Jeff O'Connor Named Grand Marshal For USAC Race
Jeff O'Connor of North Vernon, Indiana, son of legendary racer Pat O'Connor, has been named grand marshal of the May 10 USAC "Silver Crown Showdown at Darlington." The event will feature the USAC Silver Crown Championship Cars on the storied 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway for first time in over a half century. Jeff's father won the July 4, 1956 "Pee Dee 200," USAC's only previous appearance at the historic South Carolina oval.
As grand marshal, O'Connor will issue the command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines," then present a specially-created trophy to the race winner in victory lane. Darlington Raceway and USAC have commissioned a replica of the original 1956 trophy, which is among O'Connor's prized possessions.
"Darlington obviously holds a special place in my family's history," said O'Connor, whose interest in the sport is deep. "The 1956 victory was a significant accomplishment in my father's career and I've always wanted this opportunity to visit the track. I'm thrilled to not only be able to attend this historic USAC return, but also humbled to be selected as the race's grand marshal."
O'Connor has attended numerous USAC racing events since his father's career ended abruptly in a 1958 accident on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500. He has been a regular fixture in victory lane at the Salem (Ind.) Speedway, which annually hosts the "Joe James/Pat O'Connor Classic" USAC Sprint race.
O'Connor's participation adds fuel to the fire of excitement and interest generated by USAC's return to Darlington. "Since we made the announcement, there's really been a 'buzz' about this race," said Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning. "The majority of fans who will attend this event were probably not even born the last time USAC came to Darlington, so they literally have the opportunity of seeing this style of racing for the very first time on the track 'Too Tough To Tame.' That is a rare and special experience, and we are so excited to have this opportunity to offer it to our guests."
"We are delighted that Jeff is able to join us for this long-awaited return to Darlington," added USAC president/CEO Rollie Helmling. "It is a distinct pleasure for all of us at USAC to be able to bring our series to the fans in this region and we expect a very competitive race on May 10."
Pat O'Connor enjoyed a meteoric career which included five Indianapolis 500 appearances. He finished eighth in 1955 and 1957 and in 1958 graced the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. In 1957 he also won a 100-mile National Championship race at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Trenton. He won the 1956 USAC Midwest Sprint Car Championship and is a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.
The 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 weekend at Darlington Raceway will include practice for the USAC Silver Crown Series and the NASCAR Busch Series on Thursday, May 10, followed by USAC qualifying and the "Silver Crown Showdown at Darlington" under the lights. Tickets are priced at only $10 each; kids 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.
Friday, May 11, will include NASCAR NEXTEL Cup practice, and NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series qualifying, followed by the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Busch Series race under the lights that evening. Denny Hamlin is the defending champion.
On Saturday, May 12, Darlington will host Cup Series racing for the 58th consecutive season as Greg Biffle attempts to join the short list of drivers to win three events in a row at NASCAR's most historic venue. The 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 will be run under the lights in its entirety.
Tickets for all events are on sale now. For more information, call the Raceway ticket hotline toll-free at 866.459.RACE, or visit www.Racetickets.com.
Contact: Darlington Raceway public