Change is difficult to swallow for some. There are still pockets ofresistance that feel anything new may be accompanied by a hidden agenda.It makes life difficult for those who have a vision of the future andbelieve that the future can be better served by changing a bit of thepresent. After all, it has been proven, for the most part, that thesport has grown because of change.

In the near future, there are going to be some changes for nearly all ofthe major sanctions. Even touring sanctions will see changes as newplayers enter the environment. As change occurs, so does risk. We'llnever be able to predict the full effect of changes, how long they willlast, or who they will impact, but the changes that loom can alter theface of the sport.


Silver Crown

The world got a look at the next-generation USAC Silver Crown Car at the2004 PRI show in Indianapolis. It was different, and many wereconcerned. Maybe it was too different for some, but the differences camewith reasons.

The series is seeking growth opportunities, and one of thoseopportunities comes with the longer racetracks. The 1-mile to 1.5-miletracks hold plenty of promise with greater seating capacity and otheraspects that can assist a series in reaching a higher level of success.While the tracks exist, a Silver Crown Car that can run safely at thosetracks did not, so there was a need to create the car.

The idea can be traced to a query made by International SpeedwayCorporation (ISC). Looking for companion classes to NASCAR shows, thegroup approached USAC about the feasibility of supplying the USAC WeldSilver Crown series for events. It was determined at the time that thecars were not constructed for the higher corner speeds involved, but itset the plan in motion.

USAC understood there were some key considerations that had to be partof any change. In today's racing, safety always comes to the forefront.With the greater speeds, the concern would be a viable one. In addition,USAC wanted to consider the cost factor. Most of the teams in SilverCrown racing are essentially blue-collar operations. They work all dayand work on the car at night. The new car couldn't be too complicated ortoo different from the existing plan.

Based on its experience in other racing forms that employ many technicalinnovations sought, Riley Technologies was given the task of producing aprototype car. The car had to be safe at certain speeds, use as manyexisting Silver Crown components as possible, reduce effects ofwheel-to-wheel contact, and retain as much of the traditional look aspossible.

The end result implemented plenty of state-of-the-sport design elements,borrowed from the Indy Racing League and Grand Am competition. In someways, the looks of the car were sacrificed for greater good.

USAC president Rollie Helmling summed up some of the changes between the2005 car and the new model: "We've added bodywork to the car, and thecar has an energy-absorbing bumper. The idea is to build a safer car, sowe have crash-tested them. The car is heavier and it has a longerwheelbase."

The testing portion has been nearly constant in anticipation of theseason ahead. The on-track tests were the latest phase, running throughOctober (at this writing), but there was much more done in the way oftesting before the first wheels were turned.

"With the use of computer modeling, you can crash each part," saidHelmling. "We were able to generate fullsize cars and see what wouldhappen. There's a lot of technology involved. We were able to useinformation from the NASCAR tech center. They have run a lot of programsthat are helpful in safety and competition. We were able to put thatdata to good use."

The added bodywork is designed to offset the dangers of the higherspeed. The side pods will help prevent cars from climbing wheels andbecoming airborne.

Another change comes at the rear of the car. "We have changed the tankplacement," said USAC's Owen Snyder. "The previous design was similar toa Sprint Car with twice as much hanging off the rear of the car. Withthe new design, the fuel is all in the bladder in front of the rear axlewithin the confines of the frame. In the old design, you'd have 70-75gallons of fuel hanging off the rear of the car. With all of that weightand the effects it had on handling, this new design will make it betterfor the driver."

By its design, the new car requires more driver input. The offset hasbeen taken out of the car, and it will be using a slightly narrowright-rear tire. During the on-track testing, there were no concernsabout the higher speeds, even though the test drivers had never gonethat fast before. The speeds in the straightaways are fine, but thedesign is created to slow the corner speeds to safer and manageablelevels.

"Owen put his Indy Car experience to use here," said Helmling. "When wehooked up the data acquisition, we really weren't surprised at what wesaw. Speeds have been close to what we want, and we have had severaldifferent drivers testing at a few different tracks."

Prior to the on-track tests, an existing Silver Crown Car and an '06model were taken to the wind tunnel at Langley for an aerodynamiccomparison.

Several companies had expressed intent to build the new cars. Thesecompanies will use their unique characteristics, but all cars willcontain certain spec parts. Some of those parts include the two-speedtransmission (EMCO Gear), fuel cell (Fuel Safe), forged wheels (Weld),and front spindles (MPD). Nose assembly, side pods, rear attenuator, andtail section are made by Five Star.

USAC officials don't hold any unrealistic expectations for 2006, buttheir passion for open-wheel racing is driving the desire to make theclass a success. Their goals include creating a class that can assist inbuilding audience and participation, which helps the overall state ofthe sport.