Silver Crown
Thursday, 9 April 2020


Gene Nolen and Kody Swanson celebrate a USAC Silver Crown victory at Salem (Ind.) Speedway in 2019. Gene Nolen and Kody Swanson celebrate a USAC Silver Crown victory at Salem (Ind.) Speedway in 2019. Rich Forman Photo


Speedway, Indiana (April 8, 2020)………Gene Nolen, the eighth winningest owner in USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series history with 16 victories spanning the years 1991-2019, passed away on Wednesday, April 8, at the age of 77.

Nolen, of Greenwood, Ind., had been fighting kidney failure and pulmonary fibrosis for about a year, and recently developed pneumonia.  He had tested negative for COVID-19. He died at Kindred Long-Term Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was admitted about three weeks ago.

Gene’s son, Greg, said that in accordance to his father’s wishes, the team will continue to field cars for Kody Swanson during the 2020 racing season.  The plan is to field a car in the USAC Silver Crown series for Swanson and two sprint cars at the Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway for Swanson and Shane Hollingsworth to be run in Nolen’s memory.

Nolen fielded Silver Crown cars with the series for three decades with his first appearance in the point standings coming during the 1989 season, a ninth.

Two years later, Nolen reached victory lane for the first time as an owner with the series.  As it turned out, it was a monumental win for both the owner and his driver, Johnny Parsons, as it was Parsons’ first win with the Silver Crown series as well after 20 years of trying.

Parsons won for Nolen again on the “Magic Mile” at the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds in 1992, then again with driver Jim Keeker at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1995.

In 1998, following Keeker’s injury at Phoenix International Raceway in the opener, Nolen hired Tony Elliott, which set off some of the most successful years of Nolen’s career.  Elliott won in five consecutive years for Nolen, beginning in 1998 where, together, they scored the victory in the USAC Silver Crown division’s 200th race, the Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.

Elliott and Nolen teamed up for triumphs at Du Quoin in 1999, the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ Hoosier Hundred in 2000-01 and a second Sumar score in 2002.

Seven years later, Shane Hollingsworth and Nolen produced a dominating performance at the Hoosier Hundred, winning the pole and leading all 100 laps for Hollingsworth’s lone career Silver Crown win.

It would be nine years before Nolen got back into victory lane with the series, sweeping both of the Illinois one-mile dirt ovals at Springfield and Du Quoin with driver Chris Windom.

In 2019, Nolen formed a partnership that proved to be his most successful season ever.  Kody Swanson became the pilot of the famed No. 20 and raced it to five victories in 10 races, notching wins in their first two outings at Tennessee’s Memphis International Raceway and Ohio’s Toledo Speedway before scoring additional victories at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway, Salem (Ind.) Speedway and at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.

The end result was Kody’s unprecedented fifth career USAC Silver Crown driving championship while Nolen equaled a career-best second place in the series owner standings.

“Gene was a friend to so many of us, and a serious competitor,” Swanson said. “He was more than a car owner; he was someone that you raced with and you became family.  I know that he was proud of his team, his family, and the people that he was able to race with throughout an incredible career.  Gene was a great friend to me, and wonderful to my wife and children as well.  I’m grateful to have had the chance to race with him, get to know him, and be part of his Nolen Racing family.  He will be dearly missed.”

In fact, Nolen cars finished in the top-five of the Silver Crown entrant standings on seven occasions, including in each of the past five years.  Nolen was 5th in the standings with Parsons in 1992, followed by a 3rd in 2015, 4th in 2016 and 2nd in 2017, all with Jerry Coons Jr. as the driver.

In 2018, Nolen had two cars within the top-five of the entrant standings, Windom in 3rd and Coons in 5th, then another runner-up finish in 2019, this time with Swanson.

Niebel was also known for his close-knit relationship with Glen Niebel and their development of the V-6 engine, which was the powerplant of choice under the hood of Nolen’s first three USAC Silver Crown victories between 1991 and 1995.  In recent years, the V-6 engine was also utilized in Nolen’s entries at the Little 500 Sprint Car race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway where his car won in both 2018 and 2019 with Swanson as the driver.

Additionally, Nolen fielded entries in USAC’s National Sprint Car and Midget divisions over the years.

Nolen cars have made a total of 270 career USAC Silver Crown starts.  Among the drivers who made Silver Crown appearances in Nolen-owned cars include Tony Elliott (63 starts), Jerry Coons Jr. (41), Shane Hollingsworth (34), Johnny Parsons (29), Jim Keeker (23), Ron Gregory (14), Chris Windom (10), Kody Swanson (9), Joe Axsom (8), Bob Frey (6), Dakota Jackson (6), Hunter Schuerenberg (5), Billy Puterbaugh Jr. (4), Bryan Clauson (2), Rocky Hodges (2), Steve Barnett (1), Rick Hood (1), Levi Jones (1), Lance Kobusch (1), Chris Phillips (1), Larry Rice (1), Tony Stewart (6), Tanner Swanson (1) and Brian Tyler (1).

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance to the viewing and funeral on Monday at the G.H. Herrmann Funeral Home, 1605 S. State Road 135 in Greenwood, Ind. will be limited, as by the governor’s executive order only 10 people will be permitted into the chapel at a time. The family will pay their respects at 11, friends and associates at noon, and the funeral will follow at 1 p.m. However, the family plans to hold a much larger celebration of life when the pandemic is over. Details on the celebration of life will be posted on and the team’s Facebook page when they become available.