By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (August 15, 2022)………Two-hundred miles lie ahead for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship during a weekend that presents quite a rarity for the series: races on consecutive days on both pavement and dirt.
The excellent adventure begins at Madison, Illinois’ World Wide Technology Raceway on Friday night, August 19, followed by a jaunt to the capital of the Land of Lincoln, the Springfield Mile, as the series jumps on the dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Saturday August 20, a venue which has played a significant role in the history of the sport, and takes part in its first pavement/dirt champ car weekend since Al Unser’s dominant 1970 campaign.
Only five previous times in the USAC Silver Crown division’s 52-year history has this occurred and among those doing the whirlwind tour pavement/dirt tour on back-to-back nights include Kody Swanson, Justin Grant, Logan Seavey, C.J. Leary, Brian Tyler, Eric Gordon, Kyle Robbins, Travis Welpott, Gregg Cory, Bryan Gossel, Patrick Lawson, Dave Berkheimer and Tom Paterson.
The first such instance of a consecutive Silver Crown races on consecutive days on different surfaces arrived with a bang as J.J. Yeley’s remarkable 2003 USAC Triple Crown campaign was highlighted by many incredible performances. Among the earliest was a May double dip for the Bob East/Tony Stewart-owned team, first on the Indianapolis Raceway Park pavement with a last lap pass of Dave Steele. Yeley followed up the next night with a 100-lap cruise, leading all 100 laps to pick up a $50,000 bonus for winning both, which brought his two-night prize money total to a sweet $70,900.
In 2008, Dave Darland held off repeated challenges from runner-up Jerry Coons Jr. to score the Sumar Classic in his Foxco Engineering No. 56 on the dirt half-mile at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. Meanwhile, Bobby East dominated IRP’s pavement for all 100 laps one night later at the J.D. Byrider 100 for the Klatt Enterprises team.
Eight years later, in 2016, it was a match of brotherly love in the win column as Kody Swanson wheeled his DePalma Motorsports No. 63 to another Hoosier Hundred triumph on the dirt at the Indiana State Fairgrounds while, 24 hours later, younger brother Tanner Swanson and his Bowman Racing #02 were the forces at IRP, leading the final 20 laps while having to fend off Kody in the waning laps following a late caution.
It was all Kody Swanson in 2018 as he became the first driver since Yeley 15 years earlier to go back-to-back on dirt and pavement on a weekend with the Silver Crown series, leading the latter half of the Hoosier Hundred, then controlling all but the first lap to win the weekend capper at IRP, both in dueling DePalma Motorsports dirt and pavement rides.
The most recent Silver Crown twin-bill came in 2019 when Tyler Courtney powered his way to the front eight laps from the finish line to win the penultimate Hoosier Hundred in the seat of Hans Lein’s No. 97. The next night, a first-time series winner emerged as Kyle Hamilton lost the lead to Bobby Santos late, then regained with a smooth pass a lap later to win at IRP.
Dating back onto the USAC National Championship trail, Lloyd Ruby won his first championship race at Milwaukee in 1961. The competitors then loaded up and headed south toward the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the inaugural Bettenhausen 100 where an accounting error ended the race a lap early at 99 miles with Jim Hurtubise locking up the win.
The Springfield/Milwaukee weekend was a mainstay throughout the remainder of the 1960s and into 1970. Hurtubise repeated at Springfield in 1962 while Rodger Ward took the Milwaukee Mile en route to his USAC championship season. Ward captured the dirt portion of the weekend at Springfield in 1963 while, a day later, Jimmy Clark and his Lotus Powered By Ford turned the racing world on its collective ear at Milwaukee when they ushered in the rear engine revolution by breaking the track record in qualifying and leading all 200 circuits to lap all but second place.
The two most recent Indianapolis winners, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, shared weekend honors in 1964 with Foyt winning at Springfield and Jones at Milwaukee. In 1965, it was Foyt, for all intents and purposes, who stole the headlines for the weekend by bringing his Springfield-winning dirt car to the asphalt of Milwaukee and proceeded to put it on the pole and finished as the runner-up to first-time series winner Gordon Johncock.
Foyt and Mario Andretti defined the era and defined the Springfield/Milwaukee weekend in 1967 with respective victories. Roger McCluskey (Springfield) and Lloyd Ruby (Milwaukee) traded triumphs in 1968. Al Unser returned to form in 1969 at Milwaukee, picking up his first win since breaking his leg in a motorcycle incident in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield in May while Mario hit paydirt the next day at Springfield.
Al Unser dominated pretty much everything in 1970 aboard the Johnny Lightning Special, winning 10 times in 18 starts on the USAC National Championship trail. He swept the Springfield/Milwaukee weekend, then proceeded to do just the same late in the season on the Trenton pavement in New Jersey and, amazingly, the very next day on the other side of the country at Sacramento’s California State Fairgrounds, the final event on dirt for “IndyCar racing.” Sandwiched between the two Unser sweeps was Jim McElreath’s mastery of the brand-new Ontario Motor Speedway in California. Unser answered by winning the second end of the double with a winning performance on the magic mile dirt oval at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois.
This Friday night, August 19, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., the OutFront 100 features the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, INDYCAR Practice/Qualifying and Indy Lights Practice/Qualifying. Front gates open at 8am central, with Silver Crown practice at 10am and 1:15pm. Silver Crown Fatheadz Qualifying begins at 4:30pm with driver introductions at 8pm and the 80-lap, 100-mile main event at 8:30pm.
On Saturday night, August 20, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., the 59th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Hunt Brothers Pizza brings the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, plus the 29th Annual Illinois Sportsman Nationals DIRTcar Sportsman Prelims. Pits and registration open at 7am central, front gates at 9am, practice from 10-11:10am, Fatheadz Qualifying at 11:30am, qualifying race at 12:30pm and the 100-mile main event at 2pm.
CONSECUTIVE USAC SILVER CROWN RACES ON PAVEMENT & DIRT IN ONE WEEKEND:
5/22: Clermont, IN | Indianapolis Raceway Park | J.J. Yeley | Bob East-Tony Stewart #9 | 100 L | Paved
5/23: Indianapolis, IN | Indiana State Fairgrounds | J.J. Yeley | Bob East-Tony Stewart #9 | 100 L | Dirt
7/23: Terre Haute, IN | Terre Haute Action Track | Dave Darland | Foxco Racing #56 | 100 L | Dirt
7/24: Clermont, IN | O’Reilly Raceway Park | Bobby East | Klatt Enterprises #6 | 100 L | Paved
5/26: Indianapolis, IN | Indiana State Fairgrounds | Kody Swanson | DePalma Motorsports #63 | 100 L | Dirt
5/27: Brownsburg, IN | Lucas Oil Raceway | Tanner Swanson | Bowman Racing #02 | 100 L | Paved
5/24: Indianapolis, IN | Indiana State Fairgrounds | Kody Swanson | DePalma Motorsports #63 | 100 L | Dirt
5/25: Brownsburg, IN | Lucas Oil Raceway | Kody Swanson | DePalma Motorsports #63 | 100 L | Paved
5/23: Indianapolis, IN | Indiana State Fairgrounds | Tyler Courtney | Hans Lein #97 | 100 L | Dirt
5/24: Brownsburg, IN | Lucas Oil Raceway | Kyle Hamilton | Klatt Enterprises #6 | 100 L | Paved