By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (January 3, 2022)………Brian Tyler’s three decades of USAC Silver Crown experience have seen him rise the ranks into becoming one of the series’ all-time greats.
With experience – especially winning experience – comes knowledge. The Parma, Mich. native, whose 201 career Silver Crown starts are tied for the most all-time, doesn’t skimp on parting with some of that knowledge to his team, to his crew and to those on his side aiding him to victory lane.
However, these days, Tyler also relishes his role as a mentor to his fellow competitors despite full-well knowing that those on the listening end are the same individuals trying to defeat him.
Tyler, who made his series debut in 1990, remembers where he came from, how it felt to be in those same Nomex shoes as a young racer, and how he dealt with those early years with the help of someone like himself, a role he now finds himself in, as that of a wise racing sage.
“I was the kid one day who ran wide open and then was beaten on experience by the old guy. Now, it’s my turn to do that,” the 54-year-old Tyler said. “I enjoy talking to these kids and giving them advice. If they ask me a question, I straight up give them the best answer I can because I had an older guy do that for me when I was coming up. People ask me why I do that when I’ve got to race against them. I’m at the end of my career and they’re beginning theirs. If I pass this information on to them, hopefully it’ll save them a little bit on the learning curve. All I expect of them when they get to be my age is that they’ll pass it on to the next kid.”
With that said, Tyler isn’t quite ready to step aside and let the young drivers of today pull away with all that knowledge. Tyler has plenty left in the tank and that’ll be on full display throughout the 2022 season as he contests the full Silver Crown schedule for the first-time since 2013, driving in all 11 events for the BCR Group, based out of Springfield, Ohio.
Plenty left of the tank? Yeah, that’s an understatement, and he’s got loads of it coming into the upcoming season.
“When I walk through the gates of a racetrack, look around and think ‘I’ve got as good of a chance winning as anybody here,’ I said I’m going to keep doing it. When I walk through the gates, look around and think, ‘I hope I can run 10th today,’ it’s probably going to be the last run.”
His first start for the team last September resulted in a victory on the Magic Mile of the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds dirt track, his first start of the season and his first ever start for the team. Two starts later, he finished 3rd for the team in the season finale on the pavement at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway.
BCR Group’s majority owner, crew chief, builder and designer Malcolm Lovelace relishes the opportunity to work with Tyler, whose 18 career Silver Crown wins ranks third all-time. Lovelace, a veteran of 36 career USAC National Sprint Car starts as a driver in the 1970s and 1980s, was out of the sport for a while, but over the last seven years, has built the team into one of the top contenders.
But, without any Silver Crown experience behind the wheel as a driver, Lovelace admitted he’s had to learn these cars from scratch. Enter Tyler, who’s freely swapped ideas back-and-forth with Lovelace during their three-race stint and throughout the winter, as they prepare for the full season ahead.
“Brian has taught me so much about these cars and everything; he and I think along the same lines, and I can understand what he’s telling me,” Lovelace said. “He’s probably one of the best teachers there’s ever been. He helped Kody Swanson when he came up, Tyler Roahrig, and a lot of other guys. Just by having him around for a few races, it’s been tremendous.”
Tyler enjoys the give and take of it all, everything it takes to do it the right way, to figure out and solve the puzzle together, as a team.
“I think some of my knowledge is going to help them on the pavement and some of what they know is going to help me on the dirt,” Tyler explained. “I’m used to running a coil car on the dirt, but they run a bar car, so I’ll have to relearn that a little bit. What we did at Du Quoin seemed to work pretty well. It’s going to be a give and take, and I think it’s a team that can contend for a championship.
Malcolm’s easy to get along with and when we sit down to talk about setups and what our gameplan is, I can go to him and tell him, ‘I’ve done this and it’s worked really well for me,’ and he can come to me and say, ‘I’ve done this and it’s worked really well for us,” Tyler continued. “We hash things over and can get together and come up with the best solution and go for it. He’s not afraid to try something new and neither am I.”
Lovelace is always searching to find that little aspect, that little nuance to help the team reach its pinnacle. Last year’s career best second place finish in entrant points just made the hunger grow even stronger, and he’s prepared to what it takes to reach that level. A new Kercher engine will be under the hood of the pavement car; Corey Fillip has been helping in the shock department. With Brian’s arrival, the team has also added the assistance of Brian’s brother, longtime successful racer Bill Tyler, and Brian’s wife Donna, daughter of American Racer Tire’s Dave Dayton, who aids in the tire department.
“You’re always trying to find that little edge,” Lovelace said. “There’s a lot of little things you can find, but it’s really all about getting the right combinations with the driver, crew, car, setup, all the things that matter. If one of those things isn’t right, it can keep you from finding success.”
Several years of one-off shots and spot appearances in the Silver Crown series since has brought Tyler back into the fold as one of the full-timers. Tyler holds the record streak for the most consecutive Silver Crown starts (97 starts between 2005-2013) and will take over the number one spot in all-time starts in 2022, but one thing that has forever eluded him is a Silver Crown championship, something he’d love to change after previous capturing the 1996 and 1997 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championships.
“A (Silver Crown) championship would be fun because it has gotten away from me so many times,”. Tyler admitted. “But our main goal is to go and be competitive every race. If we do that, and win some races, the points will come. I’m not saying I’m going to come out of the box and be a points chaser. I’m going to run every race like it’s my only race and we’ll take what we get at the end of the end of the year.”
The 2022 USAC Silver Crown season begins on the dirt at Terre Haute on May 1. The pavement portion of the schedule kicks off on May 27 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Brownsburg, Ind.