NASCAR’s Silver Crown Car…in 1960?

In doing research, you uncover a lot of things not related to the subject you’re researching. I’m working on a some research for the Milwaukee Mile regarding USAC Stock Car racing. While digging through some old Illustrated Speedway News from the early 1960’s I saw a startling picture. From 48 years ago I found a conceptual drawing of a “New safety conscious Indianapolis race car” attributed to NASCAR president Bill France. What is startling are the similarities to the ill-fated Silver Crown car that USAC debuted at the PRI Trade Show several years ago. The Illustrated Speedway News is dated, March 22, 1960. The front page article goes into depth how the design appeared in the April 1960 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. It states, “France’s car is concerned mainly with additional protection for the driver, a field which has been ‘disgracefully ignored’ in the past.’ The article informs the reader that the car features a bird proof wrap around windscreen, twin roll bars (rollcage), in case of fire carbon dioxide squirts from outlets in the roll bars, the driver is sprayed with water and fire doors on the grille and cowl close automatically. It also adds that the car features aircraft-type ailerons at front and rear to hold the car down. It also informs the reader that France has offered $10,000 to the first driver that laps Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Art Malone collected Bill France’s $10K in August of 1961 at Daytona. He was driving the Mad Dog IV (modified Kurtis roadster) and went 181 MPH. Eventually, Jim Hurtubise achieved 191 mph in 1968 in his front-engine Mallard Indy car.

In 2004, USAC debuted the next generation Silver Crown car in Indianapolis. The car was designed with safety in mind to run at high speed ovals, many which were on the NASCAR schedule. The car which was resoundly criticized and by the apathy from the fans was generally rejected. One of new USAC president and CEO Kevin Miller’s first duty was to kill the ugly car and return the traditional Silver Crown car back on the schedule. Miller announced the car would undergo an extensive program of redesign and re-evaluation meant to restore the USAC Silver Crown divison. “We obviously want to maximize the potential of America’s most competitive open-wheel series and build on its unparalleled heritage,” Miller stated. “We recognize the expansion to the larger pavement ovals required new and innovative construction, however, we also recognize that continued work is necessary to refine the product which will reflect the quality image we want to project. Our valued partners in this project, including the facilities which invested in our series, our car owners and sponsors, demand and deserve the best possible product we can offer. To that end, we are dedicated to exploring and implementing the necessary moves to achieve this goal.”

Since Miller’s announcement, the project has since been tweaked. Earlier this year, USAC and the Owner’s Exploratory Group (OEG) announced they would continue to develop the newly-named Gold Crown Championship car and series which is set to debut in 2010. The car and series has been assisted greatly by the input from fans, media and stakeholders within North American open-wheel racing at all levels according to USAC.

The original idea of the next generation Silver Crown car was reportedly traced to a query made by International Speedway Corporation (ISC) in 2002-2003. NASCAR was looking for companion classes to NASCAR shows. They approached USAC about the feasibility of supplying the USAC Weld Silver Crown series for events. It was determined at the time that the original Silver Crown car which were originally designed to run on one-mile dirt tracks, were not constructed for the higher corner speeds involved, thus, the next-gen Silver Crown car. Was someone digging though the archives in Daytona in 2002 when they came across this article? One can only wonder?

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