INDIANAPOLIS – Jack Hewitt’s four-race Valvoline USAC Silver Crown Series winning streak ended in the 1987 opener at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, but his domination of the series continued.
Driving the familiar J.W. Hunt Produce Chevy, Hewitt scored back-to-back victories in the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield and the Silver Century at DuQuoin en route to his second consecutive series title.
Hewitt was leading the Tampa opener when a blown tire relegated him to also-ran status in the Salute to Joltin’ Jud Larson behind winner Larry Rice.
In the subsequent Hulman Hundred 60-miler at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Hewitt’s bid for a repeat win was halted by rookie Jeff Swindell’s amazing drive from 27th to first.
Shedding his dirt track image, Hewitt took advantage of Gary Bettenhausen’s misfortune in the Pepsi-Cola 150 pavement race at Indianapolis Raceway Park in July and was leading on the final lap, but a sour magneto left him stalled on the backstretch.
Hewitt’s misfortune gave the win to Jeff Bloom.
At Springfield, Hewitt set a new 100-mile record of 106.920 mph in a race devoid of yellow flags, then at DuQuoin came from 18th on the grid to beat Kenny Jacobs to the checkered flag.
His attempt to complete a second straight sweep of the three-mile track dirt races ended in a third-place finish behind Kenny Jacobs and Dave Blaney at the Hoosier Hundred in Indianapolis.
The Illinois wins and the Hoosier Hundred third, however, put him in the driver’s seat in the standings and his fourth-place finish in the 4-Crown Nationals finale at Eldora Speedway in September wrapped up the crown.
Hewitt dropped out of the series finale at Phoenix Int’l Raceway in November, when his engine expired nine miles from the finish.
Steve Butler, USAC’s 1987 sprint car titlist, wound up second in the points as a result of consistent top finishes – although that initial series triumph eluded him.
Swindell’s Hulman Hundred victory helped him to third in the standings, while impressive victories put Jacobs and Bloom fourth and fifth in the final tally.
Swindell was outstanding in his 27th to first drive in the Hulman Hundred, leading the final 35 miles to grab the series point lead away from Tampa winner Rice at that point.
Robby Unser, son of Bobby Unser, suffered a fractured leg in a qualifying race crash.
Bloom followed his surprise IRP win with a fine second to Hewitt at Springfield, while Gary Bettenhausen appeared to have the IRP race wrapped up until magneto trouble set up the last lap dramatics with Hewitt and Bloom.
At DuQuoin, Gary suffered a badly lacerated ankle in a practice crash.
Swindell was rewarded with the 1987 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year award, while Andy Hillenburg earned Most Improved Driver honors.
Yet again, however, the season was all about Hewitt: a man who became a back-to-back title-holder in fine fashion in 1987.