Tanner Swanson could have chosen the easy way to challenge for the win after claiming the pole at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Instead he chose to spot brother Kody Swanson the field – a decision that came to him deceptively easy given the man the race was honoring.
“The first race that got me hooked was Dave Steele coming from the back to win a Twin 25,” he told Short Track Scene. ‘His win really got me started in this sport, so I figured that was the least we could do.”
Swanson elected to come from the back of the field for a $1,000 bonus, with the potential to net an additional $5,000 bonus for a win in Friday’s Dave Steele Carb Night Classic – his first USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series start of 2018.
No driver has had more success than Swanson at the .686-mile oval, and his prowess at the facility was on display early and often over the race’s 100 laps.
Swanson took the green flag in 22nd. At the end of Lap 7 he’d entered the top 10.
By the time the race reached halfway point, he found himself in the top three. Only brother Kody and Aaron Pierce ran ahead of him.
“The first 20 laps of it was just trying not to run into somebody,” Swanson said. “We just had such a good car. I can’t thank the Bowman guys enough for giving me a chance. Hopefully we gave the fans something to remember. That was the point of it.”
The younger Swanson brother made his way around Pierce during the race’s middle stages to jump up to second, and proceeded to stalk his brother around the paved oval.
Passing his brother would be difficult, but Tanner gave it his best effort. The Californian stalked Kody throughout the final 40 laps, and once attempted to capitalize on lapped traffic to complete an overtake.
In the end he fell just short of victory lane, slowing over the final 10 laps as fuel issues hindered his No. 02 machine and taking the checkered flag well behind Kody in second.
“We played it well and tried to save out tires,” he said. “I knew if I was going to get him, it was going to have to be late. He’s just so good, and know right where to be.
“We hit some lapped cars and made some moves, but there for the last 10 laps we started to run out of fuel. We limped it home in second.”
In the end Swanson was left doing something every other USAC competitor did during the Week of Indy – watching his brother celebrate in victory lane.
The feeling was bittersweet, but Swanson hoped the memories he made would outshine the fact that he fell just short of a victory.
“It was fun,” he said. “By the end of the race, I had forgotten that we’d went all the way to the back. I just knew it was one-on-one with Kody, and I was trying to figure out what he still had left in his playbook, and what cards I could show him.
“Kind of had dashed dreams at the end, but today’s something that I know I’ll always remember. Hopefully the fans here tonight will, too.”