ROSSBURG, Ohio – Chris Windom left no doubt that he came to Eldora Speedway Saturday night in championship mode.
The Canton, Illinois driver arrived at Eldora’s 4-Crown Nationals with a 10-point deficit to two-time and defending USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson.
By the time Windom pulled into victory lane after a dominating, soul-crushing performance on the half-mile dirt oval, he was the USAC Silver Crown division’s newest champion.
Earlier in the night, it appeared that Windom’s fortunes would not play in his favor after teammate Tyler Courtney knocked him off the pole with a great qualifying run late in the session, thus denying Windom the three bonus points that go along with being ProSource Fast Qualifier in the Silver Crown Series.
Despite that, Windom still had a seat on the outside of the front row for the series’ season finale with Courtney on the inside of the front row. Swanson started fourth.
The objective for Swanson was clear: finish third or better and the Silver Crown title was his. And that’s where Swanson intended to get to as soon as possible.
When the green flag waved a four-car scramble for the lead ensued, with Jeff Swindell ducking underneath polesitter Courtney, while Swanson split between the cars of Courtney and Windom as he shot into turn one. Windom utilized the high side and the momentum to zip to the point off turn two on the opening lap, with Swanson occupying second.
By lap 10, Windom had already built up a half-lap advantage and had already begun to enter heavy lapped traffic. Windom continued to put a hurting on the field, but unfortunately for him, there are no style points for the margin of lead a driver has. Though Swanson was on the opposite side of the track as Windom, as long as Swanson maintained that position in the top-three, he would retain the point lead.
However, on lap 15, disaster dashed Swanson’s championship dream. As Swanson ducked low into turn one, he came upon the lapped car of Dakota Jackson. The two made contact, causing both Swanson and Jackson to spin to a stop.
Swanson would return to the work area in the pits, where the DePalma Motorsports crew assessed the extent of the damage. The front bumper was broken off and the steering was seriously hindered, with the front wheels not angled in their intended direction.
Yet, Swanson and his crew refused to throw in the towel and sent him back out onto the race track, where he would restart eighth at lap 15. But, as soon he entered turn one, Swanson promptly looped it on his own to bring out another yellow.
On the ensuing restart, Windom was gone, eventually building an insurmountable 16.9 second lead around the half-mile as he set a torrid pace and lapped all the way up to third-place.
Just as Windom was setting up to put a lap on his teammate Courtney, who was running third with 14 laps to go, Davey Ray completed a 360 spin at the bottom of turn four to bring out the night’s final caution.
Meanwhile, Swanson had amazingly carried his car to the end of the 50-lap race, working his way back up to fifth in the final laps. If a couple of cars in front of him in the running order encountered trouble of some sort, causing them to drop out, Swanson would have been right back in championship contention.
However, none of these scenarios played out as Windom hammered the field in his RPM-Fred Gormly/RPM Auto Enterprise/Maxim/Wallace en route to his third Silver Crown victory of the season.
Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney, Brady Bacon and Swanson completed the top five.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Windom said. “I knew it was going to be a big feat coming in. It was tough to see Kody (Swanson) go out with hardships ike that early in the race. We fought all year and we’ve earned every bit of this championship. From Rob Hart at the start of the year to bringing on Evan Avart, he’s been spot on for me. This car drove itself around here. It was amazing. (The car) was perfect. It couldn’t have been any better. I got to thank Fred and Gloria (Gormly). I’m so happy to get them a championship. We’re going to celebrate now.”
With the points he accumulated, by way of a trio of victories at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway, the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois and Eldora and top-five finishes in all nine series races this season, Windom defeated Swanson in the final Silver Crown standings by a mere five points — one of the closest point races in the history of the United States Auto Club.
Saturday was the first time since 1992 that an Eldora Silver Crown season finale featured a points change at the top. Furthermore, Windom’s victory marked the 12th time in the 46-year history of the series that the winner of the season finale race was also the season champion.