In the realm of closest point battles in the 50-year history of the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series, the 2020 season is well on its way to achieving its status near the upper echelon of all-time great battles.
As it stands now, Justin Grant’s 22-point lead over Kody Swanson entering this Sunday afternoon’s Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear at the Illinois State Fairgrounds ranks as the 13th closest point differential of all-time. The 63-point spread between the top-10 ranks as the closest in series’ history with all 10 remaining mathematically eligible to win the Silver Crown title come Sunday.
Eight Silver Crown championship races have been decided by single-digits, but none closer than two points which has occurred three different times: Mike Bliss by 2 over Ron Shuman in 1993; Tony Stewart by 2 over Dave Darland in 1995; and Levi Jones by 2 over Bud Kaeding in 2010. Each of the three cases entailed the champion driver trailing coming in, then overtaking the points lead in the final race.
Jones’ two Silver Crown championships came by a total of five points in back-to-back seasons in 2010-11, the second of which came by three over Jerry Coons Jr. Coons was on the winning end of the points in 2008 by five over Darland. Chris Windom has been the only driver to deny Kody Swanson a Silver Crown championship over the past six seasons, winning by five over Swanson in 2016.
Windom came up six points short of champion Bobby East’s total in 2013 while Steve Butler racked up a second career Silver Crown title in 1992 by a mere seven points over Jeff Swindell.
For comparison, the closest USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car championship came in 2018 when Tyler Courtney and Kevin Thomas Jr. literally tied with the most points. The championship went to Courtney via a tiebreaker based on most feature wins throughout the season.
The narrowest margin between first and second in the final USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship occurred in 2008. Cole Whitt edged Tracy Hines by one, single point, denying Hines the opportunity at becoming one of just six drivers to win all three USAC National titles in his career. However, Hines got redemption in 2015 when he finally secured the National Midget title.
Due to COVID-19 and rain, the 2020 Silver Crown season’s schedule has been constricted and truncated to just four races run thus far with number five arriving this Sunday at Springfield. The last occasion the schedule was as short as it is this year was 1979’s three-race calendar which saw Bobby Olivero triumph over Billy Engelhart by a mere 43 points, which ranks as the closest championship battle of the entire decade of the 1970s.
Five of the 10 closest Silver Crown championship margins have occurred in the last 10 seasons. Conversely, the fifth most lopsided championship came in 2015 when Swanson won by 142 over Jerry Coons Jr. at season’s end.
In fact, the two most lopsided Silver Crown championships both involved Jack Hewitt. In 1986, Hewitt triumphed by 489 and in 1987, Hewitt’s final tally was 314 ahead of the runner-up. In both instances, Steve Butler was the second-place finishing driver.
Tickets are still available for fans wanting the opportunity to watch history in the making at an iconic venue. Pit gates will open at 8am Central, grandstands and ticket office at 11am, practice at Noon, qualifying at 1:15pm, the last chance race at 2:15pm and the 57th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear will take the green at 3pm. All times listed are central.
To ensure a ticket, fans are encouraged to order online at www.trackenterprises.com or by calling the office at 217-764-3200. Advance sale grandstand tickets are $25. Grandstand tickets bought on raceday are $30. Grandstand tickets for kids age 11 and under are $10. Pit passes are $35 for USAC members and $40 for non-members. Pit passes can be purchased on raceday or in advance at www.TracPass.com.
The Bettenhausen 100 can also be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
CLOSEST USAC SILVER CROWN FINAL POINT MARGINS (BY RANK):
1993: (2) Mike Bliss over Ron Shuman
1995: (2) Tony Stewart over Dave Darland
2010: (2) Levi Jones over Bud Kaeding
2011: (3) Levi Jones over Jerry Coons Jr.
2008: (5) Jerry Coons Jr. over Dave Darland
2016: (5) Chris Windom over Kody Swanson
2013: (6) Bobby East over Chris Windom
1992: (7) Steve Butler over Jeff Swindell
1990: (11) Jimmy Sills over Eric Gordon
2012: (12) Bobby East over Jerry Coons Jr.
1998: (16) Jason Leffler over Brian Tyler
2005: (19) Dave Steele over Josh Wise
1981: (23) Larry Rice over Rich Vogler
2014: (27) Kody Swanson over Tracy Hines
2000: (29) Tracy Hines over Dave Darland
1989: (38) Chuck Gurney over Johnny Parsons
2002: (38) J.J. Yeley over Dave Steele
2007: (38) Bud Kaeding over Wayne Reutimann Jr.
1996: (42) Jimmy Sills over Kenny Irwin Jr.
1979: (43) Bobby Olivero over Billy Engelhart
2006: (44) Bud Kaeding over Brian Tyler
1999: (47) Ryan Newman over Russ Gamester
2004: (47) Dave Steele over Bud Kaeding
1988: (49) Steve Butler over Jack Hewitt
1997: (49) Dave Darland over Donnie Beechler
1991: (55) Jeff Gordon over Jimmy Sills
1978: (56) Pancho Carter over Gary Bettenhausen
2009: (59) Bud Kaeding over A.J. Fike
1973: (60) Al Unser over Mario Andretti
1975: (60) Jimmy Caruthers over Tom Bigelow
1976: (60) Billy Cassella over Johnny Parsons
2019: (60) Kody Swanson over Justin Grant
1983: (63) Gary Bettenhausen over Ken Schrader
1980: (65) Gary Bettenhausen over Pancho Carter
1982: (74) Ken Schrader over Mark Alderson
2001: (78) Paul White over Russ Gamester
2003: (81) J.J. Yeley over Dave Darland
1994: (82) Jimmy Sills over Chuck Gurney
2018: (82) Kody Swanson over Justin Grant
2017: (88) Kody Swanson over Jerry Coons Jr.
1977: (90) Larry Rice over Billy Vukovich
1971: (100) George Snider over Jim McElreath
1972: (100) A.J. Foyt over Al Unser
1984: (121) Dave Blaney over Gary Bettenhausen
2015: (142) Kody Swanson over Jerry Coons Jr.
1985: (159) Rick Hood over Sheldon Kinser
1974: (180) Mario Andretti over Tom Bigelow
1987: (314) Jack Hewitt over Steve Butler
1986: (489) Jack Hewitt over Steve Butler