By Jay Hardin
Indianapolis (May 18, 2015) A strong thirty four car entry list reflects renewed enthusiasm for the top tier series of the United States Auto Club as the Silver Crown machines prepare for Thursday night’s prestigious Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The Hoosier Hundred has become an integral part of the great open wheel racing weekend in Indianapolis and the entry list contains enough rookies and veterans to make the 100 mile affair one of the top events of the 2015 Memorial Day racing weekend.
2014 USAC Silver Crown champion and defending Hoosier Hundred winner Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, California leads the series into Indianapolis having won the season opener at Toledo. In search of his second straight title, the Californian sits atop the point stands and is a favorite to repeat Thursday night having become just the fourteenth driver in racing history to sweep the 100-mile dirt events at Indianapolis, Springfield and DuQuoin.
Three-time Hoosier Hundred winner and 1997 Silver Crown champ Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana is in search of win number four having passed Tom Bigelow to now hold the record for most USAC Sprint Car victories. Other former winners on the entry list is two-time winner Jerry Coons, Jr. of Tucson, Arizona, also a former series champion and former Silver Crown champ and 2013 race winner Levi Jones of Swansea, Il.
Past USAC Silver Crown race winners on the entry list include 2000 series champ Tracy Hines, past DuQuoin winner Shane Cottle, Aaron Pierce and veteran Russ Gamester, all of Indiana. Illinois drivers A.J. Fike, Shane Cockrum and Chris Urish all have won in their home state, Fike twice at Springfield and Cockrum and Urish at DuQuoin. Wisconsin’s David Byrne also has one series win.
The series welcomes numerous new teams and drivers as well, in fact new drivers and/or teams make up about a third of the entry list.
Some of the more recognizable names include USAC Sprint Car champ Brady Bacon of Oklahoma, Justin Grant of California, third generation driver Austin Nemire of Ohio, third generation driver Steven Russell of Illinois, second generation driver C.J. Leary of Greenfield, Indiana and Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis.
The series also welcomes back two veteran drivers and one veteran car owner. Rick Hood of Memphis, TN was a well-known name in USAC competition having won USAC Sprint and Silver Crown titles in the mid-eighties. His last start in one of the big cars came in 1996 at Springfield driving for Texan Ronnie Burke. He returns to the series driving for legendary car owner Galen Fox, whom Hood drove for in 1986. Rick Hood has one win on the Indiana State Fair mile, that coming in May of 1982 in the Hulman 100. The other veteran, Brian Tyler, moved from Michigan to North Carolina where he became a ‘gentleman cattle rancher’ when he wasn’t racing. He would name cows after each Silver Crown win, unfortunately he lost his regular ride two years ago but answered the call when legendary Ray “Junior’ Kurtz announced he was returning to the series.
Kurtz is best known as the owner of perhaps the most successful car in Silver Crown history, the Watson chassied Plastic Express that carried Chuck Gurney to three wins at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, five at Springfield and one at DuQuoin plus the 1989 series championship. Kurtz raised a lot of eyebrows when he announced he was building a new version of the old Watson and had part of the car on display at Springfield last September. The car is not ready for Indianapolis but may be later in the year, for the Hoosier Hundred Tyler will have a Beast chassis at his disposal.
Kody Swanson chased former series champ Bobby East for 77 laps at Indianapolis in 2014, then pulled away to a convincing win after passing the Brownsburg, Indiana native. Swanson and over 30 other drivers will be taking aim Thursday night at a one-lap track record that has stood for almost twenty years. Johnny Parsons set the standard of 31.379 (114.726) in September of 1995 while the 100-mile race record was set by Kenny Jacobs at just over 56 minutes in 1987.
A tradition that began in 1953 continues with the annual Hoosier Hundred on Thursday night, past winners of the event include A.J. Foyt, Rodger Ward, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Jack Hewitt. Practice begins at 5 p.m., with qualifications at 6 p.m.
Also on the card are the UMP Modified machines, Ken Schrader will try to fend off Kenny Wallace for his fourth win in five years in the modified main event.
Thursday’s Hoosier Hundred will have pit gates opening at 12:00, grandstands at 3:00, practice at 5:00, qualifying at 6:00, modified heats at 6:30, and racing action at 7:00. Grandstand admission is $25 if bought in advance or $30 the day of the event. Infield admission is $15. Child admission is $10 for kids 11 and under.
For further information on the Hoosier Hundred, visit www.trackenterprises.com or call 217-764-3200.