in spectacular fashion.

With just two laps remaining, Santos trailed a half-lap behind race leader Eric Gordon.  A late caution bunched up the field for a green-white-checker finish and Santos took advantage.  When the two came out of turn four side-by-side with the checkered flag waving, the two tangled, sending both hard into the inside wall.  Santos crossed the line first, with Gordon in second, marking one of the few occasions in auto racing history in which the winning driver never even saw the checkered flag because his car was rolling backwards across the finish line!

In 2009, Santos captured his first career Silver Crown race of any kind, albeit in much less spectacular fashion than his sprint car win three years earlier, at LOR after getting by Chet Fillip and leading the final 73 laps on his way to victory.

In 2012, Santos swept both Silver Crown events at LOR, leading 187 of a possible 200 laps combined in the two events.  Lurking in the shadows, though, was second-place finisher Kody Swanson, which would prove to be a harbinger of things to come in the following years.

In the ensuing years, Santos has recorded LOR finishes of 16th, 5th, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 15th and 4th.  While by no means are his results poor, they are not up to the standards of Santos who expects to compete for wins. 

Since 2013, though, 617 of 700 laps run in the seven Silver Crown visits to LOR have been led by either Tanner or Kody Swanson.  However, 80 of the 83 laps not led by a Swanson were claimed by Santos in last May’s “Carb Night Classic.”

The mojo had returned to the 31-year-old Santos for the first time in quite a while at LOR, but with 20 laps to go, while leading, the engine went sour, ending what appeared to be a return to victory lane.  It was a bitter disappointment that lingered throughout the remainder of 2016 and put him and his DJ Racing team on notice that changes needed to be made both inward and outward to get back on top of the game.

“I actually spent a lot of time on the small details this past winter to be better for 2017,” Santos explains.  “I got in the gym and lost 25+ lbs. and I feel great.  I focused on the details of the car to take weight off it and just tried to be the best prepared that I could for each race this season.”

The changes paid large dividends when the 2017 season opened at Phoenix Raceway’s “Copper Cup” in late April.  Santos set ProSource Fast Qualifying time, then waged war with David Byrne throughout much of the 100-lapper before taking the lead for good by using a crossover move to get past Byrne with eight laps remaining to earn a long overdue win, his first in the series in nearly two seasons.

The versatile 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified champion and NASCAR Truck and Xfinity series veteran has plans to complete 600 laps of racing this weekend, beginning with Friday night’s “Carb Night Classic” Silver Crown 100-lapper at Lucas Oil Raceway, then follow it up Saturday night with the world’s only 500-lap sprint car race, the “Little 500” at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway.

“I believe past experience always helps a racer,” said Santos who aims to make his 15th LOR Silver Crown and fourth Little 500 start this weekend.  “I pride myself on adapting well to different styles of cars and racing.”

“We thought we were going to win one at IRP (LOR) last year, but it didn't work out.” Santos continued.  “I love the track and am always confident to race there.”

USAC and Track Enterprises have teamed up to present a Superticket for admission to three of its upcoming marquee events – the “Tony Hulman Classic,” the “Hoosier Hundred” and the “Carb Night Classic” on May 24-25-26 – leading up to the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.

The three-straight nights of racing in Indiana present open wheel racing at its finest from the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship as well as the USAC Silver Crown Champ Cars Series presented by TRAXXAS on both dirt and pavement.

Fans will receive a savings of $20 by purchasing their own Week of Indy Superticket that’s good for admission to Terre Haute, the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Lucas Oil Raceway on May 24-25-26.  To purchase a Superticket, visit or call the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.

As always, individual tickets for each “Week of Indy” event will be available at regular price on race day at the gate.

Pit gates for the “Carb Night Classic” open at noon while spectator gates open at 2:45pm.  Silver Crown practice begins at 4pm, ProSource Qualifying at 5:30pm and racing at 6:30pm.  A special autograph session featuring all the Silver Crown drivers will occur from 7:15 to 7:45pm, just prior to the green flag for the 100-lap Silver Crown main event.