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Champ cars, Silver Crown and earlier


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#1 Bob Riebe

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 19:20

I was going through a book I have on the Silver Crown, and it list dirt champ victories back to pre-Silver Crown.

I had forgotten just how up until the eighties, there were VERY FEW interlopers in victory circles.
For a period it was with few exceptions Andretti, Foyt and Unser, and even if one takes those out, the name list is still small.
Was it talent or team?
I DO NOT doubt the talent of those who finished behind them but it was fairly rare they beat them.
Bob
PS--It is too bad Arnie Knepper never got a win, he came close several times.
PPS--I think it was '75 that G.Bettenhausen tried the DOHC Moser Chevy in the Genesee Beer Wagon, even the dirt cars had variety.

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#2 fines

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 19:54

Really?

pre-Silver Crown dirt championships:

1971: 1 Snider, ... 3 Foyt, ... 7 Unser, ... NP Andretti
1972: 1 Foyt, 2 Unser
1973: 1 Unser, 2 Andretti, ... NP Foyt
1974: 1 Andretti, ... 3 Unser, ... 14 Foyt
1975: 1 Caruthers, ... 9 Unser, ... 13 Foyt
1976: 1 Cassella, ... 12 Foyt
1977: 1 Rice, ... 14 Unser, ... NP Foyt
1978: 1 Carter
1979: 1 Olivero
1980: 1 Bettenhausen

A championship apiece for the threesome, two runner-ups and two thirds. Still leaves a helluva lot of crumbs for the rest.;) Also, don't forget VPJ (team for Al and Mario) and Foyt had the best Ford engines, most of the others had to make do with Chevy small-blocks or old Offies. And Jigger had a turbine...

#3 Bob Riebe

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 20:34

Pre Silver Crown is 1970 and earlier, by the books standards.
I was going by race wins, carruthers did not win a race his champiohship years, BUT I am not diminishing his talent as he was dying with cancer while he won the championship.

#4 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 23:18

Originally posted by Bob Riebe
Pre Silver Crown is 1970 and earlier, by the books standards.


It would seem that the book is obviously taking some liberties with the term "Silver Crown" since, as Michael shows, the Silver Crown Series did not come along until the 1981 season. It would seem that the book is yet another example as to how the waters get muddied, especially in American racing.

Is this the Gates/Sullivan/Watson book? Or another book?

#5 Bob Riebe

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 00:02

Yes it is the Gates-Watson-etc. book.

it still is amazing how certain names dominated the win column for so long.
Bob
PS--While digging around the net, I see they got those babies up to the mid 170s before they tried to force that gawdawful abortionmobile on the drivers.


#6 Bob Riebe

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 00:15

Originally posted by fines
[B]Silver Crown cars are actually Champ Cars, bigger than Sprints. I'm not sure of today's specs, but the ancestry is actually the dirt track cars that ran on the championship trail until 1970. In 1971, Ziggy Snider won the inaugural Silver Crown, last year's champ was second-generation racer Paul White iirc. Today's races are half dirt, half paved. I'm not sure when they started racing on asphalt, but I think it was the early eighties.

Old smiley Finey gots his wires crossed by this quotey of his.

#7 RStock

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:18

USAC doesn't list them as Silver Crown until 1981 , up until then they were Champ dirt cars . And they don't have a separate listing for Champ dirt cars and Indy cars until 1971 , up until then they were under the same title , I suppose , and were all Champ cars , I believe .

I believe 1981 was the first year they ran the "4 Crown Nationals" . Does anyone remember the four original classes that comprised the "4 crowns " ?

Silver crown , Sprint car , Midget and ...? Was it Late Models ?

#8 Belanger99

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:28

The Gates book is a fine addition to any motorsports library but should not be considered a definitive history on the USAC Dirt Track Championship/Silver Crown Series. It does not do justice to the boxscores nor the actual race stories themselves.

Silver Crown Cars (I am getting to hate that name) are ACTUALLY Championship Dirt Track cars, the specs are virtually unchanged since, well heck, for quite some time. The wheelbase is still a minimum of 96 inches which I believe is what it was back in the 60's. The engine rules have been tweaked, you can now run a 355 stock block and I think during the championship trail days a 327 was the max. No DOHC engines are now allowed which was a change from the earlier days. Instead of a 1500lb mnimum, you now have a 1475 minimum. The big tail tank is still 75 gallons.

The ancestry actually goes back a long long long way. Single seat open wheel cars ran on the fairground dirt miles as early as 1903 (Indianapolis). A lot of folks think the real national championship trail ended in 1970 when the dirt cars were removed. Can you imagine the diversity today if the Indy Car Series ran paved ovals, road courses, street courses and the dirt tracks?

The dirt cars ran pavement at the Minnesota State Fairgorunds in 1975 and went back there in 1984. Pavement became a staple of the series in 1985 with IRP added to the schedule. People have tried to 'kill' the dirt cars more than once and they still seem to hang around, though I am afraid the latest USAC debacle might be the cancer cells that lead to the demise of these beautiful and fun to drive cars.

The early dirt track races were star studded to say the least but the fact is the races were few and the best drivers with the best equipment could run up front. There were guys that did well in lesser equipment, Tom Bigelow ran very very well, JP ran up front for Leader Card, Jackie Howerton beat everyone at the Hoosier Hundred in 1974. To dismiss many others (Rice, Carter etc) would be a stretch.

I believe the Bettenhausen car to which you refer is the car that got him hurt at Syracuse in 1974, that IIRC was a DOHC Chevy that was supposed to be a real screamer and he tried to lap Syracuse without lifting, hooked a rut and it bit him.

#9 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 09:15

Champ Dirt Cars are REAL RACE CARS
:D

#10 fines

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 15:58

Originally posted by Bob Riebe

Old smiley Finey gots his wires crossed by this quotey of his.

:lol: You've got me nailed there real good! :lol: My only defence is, this quote must be REALLY old... :blush:

#11 fines

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 15:59

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
I believe 1981 was the first year they ran the "4 Crown Nationals" . Does anyone remember the four original classes that comprised the "4 crowns " ?

Silver crown , Sprint car , Midget and ...? Was it Late Models ?

Super Modifieds, I believe...

#12 fines

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 16:07

Originally posted by Belanger99
The ancestry actually goes back a long long long way. Single seat open wheel cars ran on the fairground dirt miles as early as 1903 (Indianapolis).

While I generally agree with your post, this sentence was somewhat of an "eyebrow-raiser" for me: if you're thinking of the two Fords, you're probably right, at least technically I suppose, but the image this sentence conjures is not really 'historical', for want of a better word. It's a bit like saying, the 1911 Indy 500 was a race for single-seaters...;)

#13 fines

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 16:14

Originally posted by fines

Super Modifieds, I believe...

Oooops, I just checked http://www.eldoraspe...crownstats.html and you're right: originally, and until the mid-nineties, it was Late Model Stock Cars! :o :blush:

#14 Jim Thurman

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 19:02

Some comments here...

Of course, one can't get too caught up in the terminology as the cars have run on pavement for a long time...like when they competed at Indianapolis, Raleigh, Milwaukee, Darlington and Trenton in the 50's and Phoenix, Langhorne and even Hanford in the 60's (for that matter, even Riverside and Stardust!). Granted this was in a "mixed" field in Championship events, but still...

Re: the Four Crown Nationals. I believe the first two or three (at least through '83) were the USAC Stock Cars, in their final throes, with the later Late Models being the short track type "Late Models".

As far as the name of the Gates/Watson/Sullivan book: if one is putting out a book, one does have to consider what people of that time would know the series as. If one were to put out a book with "NASCAR Grand National" in the title, what kind of confusion would it cause?

And for those who hadn't heard, the horrid "new" car has been shelved with a return to the "old" style car for this season. USAC even hired former driver Jason McCord (who was running the PRA for the traditional cars), as the director for the Silver Crown series :up:

To anyone bothered by the term "Silver Crown", it could be worse. As a matter of fact, it was...when the series name was changed to reflect a brewery product name for a couple of seasons :rolleyes:

I attended (and covered) the USAC Silver Crown race at Cal Expo in Sacramento in 1994. The sound of the field taking the green flag ranks among my greatest motorsport moments.

#15 Bob Riebe

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 23:06

I don't have the book with me, but it does show who in champ cars might have one day had an Indy ride had things not gone to pot in the seventies and eighties.

It is intereting to consider how many sprint car drivers drove the dirt champ cars, and how some from WOO might have gone a different direction had dirt tracks still led to Indy had USAC not been so foolish in killing a true championship in 1971.

There used to be a southern "big car" series with 100" wheel-bases; do any others still exist?

#16 RStock

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 01:55

Originally posted by fines

Oooops, I just checked http://www.eldoraspe...crownstats.html and you're right: originally, and until the mid-nineties, it was Late Model Stock Cars! :o :blush:



Thanks , my memory is a bit fuzzy these days . But I think Jim Thurman is right that it was the remnants of USAC's stockcar division , at least the first few years . Don't know the rules , but they may have been basically the same as late models .



I don't have the book with me, but it does show who in champ cars might have one day had an Indy ride had things not gone to pot in the seventies and eighties.

It is intereting to consider how many sprint car drivers drove the dirt champ cars, and how some from WOO might have gone a different direction had dirt tracks still led to Indy had USAC not been so foolish in killing a true championship in 1971.

There used to be a southern "big car" series with 100" wheel-bases; do any others still exist?


The NCRA had a Champ car division , even a challenge series with USAC . I noticed on fines link that Ron Shuman won the 2nd Champ Car race at the Four Crown Nationals . I'm pretty sure he was in the Ofixco car , which was an NCRA car . I believe they evolved from the NCRA Super Modified division . In this area , Super Modifieds and Champ cars were basically the same thing .

What I don't know , however , is if the NCRA Champ car division still exists . I don't think it does , but it was always pretty much a regional series run almost exclusivly in Oklahoma , so they may still be running them up there .

Good point about the drivers who may have made it to Indy if things had been different , but I lay the fault of that mostly at the feet of the short track crowd that never took to rear engined cars . But that's a whole different kettle of fish .

#17 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 12:16

I think the NCRA Champ Dirt cars gave way to sprint cars

#18 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 12:53

Returning to an earlier point made by Bob, it is quite interesting to see that the drivers who won the USAC championship events held on the dirt tracks seemed to be a relatively small group. As always, it was probably a combination of talent on the part of the driver and the team that resulted in a small group being dominant on the dirt tracks. The USAC championship scene in the late-Sixties (until 1970) had events spread over an amazing assortment of venues, something that was marveled at then and has only become more mind-boggling with the passage of time. Of course, it was too good to last, but the champions then had to compete on dirt, road courses, a hill climb, and paved ovals of all sorts.

#19 Bob Riebe

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 18:34

Don:
For a reason I no longer remember, Jim Rathmann and Roger Ward are the first racing drivers I had locked in my min, (and Fireball Roberts).
It seems Jim Rathmann quit shortly after winnng the Indianapolis 500, Roger ward won his last race in 1966, and if one uses 1960 as a bench-mark, Roger won 7 of the dirt races during that time till he retired so fromn 1960-1970 Andretti, Foyt, Unser and Ward got the lions share.

I am not lessening the acomplishment of Branson, Grim, Packhard etc., but one has a hard time wondering why so few won so much especially when some others who are not unknown seemed to be often in the brides maids area.
(I know I did not mention several very well known multiple winners but this is not supposed to be "oh yeah well mys guys are great and yourses are nots)
Bob
PS--Do you know what year Johnny Rutherford stopped driving sprint cars?
I know he did until at least 1968.

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#20 Jim Thurman

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 20:24

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
Thanks , my memory is a bit fuzzy these days . But I think Jim Thurman is right that it was the remnants of USAC's stockcar division , at least the first few years . Don't know the rules , but they may have been basically the same as late models .

The NCRA had a Champ car division , even a challenge series with USAC . I noticed on fines link that Ron Shuman won the 2nd Champ Car race at the Four Crown Nationals . I'm pretty sure he was in the Ofixco car , which was an NCRA car . I believe they evolved from the NCRA Super Modified division . In this area , Super Modifieds and Champ cars were basically the same thing .

What I don't know , however , is if the NCRA Champ car division still exists . I don't think it does , but it was always pretty much a regional series run almost exclusivly in Oklahoma , so they may still be running them up there .

I don't have the exact rules, but even with some changes in later years, USAC's Stock Car division was quite different then what was occurring with short track Late Models in the early 80's. For an indication, the final season for the old Stock Car division was a joint series with ARCA in '84.

I recalled the NCRA Champ division and that it had "evolved" into Sprint Cars (as Peter pointed out). I checked the NCRA site and time flies...1987 was the last year for the Champ division, which did evolve out of the Super Modified class. For some reason, likely the number of 1/2 mile tracks, Supers on dirt in the Plains and Southwest (as far West as Arizona) had wheelbases comparable to dirt Champ Cars while other places dirt Supers had Sprint Car wheelbases.

The NCRA was based in Oklahoma and raced in Texas and Kansas as well. There were some slight rule differences with USAC, most notably the NCRA allowed small top wings. Now, the NCRA has lost Tulsa and OKC and races primarily in Kansas, with some Nebraska events and Enid, Oklahoma. Sprints, Late Models and a IMCA style Modified class. So much for uniqueness and variety.

Their website provides points and career wins for Super Modifieds, Champ and Sprint:

http://www.ncraracin...ampDirtWins.htm

#21 RStock

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 22:22

Originally posted by Jim Thurman

I don't have the exact rules, but even with some changes in later years, USAC's Stock Car division was quite different then what was occurring with short track Late Models in the early 80's. For an indication, the final season for the old Stock Car division was a joint series with ARCA in '84.

I recalled the NCRA Champ division and that it had "evolved" into Sprint Cars (as Peter pointed out). I checked the NCRA site and time flies...1987 was the last year for the Champ division, which did evolve out of the Super Modified class. For some reason, likely the number of 1/2 mile tracks, Supers on dirt in the Plains and Southwest (as far West as Arizona) had wheelbases comparable to dirt Champ Cars while other places dirt Supers had Sprint Car wheelbases.

The NCRA was based in Oklahoma and raced in Texas and Kansas as well. There were some slight rule differences with USAC, most notably the NCRA allowed small top wings. Now, the NCRA has lost Tulsa and OKC and races primarily in Kansas, with some Nebraska events and Enid, Oklahoma. Sprints, Late Models and a IMCA style Modified class. So much for uniqueness and variety.

Their website provides points and career wins for Super Modifieds, Champ and Sprint:

http://www.ncraracin...ampDirtWins.htm



I'm from the area and am pretty familiar with the NCRA . I quite enjoyed their Sprint car series when it was running in my area , but for some reason , it seemed just when they were gaining poularity here they decided to move out of the area . I was pretty sure their Champ car division was no more , but I thought perhaps there was a pocket of hardcore holdouts somewhere . But I remembered I had this site saved . It's full of info on the subject , (including a nice tribute to my hero LaVern Nance) if anyone is interested .

http://www.racingfromthepast.com/

This quote from the site seems to confirm there are no more in this area

The 80's brought about changes in the area open wheel racing. The supers of the 70's evolved into the sprint cars we see today. during the early 80's the supers became known as the Championship Dirt Cars. They still continued with the 100" wingless style. During this time period wings were added but continued to be 100" cars. As the late 80's came on the sprint cars finnally took over with there shorter wheelbase and the 100" monsters were on there way out, and the end of an era was gone in the Kansas, Oklahoma area. Sprint cars have been around for years, but the 100" supers/dirt champs had ruled the Kansas/Oklahoma area for 20+ years.


Just a note of interest . I remember in the early seventies James McElreath brought a newly completed Super Modified to our local track , just to give it some shakedown hotlaps , the Supers didn't compete there . I found this photo of the car under the Texas Supermodified section of the above link . I couldn't believe I was seeing the car again , all I remember of it from the time is , it was Lighting fast .

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#22 Belanger99

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 02:05

Fines

I don't believe I was making that direct of a connection.

NCRA "Dirt Champ" cars were not that much like dirt track championship machines. While some championship dirt cars may have had a 100-inch wheelbase, the NCRA cars ran with wings (later on) and virtually none had the 75 gallon tank associated with the USAC dirt cars.

I remember a few of the NCRA guys trying to come to the Midwest,Emmett Hahn, Jon Johnson, etc.