Shane Cockrum put together a consistent drive at the Hoosier Hundred – one that could have won the race in many previous iterations.
Unfortunately for Cockrum, the run came in the midst of the Kody Swanson era.
Swanson stole the headlines in Thursday’s 100-lapper, winning his fourth-straight race at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds oval to tie Al Unser for the most consecutive wins at the historic facility. But just 2.7 seconds behind Swanson came Cockrum, capping off an impressive race with a runner-up result.
The run was one that Cockrum could cherish, but it came with a hint of disappointment.
“Obviously it’s our best run here at the Hoosier Hundred,” Cockrum told Short Track Scene. “Of course when you run good you know you probably left a little bit on the table somewhere.
“To see that (No.) 63 car pull away at the end was bittersweet. But overall we have to be proud of ourselves. Everybody busted their butts all week.”
Cockrum set the tone for his day early, qualifying third out of 37 cars. He was one of just three drivers to lay down a lap within a second of Swanson’s 33.522-second pole lap.
Quick qualifying speed doesn’t always translate to race pace, but Cockrum’s car proved up to the task in the 100-lap feature. It took the Illinoisan little time to take second at the start of the race, and he even challenged Swanson for the top spot in the opening 25 laps.
Brian Tyler quickly dispatched of both Cockrum and Swanson as the race entered the middle stages, pulling out to a massive lead. But the two veterans didn’t worry or push their machines, choosing to keep their pace and battle amongst each other while presuming that Tyler would burn through his equipment.
“We knew (Tyler) was probably going too hard too early,” Cockrum said. “He made it look spectacular, but Kody and myself have run enough of these races that we kind of know the pace.”
Cockrum’s veteran premonition proved correct. Tyler crashed out in spectacular fashion shortly after the midway point of the race, smacking the Turn 1 wall and coming to a stop.
From there on the battle for the win came down to Cockrum and Swanson.
For a time Cockrum held pace with Swanson, but he couldn’t maneuver his No. 71 Hardy Boys Motorsports machine through lapped traffic as easily. The allowed the Californian to set a pace that proved too challenging to overcome over the final 40 laps.
Swanson marched out to an insurmountable lead, and even after a late caution bunched the field back up Cockrum proved unable to top the defending USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series champion.
“Through the middle part of the race I felt like I was a little better than Kody (Swanson),” Cockrum said. “But there towards the end that lapped traffic killed me. I just couldn’t get through it, and once we did I think it had allowed him to save enough of his stuff to kind of pull away a little bit.”
While he couldn’t deliver a victory, Cockrum felt he mad much to celebrate from his best drive of the 2018 Silver Crown season to date.
“The Hardy Boys team and I, we worked out butts off getting this car right,” he said. “To get our best run at the Hoosier Hundred feels good.”