USACers resisting move to buy Superspeedway cars

UPDATE #4 The ISC funded next-generation USAC Silver Crown cars at O'Reilly Raceway Park this past Thursday night saw just 14 cars on the starting grid, and by lap 51 only five cars were running. Five. A couple of cars spent long periods pitside and returned to the track dozens of laps down, perhaps hoping to score a top-five finish. The entire night of racing encompassed 42 minutes.

Contrast this to past years, when 40-some cars would battle for 32 starting spots. Dave Argabright writes in NSSN, "This night felt hollow and empty. As I sat there watching five cars circle this famed 0.686-mile oval, I couldn't shake a powerful sense of sadness, sharpened by grim black clouds circling overhead……….When only 12 cars showed up for the Phoenix opener this past February, disappointment was tempered with the reality that this was essentially a brand-new series, and it was going to take some time to grow.

That was six months ago, and the Silver Crown field has grown by just two cars during that span. There is no way to look at this situation with anything but alarm."

01/20/06 U.S. Auto Club officials hope there is a silver lining to the sluggish start of the revamped Silver Crown series.

With no more than 12 cars expected for Sunday's season-opening Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway, there is optimism a two-month break before the next race will allow former competitors to see value in the controversial new speedway program.

USAC changed cars to be able to run on some of the nation's larger paved tracks, a recommendation that came from NASCAR's sister company, International Speedway Corp. Most of USAC's old guard has been leery about buying new equipment.

"There's been a lot of talk about this series, but the bottom line is, people have wanted to see it get off the ground before they commit to it," said Owen Snyder, USAC's new competition director. "Well, now we're here and we're going to race.

"Having two more months until the next race (March 25 at Homestead, Fla.) buys us more time to get people on board."

Snyder hopes to have 16 to 20 cars at Homestead. He said USAC's partners — ISC, specifically — are "satisfied with our growth."

Practice at Phoenix begins today. The field includes two-time defending series champion Dave Steele, former series champion Dave Darland and veteran Brian Tyler.

But it's not the Silver Crown field USAC supporters are used to seeing. Phoenix had 48 entries last year and 49 in 2004. Missing are Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley and Carl Edwards, NASCAR stars who have raced Copper World in the past. Indy Star

[Editor's Note: With an ISC exec now on the USAC board and wielding his influence, this Speedway car that most USAC car owners don't want is just the latest attempt by the NASCAR family to muscle in and eventually take over the short track open wheel oval business, i.e. they want to control everything. 12 cars down from 48 and 49 in previous years. That ought to go over well with fans in Phoenix…..not!]

10/24/05 The U.S. Auto Club showed the public its first two new Silver Crown speedway cars at Kansas Speedway, but the 10-lap exhibition left a lot to be desired.

There were only two cars at Kansas, and only two more have been ordered. The series, which averaged 41.6 cars on its five pavement tracks in 2005, is set to start with the controversial new cars Jan. 21-22, 2006, at the Copper World Classic in Phoenix.

There has been considerable opposition to the program backed by former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., who wants the Silver Crown division to race on his larger tracks, such as Kansas, Chicagoland and Homestead. Critics argue the cars will be too fast, too dangerous and too expensive, particularly in light of the cars that have been good enough in the past to produce such stars as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, all former champions.

“I’m worried because I’ve raced with these people my whole life," said Bob East, the most successful car builder in USAC’s modern era. “They are stepping over their danger line here." More at AutoWeek

08/10/05 Here we go again with the same inane leadership that has been a trademark of USAC for over 30 years.

1. Split the Champ Car series when they removed the Dirt Cars from the points and started a separate series for them. This was done because of the few owners with Road Racing background whining about having to go to the nasty dirt tracks. At that time they all used Offy Engines.
2. Removed the rear engine cars from the Sprint Car series because Tom Sneva was kicking their butts. A few whining owners, Lloyd Weaver, Louie Seymour were the leaders.
3. Effectively, Removed the Roadster from the Sprint Car Series by adding weight to them. They had been in the series since the 60's, Don Brown, Greg Weld, Joe Saldana, (The Mechanical Rabbit) and no owner complained because they weren't BIG winners until Steve Chassey kicked their butts every time out in 1979 & 1980.
4. Lost the Speedway sanction because of ridiculous officiating. Guess what they still have some of the same ones working in the series today.
5. Raced the Champ Cars on 1/2 mile tracks!! These cars are for 1 mile dirt & pavement tracks.
6. Now, with over 50 cars available for the series they are throwing them away for the new mandated car? This is not a series of large sponsorship, this is series of Sportsmen. As one said, "How can I be expected to be able to afford to race against owners like Ray Evernham and Richard Childress with my budget"?

Sound TAPS this series is DEAD.

08/10/05 Chris Economaki writes in the National Speed Sport News that "The ongoing resistance on the part of some USAC Silver Crown owners over having to buy the newly designed superspeedway car continues. One owner, after a pre-race meeting at IRP, called the historic open-wheel series “a house divided." There were 45 Silver Crown cars at IRP Thursday night, and in victory lane, while interviewing winner Bobby East, announcer Pat Sullivan told fans they had seen these cars for the last time. It is not known how many of the new aero-sensitive machines will be ready for the debut race of ’06. And there is no word — at least here — of Mexican Michel Jourdain, Sr.’s plan for a U.S.-Canada-Mexico series using existing Silver Crown cars." Word in the paddock from sources is that Jourdain Sr. was told by NASCAR that he should not move forward with his plans for a rival series to the new superspeedway cars. NASCAR wants to take over the grassroots open wheel market and they probably do not want any diversions. We're not sure if this rumor is true, but if it is we suspect Jourdain Sr. will not do this rival series knowing his son Michel Jourdain Jr. is trying to make a go of it in NASCAR. As NASCAR moves to monopolize the entire USA oval track market, one does not stand in its way for risk of being crushed like a bug.

In another story in NSSN (Excerpt): One of the organizers of the meeting, team-owner Gary Irvin, spoke with NSSN at IRP. Irvin said he and Gene Nolen began planning the meeting at Milwaukee.

"With the new pavement car that USAC has proposed to us, USAC has never talked to the car owners. The new car was all under cloak and dagger. Nobody saw it until the PRI show in December. They showed us the car and said, 'We're going to start racing these (a year from) January.' Well, the car wasn't even totally tested then, the crush tests weren't done on it, or anything else. Consequently, that car became just a show car. It was not raceable. Then they started working on the new car, updating it. We got that car today, here at IRP is the first time anybody's seen it. Now, we've got six months and while everybody is racing and everybody's got their budget set for this year, we're expected to spend, with spares and stuff like that, close to $100,000 and have a race car set for Phoenix in January."

Irvin said that prior to the owner's meeting, he and Darryl Guiducci met with USAC officials for two and a half hours and introduced several ideas that would have phased in the new cars. "If we got a few cars ready by the mile-and-a-half tracks, fine, run those on the mile-and-a-half tracks and put on a demonstration race," Irvin said. "They (USAC) would not listen to that; It was a no go. We offered to take our present cars and convert those over. We'd have to spend maybe $15-$18,000 on them to convert them to a car that was safe on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but again, it was a no go. So, everything we proposed to USAC last night, they wouldn't listen about it. They said this is the car we are going to run."

"I said if we only have two cars at Phoenix, what are we going to do?" Irvin continued. "They said they will put on a demonstration with two cars and run sprint cars in place of them. I said, 'Are you going to run sprint cars in place of them all year?' And they said, 'If that's what we have to do.' I said, 'Well you won't run them on the mile-and-a-half tracks because the sprint car will be worse than this car on the mile-and-a-half tracks with the horsepower it's got.'"

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