Recently, we told you about Rolling Thunder, the terrific history of the USAC Silver Crown division, the last throwback to the “Big Cars” that once pounded their way around the fairgrounds tracks of America and once each year, at the Indianapolis 500. The biggest racing news to come out of that city of late is the 500’s return to Memorial Day weekend this year with a 40 percent crowd, a marked betterment over last year’s reality. It’s still regrettable that advancing work to convert the dirt mile at the Indiana State Fairgrounds into a horse track, surfaced with crushed limestone instead of manicured dirt, means that the landmark Hoosier Hundred is no more. The race could trace its roots to Bob Sweikert’s inaugural victory in 1953, after the fairgrounds first hosted a freestanding USAC 100-miler in 1946, won by Rex Mays. The Hoosier Hundred was a fixture of race week in Indianapolis for decades, and until the upright dirt cars were removed from the national championship schedule in 1971, numerous drivers ran both the fairgrounds mile and the Brickyard.
It’s a sad reality. People who lament that the New York State Fairgrounds mile was razed after hosting races as long as Indianapolis understand the feeling. At Syracuse, the Super Dirt Week extravaganza has shifted to Oswego Speedway and in Indiana, the Silver Crown cars are going somewhere somewhat new in May. The Hoosier Hundred date now shifts about 50 miles west to another fairgrounds facility, the Terre Haute Action Track, the only half-mile dirt speedway in Indiana. Silver Crown will return to Terre Haute, as shown in this Dave Olson image, on Thursday, May 27th, creating a bookend with another major United States Auto Club showdown at the Action Track, the 51st annual Tony Hulman Classic for USAC Sprint cars the previous night. The Silver Crown race will be the 19th running of the Sumar Classic, run periodically since Silver Crown made its initial stop at Terre Haute in 1995. There’s some history here that goes beyond the Hoosier state: Sumar was once a speed shop in Terre Haute that prepared the race cars of Terre Haute industrialist and philanthropist Chapman S. Root, who commissioned the first radically streamlined roadster to race in the Indianapolis 500. That car is displayed right around the corner at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, which also houses two private railcars once owned by the Root family, both in their own display hall, including a former Hiawatha streamlined observation car.