Silver Crown
Thursday, 23 May 2019




Written By: Dick Jordan

(Part 4 of 4 in a series of introspective short stories from the Hoosier Hundred)

The fans were screaming as I strolled across the street behind the main grandstands that day in 1961. I was a little bit late since I had no particular duty except to be one of thousands of great American race fans attending the greatest dirt race of the year.

I was to find out that the reason for the noise was that driver A.J. Shepherd had just bicycled over the first turn guardrail and sailed into the horse barns which surround the outside of turn one at the storied Indiana State Fairgrounds mile dirt oval in Indianapolis.

Shepherd, as it turned out, survived, but I had already succumbed to the sport years ago and my experience at ISF was just one of many memories which would follow me forever. I think it’s probably my earliest remembrance of the event which continues to capture the imagination of America’s motorsports fans.

When I think of the Hoosier Hundred, I’d like to think it had an indelible mark on my concept of the sport.  The mere fact that the race has survived for 66 years speaks volumes and the stories which surround its past are monumental. To list my favorite moments would be too voluminous to include here, except to say – WOW!

The legendary A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti battles, the dominance of Al Unser, Sr., the ties to the Indianapolis 500 which carried this event to ABC’s Wide World of Sports and the continuing spectacle which accompanies this amazing race are all small parts of one of auto racing’s most captive events.

The race enters a new chapter this year, closing out its storied run at the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile oval, the result of the sport’s long battle with horse racing. It’s no surprise that this form of auto racing has long fought for footing on America’s big dirt ovals. The list of storied dirt ovals clong closed or at least not involved in the sport of auto racing is large.

The 2019 series calendar boasts similar events on the mile dirt ovals in Springfield and Du Quoin, Ill., but here’s a look at the list of similar venues which no longer grace the USAC schedule: Sacramento, CA, Nazareth, PA, Syracuse, NY, Sedalia, MO and Del Mar, CA, not to mention the numerous similar race tracks from earlier times which also hosted mile-track dirt races under AAA sanction prior to and after World War II. The Hoosier Hundred will undoubtedly survive in name as another venue in subsequent years, extending the monumental impact the race has had on the entire sport.

The sound of pounding Silver Crown Championship Cars testing the mile dirt ovals will never be forgotten and will continue for the time being at the Illinois tracks in Springfield and Du Quoin. The allure of Springfield and Du Quoin has allowed them to extend their histories to 65 and 51 years, respectively.

Ralph Liguori’s totally unexpected runner-up finish to Al Unser in the early 1970s, Jackie Howerton’s upset of Unser’s four-year dominance in 1974, and more recently Kody Swanson’s exquisite performances which have thrust him into tonight’s limelight as he tries to make history as the only driver to ever capture five consecutive Hoosier Hundreds, all have earned outstanding spots in the race’s history.

Levi Jones’ victory after several near misses, which ended with him nearly in tears in victory lane, pretty well summed up the importance of this race in the sport’s long history.

Jones has had no lack of success as a driver and to see the impact of that long-sought Hoosier Hundred win was truly meaningful.

Tonight’s race, while closing out a sensational history at the State Fairgrounds, will offer its own moments of significance, but the most of which is to signify that the sport has earned a spot in the hearts of race fans everywhere.

A victory in this race, just as one in a nearby event in Indianapolis each May, assures a driver’s spot in the sport’s history. Even more, it will earn him a place alongside the sport’s greatest of all time. Tonight’s race winner will enter more than a victory lane, he will enter the record books which will proclaim him as one of the best ever to strap on a helmet.

I know my 62 Hoosier Hundreds contain so many fond memories, but I’ll always remember the great times spent on the hallowed ground at the State Fairgrounds and those memories will resurface ever year as this race continues to fascinate the race fans of America.

"Hoosier Hundred" activities get underway with pits opening at noon eastern, grandstands at 3pm, drivers meeting at 4pm and practice from 4:45-6pm, with qualifications and racing to immediately follow.  Tickets are $25 for advance adult general admission and $30 the day of the event.  Infield tickets are $20, while general admission for children 11 and under is $10.  Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members.

Watch the race live and on-demand at  Listen live on the USAC app.  Follow along with live updates on and, plus live timing and scoring on the Race Monitor app.