By Richie Murray
Winchester, Indiana (July 19, 2022)………Justin Grant had to muster every ounce of grit, determination and moxie on the last lap of Winchester (Ind.) Speedway’s USAC Silver Crown debut in 2021.
Driving that point home is the fact that the driver chasing Grant on the green-white-checkered dash to the finish, Kody Swanson, posted his fastest lap of the race on the 100th and final lap in his pursuit of the win.
Simultaneously, Grant answered the bell by also laying down his fastest lap of the entire race on the 100th and final lap to keep Swanson behind him.
At the finish line, Grant finished just a miniscule half car length ahead of Swanson in a dramatic ending to the heavyweight slugfest in the series’ first visit to the 37-degree banked, three-story high oval, delivering the closest finish of the entire Silver Crown season – a 0.050 second margin.
Now a fully-fledged, first-time USAC Silver Crown winner on the pavement, the triumph marked Grant’s first of any kind on an asphalt surface since a BCRA Midget feature score in 2006 at California’s Madera Speedway.
“It’s a bit surreal for me to be standing at Winchester as a winner. As a kid who watched races here on TV, thinking, ‘boy, that’s the gnarliest thing I’ve ever seen,’ I would’ve thought that was outside the realm of possibility growing up,” Grant exclaimed. “I was a kid who dreamed of racing USAC and to come here and win means the world to me, and there’s not a better group of guys that I could do it with.”
This Thursday night, July 21, the 2020 series champ aims to become the first repeat winner of the Rich Vogler Classic Presented by The Pallet Builder since Tracy Hines in a midget during the 2012-13 editions at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Grant is one of three past Rich Vogler Classic winners in this Thursday night’s field at Winchester along with Kody Swanson and Bobby Santos who, unsurprisingly, all comprised the podium of last year’s event. Swanson won the event twice in a Silver Crown car at IRP in 2016 and 2019 while Santos collected a pair in the champ cars at IRP in 2012 and 2017.
Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.), the all-time USAC Silver Crown king in terms of championships, wins and fast qualifying times, finished as a close runner-up to Grant a year ago after leading the first four laps. His run for the pole during qualifying was majestic as he brought down the house with a time of 14.459 seconds, which translates to an average speed of 124.490 mph. He also owns a pair of Winchester USAC Sprint Car starts to his name, a 10th in 2010 and a 4th in 2011.
Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.) led 18 laps early in last year’s Vogler Classic en route to a 3rd place result. He also finished in the 3rd position during an Auto Value Super Sprint feature at Winchester in 2019. The first of Santos’ three USAC Sprint starts at Winchester came in 2011 with his best result being a 6th in 2011.
Winchester, Indiana’s own Matt Goodnight finished a solid 7th during his homecoming race on the banks in 2021. He also took 5th with the King of the Wing Sprint Car Series at Winchester in 2016.
Kyle O’Gara (Beech Grove, Ind.) collected a career-best USAC Silver Crown result of 5th in the 2021 Vogler Classic, earning hard charger honors after starting back in the 15th spot. The recent USAC Midget Special Event winner at IRP won his heat race, led the opening seven laps and finished 6th with the Auto Value Super Sprints in 2019, without the wing, at Winchester in 2019.
The Winchester experience of Travis Welpott (Pendleton, Ind.) goes back to the late 1990s with the USAC National Midgets. The 1993 UMRA TQ Midget champion and 2000 NAMARS Midget champion earned a career-best Silver Crown finish of 6th in the last year’s Vogler Classic. Welpott also finished 11th and 20th with the USAC Midgets at Winchester in 1998 as well as 17th, 13th and 11th in 1999.
Kyle Robbins (New Castle, Ind.) returns to Silver Crown action following recent engine woes. The 2018 Silver Crown top-Rookie was an 8th place finisher in his first Winchester visit in 2021.
Derek Bischak’s first Winchester Speedway open wheel racing experience came in 2021 with a 9th place finish in Silver Crown action. The 2019 Silver Crown Rookie of the Year had previously finished in the top-five of a stock car race there in the late 2000s.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), the 2018 USAC National Midget champion, finished 11th in the Winchester round of his 2021 Rookie of the Year season. Nathan Byrd (Goodyear, Ariz.), whose grandfather owned midgets and Indy Cars driven by the race’s namesake, Rich Vogler, finished 14th in his 2021 run.
One driver who trounces the field in terms of USAC experience at Winchester is Eric Gordon (Greenfield, Ind.) who was experiencing a fine top-five run in 2021 before overheating sidelined him after completing just 37 laps. Gordon’s Winchester USAC career dates back to 1989. Since then, he’s made 49 career USAC Sprint starts and 3 career USAC Midget starts at the track. Two of those 49 USAC Sprint races have resulted in winning performances, in 1991 and 1995, which are among his 35 top-tens and 23 top-fives there and includes 4 runner-up finishes, 6 thirds, 5 fourths and 6 fifths. His car owner, Brad Armstrong, also has winning experience at Winchester, scoring a USAC Sprint victory there as a driver in 1998.
Mike McVetta (Grafton, Ohio) enters Thursday’s race where he made his Silver Crown debut in 2021, finishing 17th. The previous Winchester experience is quite impressive for the pavement specialist who captured the 2018-19 Midwest Supermodified Series (MSS) championships. At Winchester in 2013, McVetta set the supermodified track record of 13.801 seconds in qualifying, then won his heat race and finished second in that afternoon’s feature.
Meanwhile, Dave Berkheimer (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), a veteran of 25 Silver Crown starts, scored a 19th in his first Winchester experience in 2021.
USAC Silver Crown point leader C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) is among those making his Winchester open wheel debut on Thursday. Leary competed in a CRA Super Late Model at the track during the 2011 World Stock Car Festival 100 at the age of 15. In his last run with the Silver Crown series in late June, the 2019 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ won his first career USAC pavement main event at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway.
Brian Tyler (Parma, Mich.) has won two USAC National Sprint Car features at Winchester in 1997 and 1998, both of which came on the heels of USAC National Sprint Car titles in 1996 and 1997. Tyler made his USAC debut at Winchester in 1992 during an ESPN-televised race sporting a mohawk!
SILVER CROWN FIRSTS:
Taylor Ferns (Shelby Township, Mich.) is the highest finishing woman in USAC Silver Crown history, scoring 3rd on the pavement at IRP this past May. However, this will mark her first run at Winchester in an open wheel car.
Leading Rookie of the Year contender Gregg Cory (Shelbyville, Ind.), the 2006 Paragon Speedway sprint car champ, will also be on hand at Winchester for the first time in a Silver Crown, but his experience includes a 9th place finish with the NAMARS Midgets during the Vogler Classic at Winchester in 2000.
Tom Paterson (Argos, Ind.) has contested winged sprint car action at Winchester with the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series over the years but is a Silver Crown Rookie this year along with fellow series first-timers at Winchester, Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) and Jake Day (Abilene, Texas).
Thursday night’s Rich Vogler Classic race occurs on the 32nd anniversary of Vogler’s passing in a 1990 USAC National Sprint Car event at Salem (Ind.) Speedway. Vogler captured nine USAC driving championship in his career: 1978-80-83-86-88 National Midget, 1980 & 89 National Sprint Car and 1984-85 Speedrome Regional Midget.
Vogler’s 171 USAC feature wins rank number one all-time: 96 National Midget, 35 National Sprint, 4 Silver Crown, 17 Regional Midget, 9 Western States Midget (2 were also National), 5 Arizona Midget (4 were also Western and 1 was also National), 8 Speedrome Midget and 4 Midget Special Event.
Constructed in 1914, these 37 degree banks have hosted the most courageous and lionhearted drivers throughout the past century. This Thursday, July 22, the bravest of the brave put their mental and physical focus to the test for 100 laps, a distance a USAC event at Winchester hasn’t traveled in a half-century.
The Rich Vogler Classic presented by The Pallet Builder featuring the USAC Silver Crown National Championship takes place on Thursday night, July 21.
USAC Silver Crown rig unloading and parking takes place from 9am-3pm Eastern. Vintage car parking will be in the display area from 11am-2pm. Pits open at 2pm with a sweep at 3:40pm. Spectator gates open at 4pm. Vintage cars will be on track from 4:10-4:45pm.
Silver Crown practice begins at 5pm. Vintage cars and the Thunder Roadster heat race will hit the speedway from 6-6:40pm. Silver Crown qualifying commences at 7pm followed by the Thunder Roadster feature from 7:40-7:50pm. USAC Silver Crown cars will be gridded on track at 8pm with an autograph session on the front stretch from 8:10-8:25pm, followed by pre-race ceremonies at 8:30pm and the 100-lap Silver Crown main event at 8:45pm.
General admission tickets are $28 for ages 13 & up. General admission tickets are free for ages 12 and under. Pit passes are $35 for members and $40 for non-members. There is no reserved seating. All tickets will be available at the gate on race day.
The event can be watched live and on-demand at FloRacing | https://flosports.link/3OivVbj.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-244, 2-Logan Seavey-238, 3-Kody Swanson-232, 4-Justin Grant-186, 5-Brian Tyler-181, 6-Bobby Santos-143, 7-Travis Welpott-130, 8-Brady Bacon-128, 9-Austin Nemire-119, 10-Taylor Ferns-116.
RICH VOGLER CLASSIC USAC SILVER CROWN ENTRY LIST:
1 Kody Swanson/Kingsburg, CA (Doran-Dyson Racing)
6 C.J. Leary/Greenfield, IN (Klatt Enterprises)
7 Kyle Robbins/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
11 (R) Nathan Byrd/Goodyear, AZ (Hamilton-Byrd Racing)
18 Travis Welpott/Pendleton, IN (Welpott Racing)
22 Bobby Santos/Franklin, MA (DJ Racing)
26 TBA (Sam Pierce)
31 Dave Berkheimer/Mechanicsburg, PA (Berkheimer Racing)
32 (R) Gregg Cory/Shelbyville, IN (Williams Racing)
39 Matt Goodnight/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
42 (R) Jake Day/Abilene, Texas (Jake Day)
55 Taylor Ferns/Shelby Township, MI (Taylor Ferns Racing)
67 Kyle O’Gara/Beech Grove, IN (SFHR Development)
81 Brian Tyler/Parma, MI (BCR Group)
91 Justin Grant/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
92 (R) Mario Clouser/Auburn, IL (Kazmark Motorsports)
94 (R) Mike McVetta/Grafton OH (Dick & Deborah Myers)
99 Eric Gordon/Fortville, IN (Brad & Tara Armstrong)
111 (R) Tom Paterson/Argos, IN (Tom Paterson)
131 Derek Bischak/Angola, IN (Derek Bischak)
222 Logan Seavey/Sutter, CA (Rice Motorsports)
(R) represents a USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year contender
RICH VOGLER CLASSIC WINNERS:
1991: Robbie Stanley (Sprint) & Don Schilling (Midget)
1992: Jim Mahoney (Sprint) & Kenny Irwin, Jr. (Midget)
1993: Robbie Stanley (Sprint) & Stevie Reeves (Midget)
1994: Robbie Stanley (Sprint) & Mike Bliss (Midget)
1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. (Sprint) & Mike Bliss (Midget)
1996: Andy Michner (Sprint) & Tracy Hines (Midget)
1997: Andy Michner (Sprint) & Tracy Hines (Midget)
1998: Chet Fillip (Sprint) & Ricky Shelton (Midget)
1999: Dave Steele (Sprint)
2000: Ryan Newman (Sprint) & Ryan Newman (Midget)
2001: Dane Carter (Midget)
2002: Dave Steele (Sprint)
2003: Michael Lewis (Sprint)
2004: Teddy Beach (Midget) & Bryan Clauson (Kenyon Midget)
2005: Dave Darland (Sprint)
2006: Bryan Clauson (Sprint)
2007: Marc Jessup (Sprint)
2008: Darren Hagen (Sprint)
2009: Tracy Hines (Sprint)
2010: Shane Hmiel (Sprint)
2011: Tracy Hines (Sprint)
(Indianapolis Raceway Park)
2012: Bobby Santos (Silver Crown) & Tracy Hines (Midget)
2013: Tanner Swanson (Silver Crown) & Tracy Hines (Midget)
2014: David Byrne (Silver Crown)
2015: Tanner Swanson (Silver Crown)
2016: Kody Swanson (Silver Crown)
2017: Bobby Santos (Silver Crown)
2019: Kody Swanson (Silver Crown)
2020: Not Held
2021: Justin Grant (Silver Crown)
PAST USAC SILVER CROWN RESULTS AT WINCHESTER:
2021 FEATURE: (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (5), 2. Kody Swanson (1), 3. Bobby Santos (2), 4. Aaron Pierce (3), 5. Kyle O’Gara (15), 6. Travis Welpott (7), 7. Matt Goodnight (8), 8. Kyle Robbins (11), 9. Derek Bischak (12), 10. David Byrne (6), 11. Logan Seavey (14), 12. Austin Nemire (10), 13. Shane Cottle (9), 14. Nathan Byrd (13), 15. Eric Gordon (4), 16. Mike Haggenbottom (18), 17. Mike McVetta (16), 18. Patrick Lawson (17), 19. Dave Berkheimer (19). 37:06.331 (New Track Record)
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC SILVER CROWN AT WINCHESTER:
1 Lap – 7/22/2021 – Kody Swanson – 14.459 – 124.490 mph
100 Laps – 7/22/2021 – Justin Grant – 37:06.331 – 80.851 mph