By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (March 24, 2021)………Eric Gordon, a veteran of 141 career Silver Crown starts in his three-decade driving career with USAC, plans to start them all in 2021 as he has signed on to contest the full 12-race series during the coming season in car No. 99 owned by Brad & Tara Armstrong.
Gordon’s start total in Silver Crown competition ranks ninth all-time, 16 of which have come with the Armstrong team between 2018 and 2020.
After competing regularly with the Silver Crown series in 2019 on both the dirt and pavement, finishing fourth in the standings, 2020 saw an abbreviated season for the driver and team combo with just one start, but with new, fresh equipment and an undeniable amount of eagerness and excitement, Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind.) highly anticipates his full-time return to the schedule.
“I’m really looking forward to going after the whole season,” Gordon exclaimed. “I’m really excited and glad that things came together, and people came together to be able to bring about this opportunity.”
Gordon made his goal clear and simple for 2021 – to win a championship. Gordon finished a scant nine points short of that championship goal with the Silver Crown series behind Jimmy Sills in his Rookie year of 1990, and the hunger has remained ever since, further garnering additional close calls and runner-up finishes with the USAC National Sprint Cars in 1989, 1990 and 1991, with his most recent Silver Crown score coming in 1990 at Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Mile.
“I haven’t chased a USAC title in a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Gordon said. “The only reason you do it is to win. We’ll do everything on our end to try to make that happen.”
Eric Gordon and Brad Armstrong have a bond closer than most driver and owner relationships. Both grew up just east of Indianapolis, Ind. in Hancock County and both made their USAC driving debuts during the 1989 season. Both initially stepped away from their driving duties around the same time frame as well, with Brad maintaining a presence as a car owner in the Silver Crown series while serving as the owner of his own garage door business and serving three terms over 12 years as the county commissioner for Hancock County.
Eric began helping his son, Jake, get started in his racing career during that time, and when Eric got the bug to race again following a six-year absence with the Silver Crown cars between 2012 and 2018, Brad was there to assist in making that become a reality.
“I had gotten kind of got burned out and retired because I wanted to concentrate with helping my son run go-karts and mini-sprints, and then he started running sprint cars,” Gordon explained. “I started going to the sprint car shows again and I started realizing how much I really missed it.”
With the initial goal of returning for the Little 500 Sprint Car race at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway where he’s the all-time king with nine career wins in the event, Gordon began his quest of dropping 40 pounds and getting back into racing shape when an opportunity opened up with the Armstrong team. That place Gordon squarely back in the Silver Crown wars, initially only on the pavement in 2018 where he finished 4th in their debut at Phoenix, Ariz., then qualified on the front row at Toledo, Ohio, which led to more quality performances that then snowballed from there to where they stand today.
“I have a lot of fun driving for Brad and Tara,” Gordon said. “I’ve known them forever. My son, Brad and I have been putting the cars together during the winter. It’s just been really enjoyable being able to spend this time with somebody that’s a friend and also with your son putting racecars together. It’s been an enjoyable winter.”
Gordon and Armstrong also share another attribute as both being USAC National Sprint Car winners as drivers. Gordon owns 12 in his own right while Armstrong reigned victorious as the winner on the high banks of Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1998. Gordon has won there twice himself in a sprint car in both 1991 and 1995, the very same half-mile paved oval which hosts the Silver Crown season opener on Sunday afternoon, May 9.
“We raced against each other for 20 years and we both started running USAC around the same time, but around 1991, we started hanging out,” Armstrong recalled. “We had kids about the same time, and he’s always been kind of like me trying to do $10 worth a racing on $5. We have pretty similar mindsets.”
The essence of familiarity is essential to the core of the team with Eric competing countless laps on the tracks which make up this year’s seven dirt and five pavement race slate. In his corner, Eric will have a familiar face in the pits working alongside him this season.
“I’ll have my 20-year-old son, Jake, and he’ll pretty much be the crew chief of the dirt Silver Crown car,” Gordon said. “I just think that’s neat that I get the opportunity to work with my son in that capacity.”
“The other thing that makes this deal comfortable is knowing the crew guys forever,” Gordon said. “Jake and Kurt Hough, I’ve known forever. Also, Kurt’s a former American Speed Association racer. When you try to describe what you’re trying to achieve in a way the car feels or when it’s doing something, they kind of give me carte blanche on what I want to do, but when I explain it to Brad and Kurt, they’re going to understand what I’m saying because they were drivers themselves. We’re able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other, have different angles to look at a problem, and that makes it really easy that way.”
The Gordon/Armstrong team will utilize a Beast chassis on the pavement and a DRC on dirt, with Claxton Toyota powerplants under the hoods of both rides which will carry sponsorship from Fatheadz Eyewear, Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts, Nest Mortgage, H & H Drywall and Armstrong Garage Doors.