AMSOIL Sprints
Thursday, 22 June 2017


Johnny Vance Johnny Vance John Mahoney Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Johnny Vance, a man who was highly-accomplished in multiple roles with the United States Auto Club as a competitor, promoter and official, passed away Thursday, June 22, 2017.  He was 79 years old.

Vance, of Dayton, Ohio, was a second-generation car owner whose instantly-recognizable Aristocrat Products-sponsored cars were a force on both the USAC Silver Crown and National Sprint Car trails for decades.  For a time, his cars – numbered 2 for much of its run – were at the forefront of the sport with some of the most legendary names in auto racing.

However, his 50+ years in USAC began with a two-decade tenure as a Chief Steward, Supervisor and Technical Chairman of the Sprint Car division beginning in the early 1960s.  He also served as steward at the Indianapolis 500 for many years and also headed USAC's Mini-Indy division.  At the turn of the 1980s, he shifted gears to become a participant where he left an indelible mark on the sport over the next 30+ years.

After car owner Don Siebert’s unexpected passing just prior to the 1981 season opener, Vance purchased Siebert’s operation that included a sprint car, a champ car and a driver named Rich Vogler.  In 1981, with Vogler, Vance won both his first USAC Silver Crown and National Sprint events as a car owner at Knoxville (IA) Raceway in June and a month later at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, respectively.  Vogler – with Steve Kinser – would provide Vance his lone Silver Crown owner title that first year. 

Vance’s equipment was top-of-the-line and the drivers who sat in the seats of his racecars were top-shelf.  Along the way, Vance would win a total of eight Silver Crown events with Vogler, Kinser, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Dave Steele, Cole Whitt and his last USAC victory, with Tracy Hines, in 2010 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Vance was a two-time USAC National Sprint Car owner champion in 1990 and 1998, a year in which he teamed up with dirt sprint car owner Jeff Walker and driver Tony Elliott for a run at the title.  Vance’s 44 career USAC National Sprint Car wins rank tied for fourth, ironically, with Walker.  Among drivers tallying feature victories in his yellow, black and sometimes red sprinters were: Vogler, Kinser, Jack Hewitt, Jac Haudenschild, Joe Saldana, Gene Lee Gibson, Steve Butler, Jim Mahoney, Irwin, Steele, Elliott and Ryan Newman, who notched Vance’s final victory in the series at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in 2000.

Perhaps greater than all the victories is the lasting legacy he left as the founder of one of USAC’s marquee events that remains stronger than ever 36 years after its creation.  The “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway were conceived by Vance in 1981 to showcase all four of USAC’s National divisions on one track on a single weekend: Silver Crown, National Sprint, National Midget and the now-defunct Stock Car series.

“I went up to (track owner) Earl (Baltes) and suggested it and he thought it was pretty good idea, so we decided to give it a shot and see how it would go,” Vance recalled.  “It went really well the first year, so we did it again the next year and each year thereafter, it just got bigger and better.”

Visitation will be held on Sunday, June 25, 2017 from 5-8 pm at Newcomer Funeral Home, 4104 Needmore Rd., Dayton, OH 45424 (937) 235-1000. Funeral service will be held Monday, June 26, 2017 at 11 am at Fairview United Methodist Church, 828 W. Fairview Avenue, Dayton, OH 45406 (937) 274-2189. Burial will immediately follow in Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery.