Pierce wins Darlington Silver Crown race
Aaron Pierce of Muncie, Ind. led USAC’s assault on Darlington (S.C.) Raceway Thursday night and came away $23,500 richer after scoring a thrilling victory in the “USAC Silver Crown Showdown at Darlington.”
Pierce led a three-car freight train to the checkered flag as Wayne Reutimann Jr. of Zephyrhills, Fla. and Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile were less than a second behind and the crowd was on its feet for the final 20 laps around the 1.366-mile oval.
NASCAR star J.J. Yeley won the pole for the 50-lap race in A.J. Foyt’s Greer Special at a speed of 163.555 mph, but Pierce started alongside on the front row. When the green flag waved, Yeley proceeded to disappear, extending his lead to nearly 10 seconds before a lap 23 yellow for debris on the backstretch.
On the restart, Yeley bobbled in turn two and Donoso slid by. Yeley regained momentum but he scraped the wall in turn three and was forced to the pits and out of the race. The crowd came to its feet as Pierce closed on Donoso and dove beneath him to take the lead in turn three on lap 37. Two laps later, Reutimann joined the fray and the three-car battle was on. As the laps wound down, Donoso made a dive under Pierce on lap 48, but Reutimann slid around the top against the wall and took second. At the checkered flag the crowd was cheering as the trio sailed across the finish line.
“Our plan, ever since we first tested here, was to lay back and wait for the leaders to use up their tires,” said Pierce, who piloted the Sam Pierce Chevrolet/Kroger-Tide-Bounty-Pringles Riley Chevy. “The tires really didn’t fall off bad and the track was great. It’s a real honor to win at this historic track.”
Pierce emerged as the new Silver Crown point leader, nine ahead of Reutimann going into the 55th “Hoosier Hundred” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis May 25.
Rounding out the “top-five” behind Pierce, Reutimann and Donoso were Bud Kaeding and Mat Neely.
The race was USAC’s first at Darlington since Pat O’Connor’s 1956 victory there and Jeff O’Connor, Pat’s son, served as the race’s Grand Marshal.