Silver Crown
Monday, 5 December 2016


Chris Windom celebrates his USAC Silver Crown victory in June of 2016 at Pennsylvania's Williams Grove Speedway. Chris Windom celebrates his USAC Silver Crown victory in June of 2016 at Pennsylvania's Williams Grove Speedway. Loudpedal Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Simply put, Chris Windom went streaking in 2016.

Among the accomplishments in his historic season were occupying an exclusive club of his own as the only driver to win three consecutive features in USAC National competition during the season as well as becoming the first driver to win multiple USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car features in a single night in 15 years.

Windom’s flourish in the latter half of the season was one of the greatest stretches of performance seen in quite some time.  The 25-year-old reeled of 18 top-six finishes in a row in USAC National points-paying feature events to conclude the season.  It’s a streak that is still intact and will resume as the 2017 season begins.

Despite the mounting accomplishments and feats captured by Windom, it was the streak he ended that was most noteworthy, providing the Canton, Illinois native his first USAC National title.

It was a season in which the point battle came down to the final race of the season between Windom and two-time defending series champ Kody Swanson.  Trailing by a slim 10 point margin coming into the closer at Eldora, Windom pressed on to put an absolute shellacking on the field to come out on top of the standings by just five points, thus denying Swanson an unprecedented third series title in as many years.

To defeat Swanson and the DePalma Motorsports team in the title race, there could be no margin for error.  Hence, Windom had to be nearly perfect all year long.

And he nearly was.

Chris Windom joined Al Unser (1973), Tom Bigelow (1973-74), Mario Andretti (1974) and Jimmy Caruthers (1975) as the only driver to finish in the top-five in every USAC Silver Crown race in a single season.

In fact, Windom’s top-five stretch in Silver Crown events dates to the final three races of the 2015 season, bringing his streak to twelve in a row.  Since joining the RPM/Fred Gormly team midway through 2015, Windom has scored 13 top-fives in 15 starts behind the wheel of the machine from the Ellington, Connecticut-based team.

Among his three Silver Crown victories this season were a pair of events that went down as one of the all-time legendary races at their respective tracks.

In June, Windom was able to withstand an all-out assault from Bryan Clauson in the final laps to score the “Horn/Schindler Memorial” win in the series’ first visit to Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway in 36 years.

On Labor Day weekend, Windom swapped the lead multiple times with the savvy veteran Jeff Swindell, who was aiming to score his first USAC win in 23 years.  Windom made one final run at Swindell with three laps remaining in the 100-lapper, grabbing the lead for good with an outside turn-three pass to take his first career victory on a dirt mile.

The result was the same at Eldora’s “4-Crown Nationals” in September, yet with a stark contrast as Windom completely dismantled the 23-car field, holding a 17-second lead at one point around the half-mile oval as he put all but the top-three finishers a lap down by race end.  Windom provided a third-straight Eldora victory to the RPM/Fred Gormly crew after Jerry Coons, Jr. (2014) and Christopher Bell (2015) captured wins on the Rossburg, Ohio high banks the previous two years.

It was the first time since 1992 that an Eldora Silver Crown season finale featured a point change at the top.  Furthermore, Windom’s victory marked the 12th time in the 46-year history of the series that the winner of the season finale race was also the season champion.

However, Windom’s streak and his quest for a championship could’ve been thrown to the wayside had he and the Dennis & Dave McQuinn-owned team not joined forces during May’s “Hoosier Hundred” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Windom’s regular ride experienced mechanical trouble in hot laps, forcing the RPM/Gormly No. 98 to the sidelines as a scratch for the evening.  As Windom scoured the pit area for a potential ride to jump into, a chain of events and circumstances led to an opening in the McQuinn’s distinctive, orange No. 14.

Windom hopped into his new mount for ProSource Qualifying and laid down a solid 11th place run for a starting spot on the inside of the sixth row in the 30-car starting field.

By the end of the 100-lapper, Windom had netted a fifth-place finish for his efforts.  It was a solid, yet overlooked performance at the time that proved critical to the championship race as the season wore on.

Windom steadily moved up the standings where he was able to pounce on the series lead by overtaking Swanson for the point briefly in June after a second-place run at Gateway.  However, Swanson bounced right back, winning the next two on the pavement at Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway and Salem Speedway.

Windom responded emphatically by taking the final two rounds at Du Quoin and Eldora to close the season, retaking the point lead when the checkered flag fell in the season-ender to put an exclamation point on a highly-entertaining USAC Silver Crown season.

The versatile Windom has proven his worthiness as one of USAC’s most talented competitors over the last decade.  He’s long been the kind of driver who’s capable of winning races in any kind of car on any type of surface.

However, in 2016, Windom seemed to take a major step up the ladder to elevate himself into the top-tier of USAC’s elite.  Now in his mid-20s and with a USAC National championship under his belt, Windom appears to be on a career-arch that is reaching its prime.  And if Windom’s streak this past season is any indication of what’s to come in the following years, that “prime” could last quite a long time.