By Dick Jordan
Colorado, a hotbed of USAC racing through the years, returns to the USAC racing scene June 29 with the “Rocky Mountain Classic” at Pikes Peak International Raceway south of Colorado Springs.
Located in scenic Fountain, Colo., the one-mile paved oval was temporarily closed in 2005 but reopened in 2008 and the June 29 event marks a return for USAC after an eight-year hiatus.
USAC’s TRAXXAS Silver Crown and Honda National Midget Series will combine for the June 29 “doubleheader.” The two series partnered at PPIR in 2005 after four USAC series shared the oval in 1997 and 1998, three more in 1999, the Midgets in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and the Silver Crown, Sprint and Midgets combined in 2003 and 2004.
Dave Steele (Silver Crown) and Michael Lewis (Midget) were the 2005 winners. Tracy Hines holds the 1-lap Silver Criown track qualifying record of 133.164 mph in 1999, while NASCAR star Ryan Newman set the 1-lap Midget standard of 139.265 mph in 1997.
Bobby Santos, winner of the recent “Gateway 100” Silver Crown race near St. Louis, could see his all-time USAC Midget qualifying record challenged at PPIR. The record stands at 139.553 mph, set in 2006 at Iowa Speedway.
The “Rocky Mountain Classic” joins the prestigious Pikes Peak Hill Climb weekend, the nation’s second-longest motorsports event, which celebrates its 91st running of the “Race to the Clouds” June 30 just west of Colorado Springs.
National Championship points will be up for grabs in the PPIR “doubleheader” as drivers compete on one of the fastest ovals in USAC.
Numerous vacation opportunities abound in the area and race fans attending the race will be treated to fan-related activities in the area as well as trackside displays and other attractions.
Racing in the “Rocky Mountain” state dates back to Carroll Shelby’s victory in a 1960 road race at Continental Divide Raceway in Castle Rock. The road course at Castle Rock also served to host several USAC National Championship events in the 1960s and 1970s and Midget racing has flourished at numerous Colorado facilities. The Silver Crown Series made its Colorado debut at Raceland near Denver in 1982 before finding a home at PPIR in 1997.