usac United States Auto Club 2012 logo

usac United States Auto Club 2012 logoFrom Dick Jordan

Two of America’s Eastern driving stars have thrown their hat into the ring for this Saturday’s “Salt City 78” USAC Silver Crown Championship race at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada and Rich Tobias Jr. of Lebanon, Pa. are among entered drivers in the series finale, a 78-mile, 78-lap contest on one of America’s most storied ovals.

The race is part of the track’s NAPA Auto Parts “Super Dirt Week XLIII” slate which includes a variety of motorsports racing events. The Silver Crown Cars are scheduled to practice at 2:05 pm Friday, with qualifications at 5:40 pm. Saturday’s Silver Crown feature gets the green flag at 1:30 pm.

Friesen, winner of the recent SEF Small Engine Fuels 200-lapper at the New York State Fairgrounds oval and a former two-time winner of Syracuse’s Big-Block “200”, will pilot the #99 RPM/Fred Gormly entry as a teammate to USAC Triple Crown Champion Jerry Coons Jr. Coons is the most recent series winner, taking the September 21 “4-Crown Nationals” at the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Tobias, son of the legendary Pennsylvania driver Dick Tobias, returns to the series after a two-year hiatus driving his own #177 Tobias/Chevy. Tobias’ last Silver crown start came in the 2012 finale and he has 64 career starts dating back to 1999. In 2003 he won the prestigious “Ted Horn 100” at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fair.

Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif., winner of four Silver Crown dirt races already this season, enters Saturday’s race with a 12-point margin in the standings over runner-up Tracy Hines, the 2000 series champion. Hines has four seconds, two thirds and two fourths in nine 2014 starts.

Defending Silver Crown Champion Bobby East also retains hope for a 2014 championship, trailing Swanson by 45 points with 66 total points available at Syracuse.

Dave Darland owns the one-lap Syracuse track qualifying record of 119.713 mph. Saturday’s race will be the first for the USAC Silver Crown cars at the New York State Fairgrounds since J.J. Yeley’s 2003 victory. Tobias finished second in that race ahead of third-place Darland.

Drivers who competed in the 2003 Syracuse race expected to return, including Tobias, are sixth-place A.J. Fike, 13th-place Coons, 16th-place Russ Gamester and 17th-place Wes Miller.

USAC Championship racing at Syracuse dates back to 1956 when Tony Bettenhausen was victorious in a 100-mile race. Other USAC winners include Elmer George (1957), Johnny Thomson (1958), Eddie Sachs (1959), Bobby Grim (1960) Rodger Ward (1961 and 1962), Al Unser (1974), Sheldon Kinser (1975), Pancho Carter (1976 and 1978), Larry Dickson (1977) and Yeley (2002 and 2003).

2014 USAC Silver Crown Standings:1-Kody Swanson-522, 2-Tracy Hines-510, 3-Bobby East-477, 4-Chris Windom-418, 5-Jerry Coons Jr.-366, 6-Jacob Wilson-308, 7-Shane Cockrum-264, 8-A.J. Fike-263, 9-Caleb Armstrong-259, 10-Dave Darland-234.