By Richie Murray
Indianapolis, Indiana (December 10, 2021)………C.J. Leary last competed for a USAC Silver Crown title during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2015.
Seven years later, the Greenfield, Ind. native will take on the full series slate once more, this time as the driver of the Klatt Enterprises No. 6 for all 11 points paying events – six pavement and five dirt – in 2022.
Leary has competed regularly in Silver Crown competition over the past half-decade, most notably on the dirt, scoring victories during the 2016 Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track and in the 2018 4-Crown Nationals at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.
Entering the offseason, Leary was working on his sprint car arsenal at the shop when an unexpected call came in from USAC Hall of Fame constructor, mechanic, team manager and winning driver Bob East who made an offer C.J. couldn’t refuse.
“I think, in this new endeavor with Bob, Terry (Klatt) and Dave (Brzozowski), we’re going to work really well together,” Leary estimated. “With Silver Crown racing, I have a lot more experience with that, which I didn’t have much of in the midgets. Bob has really good stuff.”
Leary had a brief tenure as the driver of the FMR Racing car on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship tour in 2019 with East serving as one of the primary principles on the team. While the results didn’t live up to either Leary or East’s expectations, confidence remains in abundance for Leary that, in the “big cars,” expectations will meet performance.
C.J. is a veteran of 38 starts in USAC Silver Crown competition, interestingly enough, exactly the same number of starts his father, Chuck Leary, accrued during his racing career. Just six of C.J.’s 38 starts have come on pavement, though, including his first series start in 2014 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. C.J.’s best result came at the same .686-mile paved oval with a ninth in May of 2015.
Despite the relative pavement experience, which also includes a pair of Little 500 starts and a dabble in pavement late models for a time, Leary is amped to jump back into the pavement Silver Crown discipline with both feet in the coming year, especially in the potent Klatt ride, which has won nine series events over the years with the likes of Bobby East, Kyle Hamilton and Brady Bacon dating back to 2004.
“I’ve had to race against Bob and Terry’s car a lot whether Brady was driving it, or all the way back to (Bryan) Clauson,” Leary recalled. “They’ve always had a car that was able to win the race. In Silver Crown racing, there are a lot of guys who have a car capable of winning and there are a lot of factors that play into actually winning a 100-miler. I know I can get it done and Bob can get it done, so I’m just really excited to see what we can do.”
After winning a USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in 2019, Leary is hungry to pursue a second in a different form. While USAC Sprint Car racing regularly consists of more than forty races annually, 30 laps in length, Silver Crown racing entails just a handful of events ranging from 50-100 laps, which requires being on the ball physically, mentally and mechanically each time out to put yourself into position to become the series champ, something C.J. greatly desires.
”If I could put a Silver Crown title on my resume, that would be awesome,” Leary stated. “That’s a crown jewel of mine, it’s super prestigious and I’m going to give it 100 percent. Silver Crown racing in general is my favorite form of racing. I just love getting to go race Silver Crown cars. “
The 2022 USAC Silver Crown National Championship season for Leary, Klatt, East and Brzozowski gets underway May 1 at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track with the 19th running of the Sumar Classic, where Leary scored his first career series victory back in 2016.