Consistency, Not Wins, Drove Butler’s Silver Crown Title

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Consistency, Not Wins
Steve Butler prior to the start of the 1988 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway. (John Mahoney photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Steve Butler emerged from the 1988 Valvoline USAC Silver Crown Series season with his first title, but the fact that he did not win a single race was testimony to the tremendous consistency that helped him prevail.

Only Jack Hewitt’s victory in the 4-Crown Nationals finale at Eldora Speedway kept all nine different races from having different winners.

Hewitt had previously won the Hoosier Hundred in Indianapolis two weeks earlier.

Driving the Kenny Jarrett Farms Chevy, Butler beat defending series titlist Hewitt for the title by taking fourth and second in the final two races at Salem Speedway and Eldora Speedway.

He was also second in the Pepsi-Cola 150 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and his only failure to finish came in the Hoosier Hundred, putting added pressure on his need for good finishes in the final two events.

Series participants were enthusiastic about their debut at the Milwaukee Mile in June. A.J. Foyt’s Skoal Racing Classic 100-miler was possibly one of the most competitive Silver Crown races in the history of the series.

George Snider, driving the Skoal Chevy owned by him and Foyt, won the race.

The Silver Crown machines returned to the Florida State Fairgrounds for their 1988 opener and Rick Hood came away with the victory, taking the early series lead.

He kept the number one spot after finishing seventh behind winner Chuck Gurney in the Hulman Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May, then relinquished it to Snider after the Milwaukee 100.

Bruce Field scored an upset victory in the IRP 150-lapper in July, but Butler’s second place finish boosted him to third in the standings.

Indianapolis 500 veteran Steve Chassey came from the 20th starting spot to win the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield in August, grabbing the win as Andy Hillenburg faltered in the final laps while leading.

Gary Bettenhausen, absent from the Silver Crown winner’s circle for some time, returned there at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on Labor Day, while Butler (fourth) and Snider (third) continued to fight for the point lead.

Hewitt’s Hoosier Hundred triumph came after Snider flipped during pre-race practice and Butler dropped out early with engine problems. Suddenly, Hewitt found himself still alive in the point race.

Bob Frey’s victory at Salem in September left Butler in command of the points race, although some slim hope remained for both Hewitt and Snider at Eldora.

Butler settled the issue by posting fast qualifying time at the 4-Crown, then leading all but 11 laps of the 50-lapper and finishing second to Hewitt.

Gene Lee Gibson captured Silver Crown Rookie of the Year honors for 1988, while Andy Hillenburg became the series’ Most Improved Driver.

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