By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (December 15, 2022)………Gregg Cory isn’t your average USAC Silver Crown Rookie.
The Shelbyville (Ind.) High School Engineering & Technology teacher has a long track record of success in TQ Midgets, full-sized Midgets, Thunder Roadsters, Sprint Cars and Modifieds throughout his three-decade career.
In 2022, everything lined up and the Shelbyville, Ind. native received a chance to make his first foray into champ cars and he proceeded to make it a successful one.
Appearing at all 11 events on both dirt and pavement, Cory raced his way into a best finish of 10th during this past May’s Carb Night Classic on the pavement at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and a final points finish of ninth, earning himself the title of USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year.
“It’s pretty amazing, really,” Cory exclaimed. “I never thought this opportunity would ever happen. I’ve been very fortunate to run lots of different things throughout my racing career, but did I ever think I’d get a chance to race these cars? Probably not. But I always thought it would be something awesome to do.”
And, oh boy, he isn’t joking around when he says he’s raced a lot of different racecars. Yet, it all started out like it does for many of us – watching (and dreaming) from the grandstands.
Cory grew up as a superfan with he and his father attending several USAC races throughout the Midwest at familiar places like Eldora, Winchester and Indianapolis Raceway Park. However, Cory’s earliest recollection of being at a racetrack is the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, which he attended every year, and it’s where he fell in love with the sport. That, and his father’s connection with the team owner of the car Rich Vogler utilized to win the 1980 USAC National Sprint Car championship.
“I didn’t actually come from a family or racers – race fans you might say,” Cory noted. “My dad worked for Don Siebert Oldsmobile, and he was the parts manager there. He would get to know people like (crew chief) Jim McQueen and some of the race drivers were always coming in there for odds and ends. Since he worked for Don, we started following the USAC trail, and that’s kind of how the whole thing evolved and how my interest in the sport began.”
Cory’s journey behind the wheel to this point has been a whirlwind that has included stops in a variety of machinery along the way dating back to 1992. He became a Rookie of the Year and a three-time feature winner with the UMRA TQ Midgets. By 1998, he was a pavement competitor at the Indianapolis Speedrome with the USAC Regional Midgets, and again, grabbed Rookie of the Year honors and third in points.
From there, he ventured to NAMARS Midget racing on both surfaces before pursuing dirt sprint cars in 2004. Two years later, in 2006, Cory scored the track championship at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway. Soon after, Cory stepped aside from racing for several years and assumed that the chapter had officially closed on his racing exploits.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Cory received an opportunity to race a Thunder Roadster on several pavement venues around Indiana and wound up collecting a track championship at Anderson Speedway in 2019. Thereafter, he jumped in a pavement modified and raced regularly at northern Indiana’s Angola Motorsport Speedway when the opportunity of a lifetime came along.
“Roger Williams and I have been friends for a long time,” Cory recalled. “He’s done engine work for me for years. Basically, every division I’ve ever run in, he’s been my engine guy. He had this pavement car and we put a deal together to where we’d run that car. Then I was able to acquire a dirt car. Our goal was to go out and run as many races as we could. With no experience, it was basically my brother, cousin, nephew and myself at the track as we figured out the ins and outs of the cars.”
Cory was now traveling to tracks he’d never been to before with two new cars and had to learn on the fly the best way to set them up and how to adjust them for one track compared to another on different types of surfaces. With the knowledge they brought to the table, Cory and the team cross-referenced as much as they could in order to problem solve as the different situations arose.
With one dirt car and one pavement car, and just one driver’s seat, one oil tank and one engine between the two cars, wholesale changes were required when the Silver Crown schedule transferred back-and-forth between dirt and pavement. It was time consuming and not ideal, but Cory’s ambition and desire to run the whole schedule on the budget he had required a “whatever it takes” attitude to complete the task.
One weekend in particular comes to the top of Cory’s mind as the most challenging when the schedule presented a pavement event on Friday night at World Wide Technology Raceway and a Saturday morning wake up call to race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield 100 miles up the road.
“We got involved in an accident on the opening lap at (WWT) and had a crashed racecar that we had to load up and take with us to Springfield,” Cory recalled. “We left that night, and we were one of the last ones to leave the pits because we were trying not have to load up a completely crashed racecar. Then we drove straight to Springfield, and we found ourselves a Lowe’s Home Improvement store that had an awning; the Lowe’s parking lot was our work area for the rest of the night. We took everything off the pavement car and switched it over to the dirt car and finished up about 4am. We got maybe two hours of sleep, if that, then we were lined up at the gate to the track when we found out we were rained out.”
Cory acquired a new pavement frame from Aaron Pierce to finish out the season, one which Pierce raced and was formerly used by Tony Stewart Racing. Ultimately, Cory wrapped up Rookie of the Year by 74 points to earn the distinction as the oldest USAC National Rookie of the Year recipient at age 56, breaking the record held by 52-year-old Dean Shirley with the Sprint Car division in 1983.
Meanwhile, Cory provided team entrant Roger Williams his second USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year award after Joss Moffatt earned it in 2017.
It was a thrill of a lifetime for Cory, and he has plans to have even more Silver Crown fun in the coming year.
“We had a great time, and it was an amazing experience,” Cory said. “We’re putting things together and hoping we have a chance to compete in as many races as we can again in 2023.”