By Richie Murray – USAC Media
BROWNSBURG, IN-Non-points special events have been prevalent throughout USAC Sprint Car and Midget history.
For instance, between 1985-2001 , the Thunder in the Dome Midget race took place inside the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. On the Sprint Car side, you can point to the Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway, which was held under the USAC banner between 2001-2009.
For USAC Silver Crown, these types of events are few and far between. But one is coming up this Thursday night, June 30, at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park with a 25-lap, 10-car Silver Crown Shootout taking place at the .686-mile paved oval with the field vying for $2,500-to-win and $1,000-to-start.
It’s an all-out sprint for the Silver Crown cars as the field will first jockey for one of the 10 coveted positions in the field through qualifying, which will be followed by a starting spot draw.
Thursday night’s Silver Crown non-points special event is the first of its kind since 1996 when a five-car, ten-lap race was contested on dirt at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track and won by Jack Hewitt. IRP’s race, however, will be the first of its kind on pavement since 1979 at Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Mile, a 25-lapper captured by George Snider.
Tentatively, there are 14 drivers in the field. Six-time series champ and seven-time IRP Silver Crown winner Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) is among those as well as six-time IRP Silver Crown victor Tanner Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.).
Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.), a five-time IRP Silver Crown winner and the triumphant driver from May’s 100-lapper at the track, will be on hand as will Silver Crown point leader and 2019 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.).
Champions are all across the board in the stout lineup with 2020 USAC Silver Crown king Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) and 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), as well as 1996-97 USAC National Sprint Car champion Brian Tyler (Parma, Mich.) and 1989 USAC National Midget titlist Russ Gamester (Peru, Ind.), who scored an IRP Silver Crown win in 2000.
Also in the lineup are Taylor Ferns (Shelby Township, Mich.), who finished 3rd at IRP in May, the highest finishing position by a woman in Silver Crown history. Kyle O’Gara (Beech Grove, Ind.), the 2014 USAC Regional Pavement Midget champion, will be on hand as will Travis Welpott (Pendleton, Ind.), Nick Hamilton (Danville, Ind.), Derek Bischak (Angola, Ind.) and Davey Hamilton Jr. (Boise, Idaho).
As we dig deep into the archives, let’s review a number of the past – and very few – occasions of non-points special events throughout USAC Silver Crown’s interesting history.
1979 MILWAUKEE MILE
George Snider concluded the Milwaukee Mile’s day of racing by winning a special five-car, 25-mile exhibition race for USAC Championship Dirt cars, escaping from a race-long battle with Dana Carter and Roger Rager for the win. Snider’s win was the first at Milwaukee for a Dirt Car since Art Bisch won the Rex Mays Classic in 1958. A.J. Foyt did, however, place second in a Dirt Car in that memorable 1965 Tony Bettenhausen Classic.
Duane Sweeney, who was seriously injured in a highway accident on his way to Texas World Speedway just three months before, was able to take the stand and flag the event.
1982 ILLINOIS STATE FAIRGROUNDS
Dubbed “The Dream Event of ’82,” race organizer Jim DePalma offered race fans just that, with six driving stars each from USAC and the World of Outlaws squaring off in a $15,000, 12-mile team concept feature.
The participants were selected by race fans purchasing advance sale tickets to the event, resulting in the largest advance ticket sale in Illinois State Fairgrounds racing history. The event was held in addition to the regular complete programs for both the USAC Silver Crown and WoO.
The Dream Event incorporated 12 USAC Silver Crown Championship machines, with each row in the lineup containing one USAC and one WoO driver with their starting positions determined by a draw.
USAC drivers nominated for the race were Larry Rice, Gary Bettenhausen, Ken Schrader, Rich Vogler, Tom Bigelow and Jack Hewitt. Representing the World of Outlaws were Sammy Swindell, Steve Kinser, Doug Wolfgang, Danny Smith, Dean Shirley and Bobby Marshall.
Each driver on the winning team received $1,500, with all others getting $800 each, plus a $1,200 bonus paid to the race winning driver, which was Jack Hewitt in the Johnny Vance Racing Aristocrat Products Chevy.
The race was ultimately captured by the USAC team, which defeated the World Of Outlaws by placing its six drivers in the first eight finishing positions in the 12-car match race.
1983-1986: OKLAHOMA CITY FAIRGROUNDS
Oklahoma radio station KXY offered an additional incentive in the form of a special 15-lap Challenge Race featuring cars and stars from both the United States Auto Club (USAC) and the National Championship Racing Association (NCRA) between 1983-1986 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds.
The two night event featured qualifying on the first evening and the 50-lap main event the following night. The top-10 qualifiers from USAC and the top-10 qualifiers from NCRA made the challenge race, with a draw determining starting positions.
Billy Vukovich, who replaced Mike Peters at the wheel of race organizer Larry Hill’s car, sped to victory in the inaugural Challenge Race in 1983, leading all 15 laps after subbing for Mike Peters, who had suffered a broken arm 24 hours before and was unable to repeat.
Rickey Hood and the Damon “Blackie” Fortune Rose Brothers Trucking Chevy were the class of the field 1984 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds, winning both Saturday night’s 15-lap challenge and Sunday night’s 50-lap Silver Crown Championship points race. Hood led the USAC team to a convincing victory over NCRA at the 1/2-mile dirt track, beating Shane Carson and Dave Blaney to the checkered flag and bringing home a quick $1,600 payday.
USAC’s Rich Vogler led all 15 laps in driving the Seymour Enterprises Chevy to victory in the challenge event of 1985, but it was the NCRA drivers who claimed the team championship by a clear margin. It was a much better night for Vogler who found himself fending off a raucous crowd following a first-lap incident with local hero Jon Johnson the very next year.
On the precise day yours truly was born in 1986, the top 10-USAC and top 10 NCRA qualifiers squared off with Rickey Hood who scored his second Oklahoma City challenge victory in a three-year span, but the NCRA stars compiled enough points to beat the USAC team 114-96.
1985 FLORIDA STATE FAIRGROUNDS
C.J. “Buck” Weaver, manager and promoter of auto racing at the Florida State Fairgrounds 1/2-mile dirt oval in Tampa, expressed an interest in bringing the USAC Championship Cars south for Florida’s first-ever event featuring the USAC Silver Crown machines.
Weaver had recently visited the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds for the USAC/NCRA Shootout and aimed to present a similar format in the winter of 1985.
The last time the USAC Championship Cars had ventured to a dirt track south of the Mason-Dixon line was in 1956, 1957 and 1958 when they competed at the Southeastern Fair at Lakewood Park in Atlanta, Ga.
Jack Hewitt won what turned out to be the one and only special non-points challenge race in Florida, leading all but the first lap of the 15-lap affair. The NCRA veterans, however, once again won the challenge, amassing 106 points to 103 for the USAC drivers. Hewitt collected $1,500, $100 bucks for each lap completed.
1996 TERRE HAUTE ACTION TRACK
As part of October’s U.S. Dirt Nationals program in 1996, the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track brought a smorgasbord of activity to its half-mile dirt oval with USAC National Sprint Cars, USAC National Midgets, Winged Sprint Cars and even a 10-lap Bowen Oldsmobile USAC Silver Crown exhibition event.
The race originally was intended to feature five cars but was pared down to four when Kevin Thomas didn’t make the call. Tony Elliott commanded the first six laps in the Gary Beaver-owned machine before Jack Hewitt roared by four laps from the finish to the backdrop of an adoring crowd.
Hewitt closed it out for his third career non-point special event USAC Silver Crown triumph over Elliott, Dave Darland in the Ralph Potter ride while Dan Drinan rounded out the field in Ricky Nix’s mobile.
USAC’s Hall of Fame ceremony is slated to take place during opening ceremonies prior to the three feature events, which is scheduled to begin at 7:50pm Eastern as the new class of inductees are honored.
The Hall of Fame ceremony will be followed by a 30-lap, $5,000-to-win 500 Sprint Car Tour feature, a 25-lap, 10-car, $2,500-to-win race for the Silver Crown cars and finish up with the midgets going for $5,000 in a 35-lap A-Main.
The United States Auto Club has previously announced its eight inductees into its latest class. The list includes car owner/mechanic Doug Caruthers; driver Jay Drake; car owner/mechanic Galen Fox; driver Jeff Gordon; driver/car owner/builder/innovator Dan Gurney; car owner/mechanic Ray Nichels; car owner/official/promoter Johnny Vance; and track owner/promoter Joe Shaheen.
Jeff Gordon and representatives for the late Dan Gurney received their Hall of Fame awards during separate ceremonies in 2021.
Spectator gates will open at 4pm Eastern with practice set to begin for the three series starting at 4pm. Qualifying will start at 6:25pm with the opening ceremonies tabbed for 7:50pm and followed each of the three feature events.
General admission tickets are $25 apiece while tickets for kids age 12 and under are free.
The entire event from IRP will be shown live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3u7ID2N.
PRELIMINARY ENTRY LIST:
1 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Doran-Dyson)
6 C.J. LEARY/Greenfield, IN (Klatt)
14 DAVEY HAMILTON JR./Boise, ID (Hamilton-Puglio)
18 TRAVIS WELPOTT/Pendleton, IN (Welpott)
22 BOBBY SANTOS/Franklin, MA (DJ)
26 TANNER SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Pierce)
51 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester)
55 TAYLOR FERNS/Shelby Township, MI (Ferns)
67 KYLE O’GARA/Beech Grove, IN (SFHR)
80 NICK HAMILTON/Danville, IN (Breidinger)
81 BRIAN TYLER/Parma, MI (BCR)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn)
131 DEREK BISCHAK/Angola, IN (Bischak)
222 LOGAN SEAVEY/Sutter, CA (Rice)
USAC SILVER CROWN NON-POINTS SPECIAL EVENT WINNERS:
6/10/1979: Milwaukee Mile | West Allis, WI | George Snider | Dave LeFevre #59 | 25 L
5/1/1982: Illinois State Fairgrounds | Springfield, IL | Illinois State Fairgrounds | Jack Hewitt | Johnny Vance #3 | 12 L
7/23/1983: Oklahoma City Fairgrounds | Oklahoma City, OK | Billy Vukovich | Larry Hill #86 | 15 L
7/21/1984: Oklahoma City Fairgrounds | Oklahoma City, OK | Rick Hood | Damon Fortune #39 | 15 L
2/9/1985: Florida State Fairgrounds | Tampa, FL | Jack Hewitt | Kenny Jarrett #10 | 15 L
7/20/1985: Oklahoma City Fairgrounds | Oklahoma City, OK | Rich Vogler | Louie Seymour #29 | 15 L
7/19/1986: Oklahoma City Fairgrounds | Oklahoma City, OK | Rick Hood | Gohr Distributing #56 | 20 L
10/5/1996: Terre Haute Action Track | Terre Haute, IN | Jack Hewitt | Six-R Racing #63 | 10 L
USAC SILVER CROWN NON-POINTS SPECIAL EVENT WINS:
1-George Snider, Rich Vogler & Billy Vukovich