Sunday, April 30, 2017

USAC Silver Crown Copper Cup 
race report

On Saturday afternoon, a field of sixteen United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown cars and drivers took the green flag for the “Copper Cup,” the 115th USAC race held at the storied Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale Arizona.

The makeup of the field had changed a bit since Friday afternoon time trials, as the Gene Nolen Racing team had affected repairs to the transmission in Jerry Coons Junior’s #20 car but without posting a qualifying time Coons had to start at the back of the field.  Patrick Lawson stepped out of the seat of his previously qualified Rebel Smokers Beast in favor of Chris Windom, whose Kazmark Racing entry was sidelined after it had been damaged beyond repair in a crash during the second Friday practice session.  With the driver change, Windom started alongside Coons at the tail of the field.  

At the drop of the green flag, pole-sitter Bobby Santos III led the field into the first turn with Kody Swanson, David Byrne, Justin Grant and Aaron Pierce all in close pursuit. By lap 9, Windom had carved his way through the field to run tenth, while Damion Gardner in the Klatt Enterprises Best moved into sixth place on lap 10 as Davey Hamilton Junior coasted into the pit area with fire and smoke trailing from the left side of the Mopar engine in the RPM/Fred Gormly Beast to become the race’s first retiree. 

A disappointed “DJ” reported that he had no warning of trouble before there was a loud bang as the #98 car raced down the Phoenix backstretch followed by fire and smoke.   Shortly thereafter, Tanner Swanson brought the Nolen #201 into the pits with terminal mechanical issues.

On lap 12 Gardner moved into fifth place and then Windom moved into ninth of lap 13 behind the lead pack of Santos, Kody Swanson, Grant, Gardner and Byrne. On lap 16, Joe Axsom made the first of several extended pits stops with Nolen Racing #120, and as the leaders closed on backmarker Toni Breidinger, Byrne slipped past Santos to take the lead on lap 22. 

Shortly thereafter, Grant began to pressure Kody Swanson for third place, but his challenge ended with the #91 Hemmelgarn-Carli Racing #91 against the wall in turn four. Grant emerged unhurt and immediately departed the track to race a USAC Southwest Series sprint car later that evening at Arizona Speedway.

Under the five-lap caution period, the running order was Byrne, Santos, Kody Swanson, Gardner and Davey Hamilton Senior with Aaron Pierce in sixth position.   When the green flag re-emerged, Santos challenged for the lead and the lead pair ran nearly half a lap around the Phoenix one-mile oval side-by-side before Santos led laps 31 and 32. 

Byrne reasserted himself at the head of the field on lap 33 and he quickly built up a ten-car length lead over Santos, Windom’s quest for a fourth straight USAC Silver Crown victory ended on lap 40 as the Rebel Smokers #2 coasted silently down pit lane.
As the race entered its middle stage on lap 42 the running order was Byrne, Santos, Kody Swanson, Hamilton, Pierce, Coons and Gardner. 

On lap 43 Swanson ran a 26.695 second lap to close on Santos, but Santos responded a few laps later with a 26.519 second lap. At the halfway point of the race, Byrne passed Shane Butler a second lap down in the #15 as Butler still struggled with apparent engine difficulties, which left eight cars on the leader’s lap.

The yellow flag flew for the third time of the day on lap 59, as Damion Gardner slid to a stop in the fourth turn after the right front wheel had broken off the Klatt Enterprises Beast. Gardner did a skillful job to bring the crippled machine to a halt without significant wall contact.  Under what proved to be an extended ten-lap caution period as track personnel put down “speedi-dry” to clean up oil on pit lane. 

The green flag flew again on lap 69 but that restart was called back. On the second restart, once again Santos challenged Byrne for the lead as the pair ran over a half a lap side by side before Byrne pulled ahead. By lap 73, Aaron Pierce had moved his Sam Pierce Chevrolet Beast into fourth place ahead of Hamilton and over the next few laps both Kody Swanson and Hamilton ran laps in the 26.5 second range as their cars’ fuel load began to burn off.

After a quick yellow flag in for a stalled car on the backstretch on lap 79, Jerry Coons’ #20 Nolen Racing Beast began to fall off the pace, as Coons later reported that the car’s handling went to “dead loose” but he maintained his fifth place position. Attrition continued to mount with eight cars still running on lap 85 as the pack of the top five cars tightened up as Swanson, Pierce, and Hamilton all ran their best laps of the race but with the running order unchanged.

On lap 92, the cars of Byrne and Santos crossed the start-finish line side-by-side, and Santos then moved into the lead on lap 93, as Swanson began to pressure Byrne for second place. On lap 94, Pierce’s care coasted to a stop on pit lane the victim of ignition failure. 

Bobby Santos III 2017 Copper Cup winner

On lap 98, Kody Swanson moved alongside Byrne on the front straightaway and the 2014 and 2015 USAC Silver Crown champion made the pass stick to claim second place behind Santos at the checkered flag, trailed by Byrne, Hamilton Senior, Coons and Shane Butler. Aaron Pierce finished seventh ahead of Toni Breidinger USAC’s winningest female driver who turned in a determined performance in her first Silver Crown start and first start on a track larger than 3/8 of a mile.

In addition to the unique trophy, Santos banked $10,000 for his Copper Classic win, with the KSE Hard Charger contingency award going to Jerry Coons for his charge from fifteenth stating position to finish fifth. Chris Windom undoubtedly the weekend’s hard luck driver received the Wildwood Brakes award for his 13th place finish. The USAC Silver Crown series made a triumphant return to Phoenix Raceway after an absence of over seven years and put on a terrific race; hopefully the “Copper Cup” on the superfast one mile oval will become an annual event.  

Kody Swanson moved into the lead for the chase for the 2017 USAC Silver Crown championship presented by Traxxas trailed by Coons and Windom.  The next race on the schedule is the historic Hoosier Hundred which will be held on May 25 on the one-mile Indiana State Fairgrounds dirt mile. 

As a postscript, in other USAC action in Arizona on Saturday, the author, Patrick Sullivan and Dick Jordan traveled east to attend the USAC Southwest sprint car action presented by Sands Chevrolet at Arizona Speedway. RJ Johnson won the first heat race, Nick Aluto won the second heat race and Stevie Sussex won the third heat race. 

RJ Johnson dominated the 30-lap feature race followed across the finish line by Sussex, Charles Davis Junior and Shon Deskins.  Justin Grant who had competed in the Silver Crown race in the afternoon dropped out late in the feature while he was running in third place. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

More Silver Crown photos from Phoenix International Raceway 

As we await today's Silver Crown race at Phoenix, scheduled for 3 PM local time, we share more photos from Friday

Today's trophy

The machine of David Byrne

A view of the the three car Nolen racing team. Joe Axsom's car in the foreground Jerry Coons Juniors's black #20 and Tanner Swanson's car in the background. Yes, it's hard to tell Joe and Tanner's cars apart on track.

Kody Swanson's #63

Bob East chief mechanic on Terry Klatt's Ford powered #6 driven by Damion Gardner

Justin Grant pilots the Hemmelgarn #91

The Hoosier left rear tire

all photos by the author

Friday, April 28, 2017

A dramatic day for the USAC Silver Crown cars at Phoenix International Raceway

The single-car qualifying session held in the heat of the day at the Phoenix International Raceway capped off a dramatic day of action for the United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown series which returned to the one-mile oval for the first time since 2009.

Chris Windom the winner of the last three Silver Crown races and the defending series champion set the early pace in the Kazmark racing #92 in the first practice session with a best lap of 26.243 seconds, as seven cars in the seventeen car field broke through the 27 second barrier.  

Before and after shots of Chris Windom's #93 shows the significant damage

Kody Swanson in the #63 Radio Hospital Special set the day's fastest lap in the second practice session at 25.450 seconds. During the second practice session, Windom's car appeared off the pace then he crashed in turn three. USAC competition director Levi Jones said the group suspected could not confirm that a right front tire failure caused the Windom crash. Windom was uninjured but the car was heavily damaged and was finished for the weekend. 

left to right Kody Swanson, fast qualifier Bobby Santos III and Davey Hamilton 

USAC sent the field of cars out for single car qualifying in reverse order with the fastest cars on the track at the end of qualifying, so the speed of the cars steadily increased as the session continued. Bobby Santos III topped the field with his second lap of 25.362 seconds, just .045 seconds off the track record set by the David Steele in 2004, though it should be considered that the track configuration has changed since 2004. Second place in time trials fell to two-time USAC Silver Crown titlist in 2014 and 2015 Kody Swanson while 54 year old Davey Hamilton claimed the third starting position for tomorrow's 100-lap "Phoenix Copper Cup."  

Santos said later that he felt he "got a pretty good lap," as the car was tight on the first lap and then the handling came in better than he expected for the second faster lap. Hamilton remarked that it was an exciting opportunity to race with his son this weekend, as he recalled racing in past Copper Classic supermodified events at Phoenix with his father Ken Hamilton.  

Hamilton shared that the layout of the Phoenix track is a lot different since the last time he drove a Silver Crown car there as only the front straight is the same. On a very windy day, the top three qualifiers said that the wind did not upset their cars at all, and Davey Hamilton brought laughter the press conference when he compared the aerodynamics of a Silver Crown car to a brick. 

When asked about the Silver Crown series returning the Phoenix, Kody Swanson stated that this is an example of how the series is building momentum and that it was personally exciting for him to race at Phoenix. Kody noted that the importance of the "Phoenix Copper Classic" was demonstrated by the fact that his younger brother Tanner who is not a series regular went out an found a ride with the Nolen team.  

Thinking about tire wear for tomorrow's 100-lap race which will be held in the heat of the day, Bobby Santos remarked that he felt like Hoosier brought a "pretty hard tire," but that drivers have to be careful not to overheat the tires and make them "greasy." The veteran Hamilton noted that the tires he qualified on had twenty laps on them, and that it will be challenge and that "tire management will be key for the 100 laps."

Davey Hamilton Junior had a eventful day and revealed that his car lost its brakes midway through the first practice session and were not repaired in time for him to turn any hard laps in the second session.. "DJ" reported that he did not any brakes on his first timed lap which was an off the pace at 27.072 seconds, but the brakes returned for the second lap and "DJ" will start tenth tomorrow after he posted a 26.656 second lap. 

Nolen Racing teammates from left Joe Axsom (back to camera), Tanner Swanson
 and Jerry Coons Junior compared notes between the two practice sessions 

Tucson Arizona's Jerry Coons Junior was unable to qualify as the transmission input shaft broke, but the Nolen crew was optimistic it could be fixed in time, provided that they could locate the needed parts to affect repairs. USAC's all-time winningest female driver Toni Breidinger will start fourteenth, but she showed steady progress throughout the day in her first appearance in a Silver Crown car and her first appearance on a race track longer than 1/3 of mile. 

Photos by the author 

Pre-practice photos of USAC Silver Crown cars at Phoenix

Warming up Toni Briedinger's car 

Putting the numbers on the nose of Henry Clarke's Bill Rose owned entry

Davey Hamilton leans on his RPM entry and chats with fans, 
his son DJ is his teammate this weekend

A close look at AJ Russell's Ted Finkenbinder machine

Chris Windom check his phone while his crew works on his #92 car

Aaron Pierce's car is powered by a 770 horsepower Chevy engine

All photos by the author

Photographs of the Classic Vintage Times racers at the Phoenix GP

photos by the author

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Silver Crown cars
return to Phoenix this weekend

After an absence of over seven years (2,725 days to be precise) the United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown Series returns to action for 100 laps on the one-mile pavement of the new Phoenix Raceway on Saturday April 29 2017.

The last USAC Silver Crown race at Phoenix held on November 12 2009 was won by Cole Whitt driving for legendary car owner Johnny Vance with second place falling to Kody Swanson. Whitt has since moved on to the race in the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) top-tier Monster Energy series, while Swanson claimed the USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the year title in 2009 then claimed the Silver Crown championship in 2014 and 2015.   

The 18-car preliminary entry list for the 2017 Phoenix Copper Cup includes just two drivers that competed in the race at Phoenix in 2009 – Jerry Coons Junior of Tucson Arizona in one of three potent Gene Nolen Racing entries and Bobby Santos III in the DJ Racing #22 racer. Coons will be joined on the Nolen team by Joe Axsom and Kody Swanson’s younger brother Tanner.

Father and son, Davey Hamilton Junior and Senior are entered as teammates with the RPM/Fred Gormly pair of cars. Another notable entry is Toni Breidinger, USAC’s winningest female driver with eleven feature victories who will make her Silver Crown debut in the Breidinger family-owned #80 machine.     

Muncie Indiana speed merchant Aaron Pierce, who holds the record for the fastest Silver Crown lap at Homestead Speedway of 175 miles per hour (MPH), and the fastest race win at 159 MPH at Kansas Speedway, will be looking to eclipse the fastest Silver Crown Phoenix lap of 140.966 MPH set in 2009 by the late Jason Leffler in a Bob East entry.  Bob East will be on hand Saturday tuning Terry Klatt’s entry for five-time USAC/CRA champion Damion Gardner.  

The balance of the eighteen USAC Silver Crown entries include the defending Silver Crown series champion Chris Windom from Canton, Illinois, Patrick Lawson of Edwardsville, Illinois, A.J. Russell from Clovis, California, Shane Butler from Bushnell, Florida, David Byrne of Shullsburg, Wisconsin, Justin Grant of Ione, California and Bill Rose from Plainfield, Indiana with his teammate Henry Adams of Villa Park, California.

The USAC Silver Crown cars will practice and qualify on Friday April 28 with the 100-lap Phoenix Copper Cup scheduled to go green on Saturday at 3 PM local time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bay Cities Racing Association
vintage "super midgets" stickers for sale

Recently the author uncovered a box of vintage Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) vintage "super midget' stickers which are now listed for sale on the EBay internet auction site with all the sale proceeds going to BCRA. 

Check out the selection and buy now! 

Copy and paste this address into your browser:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Young Guns shine in
BCRA’s return to Merced


The mighty midgets of the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) made a triumphant return to the ¼-mile banked Merced Speedway on the Merced County Fairgrounds. With eighteen cars signed in for the event, a pill draw was held to determine the starting line-ups for the three six-car eight-lap heat races.

The first heat race featured multi-time BCRA and defending car owner champion Floyd Alvis sharing the front row with Nick Chivello. At the drop of the green, Chivello jumped into three lead with Rookie-of-the year contender Danny Carroll in hot pursuit. As the field entered turn three on the third lap, smoke poured from the Del Morris #71R and Chivello rolled to a stop on the high side of turn his evening finished due to terminal engine problems. Carroll inherited the lead and led the rest of the way topping Alvis and JR Williams after Maria Cofer dropped out on lap 7 with apparent ignition trouble. Rich Holbrook was unable to start the first heat

Frankie Guerrini III and Alex Schutte led the field to the green flag for the start of the second heat race and Schutte’s #28 grabbed the lead as Guerrini and Cory Elliott staged a pitched race-long battle for second place. At the drop of the checkered flag, Schutte won followed by Guerrini, Elliott, Terry Nichols, Tyler Dolacki and Bobby Wilson.

Michael Faccinto and former BCRA dirt champion Shannon McQueen paced the field but it soon was evident that all was not right in the engine compartment of McQueen’s Boss/Esslinger and likewise Dan Parker suffered engine trouble with his #38 midget. Faccinto led Robert Dalby at the finish.

First heat race winner Danny Carroll drew the number 4 invert pill for the feature, with Alvis on the pole position with Faccinto alongside, as Schutte and Carroll shared the second row. There was a multi-car melee as the field exited turn 2 with the cars of David Prickett, Terry Nichols and Floyd Alvis coming to stop. All the cars except Alvis were able to restart and rejoin the field for the complete restart.

On the second start, Schutte shot into the lead with Guerrini, Dalby and Faccinto close behind trailed by Elliott and Carroll.  Schutte chose the high groove around the Merced Speedway banking, and Dalby after moving into second place made repeated attempts to pass for the lead as he was the only driver to attempt to pass on the low side of turns three and four. On lap nine, Elliott had charged to run in third place trailed by Guerrini.

The red flag flew on lap 15 as Nick Foster Junior flipped hard in Dave Thurston’s #11 midget as he entered turn one. The car was heavily damaged by Foster thankfully emerged uninjured.  Shortly after the restart, Schutte’s #28 midget slid high off the turn one and two banking which opened the door for Robert Dalby to grab the lead with Cory Elliott in second place as Schutte recovered to run in third place.

On lap twenty, Elliott rocketed past Dalby to grab the lead as Schutte again slid high in turns one and two and dropped out of the top five. Guerrini executed a brilliant low side move under Dalby entering turn one to take over second place with Carroll in third place. At the end of thirty thrilling racing laps the top five finishers were Elliott, Guerrini, Dalby, Carroll and Faccinto. Merced Speedway promoter Ed Parker awarded car owner Dave Thurston $576 from the track’s "rollover fund."

The BCRA mighty midgets return to action on the ¼-mile paved Lakeport Speedway on the grounds of the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday April 29 while the next BCRA dirt track races will be part of a back-to-back weekend on June 9 and 10 at Ocean Speedway on Friday night and Petaluma Speedway on Saturday night.    


Friday, April 21, 2017

FOR JUNE 25 2017 

June 25th from 7 AM to noon, AutoFest 2017 will be held in front of the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona and for the first time, will feature special authors’, artists’, and photographers’ area inside the building.

AutoFest 2017 is the place for all manner of things automotive (except for greasy parts, of course) there'll be: books memorabilia, photos, manuals, magazines, fine scale models, badges, drawings, medallions, press kits, memories, and much, much more.

Fan admission and parking for buyers is free.  The experience is priceless, and the incredible array of wonderful vintage automobilia that you'll find at AutoFest2017 is sure to amaze, remind, refresh, and carry you back in time. AutoFest 2017 is presented by: The Racing History Project, the Automotive Research Library, the Society of Automotive Historians, and the Horseless Carriage Foundation

Check out the event website at

Information and graphics provided by Doug Stokes - Stokes Communications

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix 
will have lots of open-wheel racing on tap

The New Phoenix Raceway will host the “Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix” for the cars and stars of the INDYCAR series on April the 28th and 29th which will be the series' last oval race before Indianapolis. Friday night will see the Beach Whiskey Outback Steakhouse Qualifying with honorary starter Good Morning Arizona anchor Scott Pasmore  to set the field for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix under the lights on April 29.

This jam-packed race weekend will also include an exciting line-up of support events. In addition to the Classic Racing Times’ “Phoenix Vintage Desert Classic,” the two-day event will also present the United States Auto (USAC) Silver Crown Champ Car Series’ 100-lap “Phoenix Copper Classic” on Saturday afternoon before the INDYCAR race. The USAC National .25 midgets will be also be in action on both Friday and Saturday.  

Gary Mondshein’s Classic Racing Times “Phoenix Vintage Desert Classic” boasts an impressive list of pre-entered cars which will be on track that includes the Kevin Cogan-driven Dubonnet-sponsored Pontiac powered 1984AAR Eagle that finished 20th in the 1984 Indianapolis 500, the 1935 Pirrung Special 220-cubic inch Offenhauser powered two-man car, the 1979 Alex Morales Lightning chassis powered by the Drake V-8 engine, Dr. Robert Dicks’ “Ole Calhoun” tribute car and many more vintage sprint cars, supermodifieds and championship cars.
The roster of scheduled special guests for the “Phoenix Vintage Classic” features Tom Sneva, Dick Simon, Lyn St. James, Arie Lyuendyk, Derek Daly, and Dennis Firestone just to name a few.  The Vintage cars are scheduled for four on-track sessions with a special parade lap session prior to the start of the 250-lap Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix for the cars and stars of the INDYCAR series.

The USAC Silver Crown series will make its first 2017 pavement appearance with headliners 14-time Indianapolis 500 starter Davey Hamilton and his son, the rising star and 2016 King of the Wing Sprint Series champion Davey Hamilton Junior, two-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson. The Saturday April 29 afternoon “Phoenix Copper Classic” 100-lap race will mark the Silver Crown’s first time to race on the Phoenix one-mile track since 2009.

Please keep checking back at Triplett’s Eye on Cars at for continuing updates as the Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix weekend draws near.

Color vintage race car photographs courtesy of the Classic Racing Times, black & white photographs courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Silver Crown logo courtesy of USAC   

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Pink Panthers are now in
fourth place in the F1 standings
The BWT Best Water Treatment “Pink Panthers" of the Sahara Force India BWT Formula One team moved up to fourth place in the championship after Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished in seventh and tenth places respectively under the lights in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Both of the VJM10-02 cars powered by Mercedes AMG turbocharged 1.6-liter V-6 engines  followed the same tire strategy as they started on the Pirelli Supersoft (red sidewalls) , exchanged those for new SuperSoft tires on the first pit stop then changed to Pirelli Soft (yellow sidewalls) for the last third of the race.  

Sergio Perez was jubilant with his finish.  “To finish seventh after starting from eighteenth  is an amazing recovery and we can be very happy tonight. It’s also our thirteenth consecutive race in the points, which is an incredible achievement. The first lap was very important for my race because I made up five places and was up in thirteenth by the end of lap one. I had great tire life in the first stint; we stayed out as long as we could and the safety car played into our hands just when I needed to make a pit stop (on lap 13). So I think we made the most of every opportunity and the whole team – the engineers and the mechanics – played their part in executing a perfect race."


Esteban Ocon seemed happy with his tenth place result “It was a really fun race and I had to fight really hard. My start was very strong – I gained four places in the first few corners and that was really enjoyable. We showed again that our car is strong in race conditions – probably better than in qualifying – and that’s important because you only score points on Sunday. My target coming into the season was to score points in every race so I’m pleased to have scored in all three so far.”’

Robert Fernley the deputy team principal offered his analysis of the Bahrain Grand Prix.  The team made all the right calls and Sergio and Esteban didn’t put a wheel out of place. Sergio was fortunate with the timing of the safety car, while Esteban lost ground, but that’s just the luck of the draw with a safety car. Scoring seven points is a fantastic result and moves us up to fourth place in the championship. We are racing well, taking our opportunities and scoring important points. It’s a solid start to our season and gives us a good base to build on as we improve the VJM10 over the coming races.”

The next Formula One race on the schedule for the "Pink Panthers"  is April 30 for the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, street circuit built around Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia.
Quotes graphics and photos provided by the Sahara Force India F1 team