Tony Stewart Racing teammates Tracy Hines (right) and Levi Jones are excited about USAC's
The Gold Crown cars are tentatively slated to hit the tracks in 2010, but that will only be if the OEG, Miller, and the rest of the USAC brass are happy with the program.
"We are not going to force this program into being, just because of a specific date," Miller says. "We want to debut the Gold Crown program when it is ready and market conditions are correct. If that's 2010, great. We want to do it right, not just fast."
Meanwhile, Miller reverted the Silver Crown cars back to the the traditional formula, running them on dirt and pavement.
Like the Silver Crown cars, Sprints and Midgets both run on pavement and dirt. However, unlike the Silver Crowns, Miller tags the Sprints, as well as the Midgets, as two problem-free areas. "The foundation of what we have lies in the Sprints and Midgets," explains Miller. In fact, the 2008 Sprint and Midget seasons produced some of the closest racing in any form of motorsport with Cole Whitt beating out Tracy Hines for the Midget Championship by a single point.
This model of the new Gold Crown car, USAC's soon to be launched destination series, was o
The 6-year-old Ford Focus Midgets is the other division that needed attention from the new management team. The original concept for the Ford Focus Midgets was a cost effective entry level series where youngsters and new racers alike could begin their journey to the upper levels of USAC. While the whole economical package initially worked, costs outside of the engine began to escalate to the point where the division was getting away from the intended purpose.
As you might guess, the cars get their name because they use the same motor found in the Ford Focus. In the beginning, all Ford Focus engines were sealed motors from S.C.R.E.A.M. a California engine builder. However, an internal decision from Ford Motor Company moved that contract from S.C.R.E.A.M. to the reknowned RoushYates Engines, the North Carolina builder of championship NASCAR teams.
"Having RoushYates building the motors brings a credibility to the Focus program that we did not have before," says James Spink, another new hire for USAC. Spink, formerly with 600 Racing, serves as USAC's Developmental Series Director. The motors were, and still are, economical spec motors. "The engine is the one area of the Focus program where cost was not a significant concern," explains Spink. "We're looking at other areas that need attention to keep that series economical."
Steve Arpin won Rookie of the Year in the Silver Crown division behind the wheel of one of
As Spink works to bring those costs back in line he says there will be a lower division with the Focus Series for younger racers who are ready to move out of Quarter Midgets but aren't fully prepared for the Focus class. The Junior Focus program will feature the same Midget based cars but with an engine that has less power. How are they going to accomplish that you might ask? "A restrictor plate will be placed in the ram tube to slow the cars," says Spink. That will allow the younger drivers to get their feet wet in the Midget class of race car. The beauty of the program is that when these youngsters are ready for full-on Focus racing, they don't have to buy a new motor, just take the restrictor plate out and you are good to go.
Taking this grassroots concept to the next level brought Miller and Smith to the Quarter Midget world. Until this year USAC had not sanctioned Quarter Midget racing, the acknowledged first step for many racers. The newly named .25 Midgets run the same rules as the Quarter Midgets across the country, four wheel independent suspension, full rollcages, and so on. But the .25s fall under the USAC sanction, enabling local clubs to have all the benefits of working with a national sanction.
"It's nice to be able to work with a professional sanctioning body to help keep costs curtailed and be governed by stable, consistent rules and safety regulations," says Eric Rankin, President of the Northwest Ohio Quarter Midgets Assocation, the latest club to join USAC's .25 Midget program. "We are looking forward to cross promotion with other forms of racing and at other venues to help promote our club and the sport of Quarter Midget racing in general."