CAMPBELL, Calif. — After a decade-long absence from the USAC Silver Crown Series, Bud Kaeding will return to the series on a part-time basis this year.
Kaeding has partnered with Mike Martin to field a car that they tentatively plan to enter in select dirt events with Kaeding behind the wheel. The three-time Silver Crown champion last raced with the series at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 2012.
After beginning his open-wheel career in his home state, California, Kaeding moved to Indiana and made a name for himself in the USAC ranks before heading back to the Golden State in the early 2010s.
Next year Kaeding gets a chance to revisit the historic division that helped shape his legacy, something that’s been on his mind for a while.
“This is something I’ve been seeking out the last couple of years,” Kaeding told SPEED SPORT. “I was pretty close a few years ago with a team, and then it kind of fell through at the fifth hour. It’s something me and Mike Martin have been talking about the last couple years, putting a dirt car together and going racing. It’s something he wanted to do, and it’s something I wanted to at least get one more shot at before I can’t anymore.”
The car itself just arrived at Kaeding’s shop last week and they’re still very early in the process of mapping everything out.
“Right now, we’re still in the preliminary stages,” Kaeding noted. “We got the car. We’re working on a motor program and sponsors.”
With funding and logistics still needing nailed down, Kaeding and Martin don’t have a concrete calendar but, at the least, Kaeding intends to be in action at the dirt events that don’t conflict with his primary focus at home, the NARC 410 Sprint Cars. However, Kaeding won’t rule anything out if the right opportunity presents itself.
“If I got myself in a situation where somebody wanted to do a joint deal where they had a pavement car and we had a dirt car running for points, it would make sense to go and do it,” Kaeding said.
Factoring in Kaeding’s early plans of running the dirt races that don’t overlap with NARC, the Silver Crown schedule lists three such events — a pair of Illinois miles, the Illinois State Fairgrounds (Aug. 19th) and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds (Sept. 2nd), along with Eldora Speedway’s Four Crown Nationals on Sept. 22-23.
Kaeding fared well at the two Illinois tracks during his first stint with USAC. While he didn’t collect a win at either, he did notch three podiums and 11 top-10s in a combined 17 starts across both facilities.
Wheeling a Silver Crown car around a mile for 100 laps requires a much different approach than any sprint car or midget race. It’s an experience Kaeding believes helped him greatly as a driver and one he’s looking forward to relearning.
“It’s cool, the time you’re on the throttle, how you change driving the car from the beginning of the race, how the track changes,” Kaeding explained. “It goes from the early stages of the race when its kind of heavy and wet, and at the end of the races its slow and slick and in the rubber. It creates a very diverse driver, in my opinion.”
Eldora presents its own unique challenge being a high-banked half-mile with only a 50-lap feature. The Silver Crown Cars traditionally punctuate 4 Crown, hitting the track after the three other divisions have left the surface ice-slick and technical. Kaeding’s best finish with Silver Crown at Eldora is fifth, but he’s a multi-time winner there with the USAC National Sprint Cars.
“Eldora has always been fun in the Crown cars,” Kaeding said. “At the 4 Crown, they’ve always been last, so it’s always slick and slow, which is a guaranteed trait with that car. They’re so big, heavy, and the length of them makes the reaction slow. It definitely takes a knack to get around that track, the way that the car reacts and all that stuff. They were always a lot of fun.”
While Kaeding hopes to grow the program into a contender, his current perspective is one of mostly appreciation. After so many years away, Kaeding wasn’t sure if an opportunity would arise again, making him all the more grateful for the chance.
“I’m really excited about it,” Kaeding said. “I couldn’t thank Mike and his family enough for what they’re doing for the effort. I’m just really excited about it and can’t wait to get going.”
Kaeding also understands the vastly different circumstance surrounding this venture. When he first began racing with the Silver Crown Series, he was looking to make a name for himself while battling wheel-to-wheel with some of his heroes. Now, he returns as a three-time champion to race against competitors who might’ve grown up watching him.
“It’s actually really cool,” Kaeding said of his comeback. “My first year was in 2000. I think my first start was in ’99 at Irwindale, but 2000 was my first somewhat full year with Rollie Helmling. At that time there were some guys from back in the day that had stepped back into it, Brad Noffsinger, Chuck Gurney, I think, came and did a race or two, and Jimmy Sills came back and did some racing. I watched all of those guys race. They were heroes of mine, so to get to race against them when I was starting out in the series was pretty cool. To go back to the series being a past champion and having had quite a bit of success in the series as a whole makes me pretty excited to go back.
“I don’t know if any of these guys even know who the hell I am,” Kaeding added with a laugh. “It’s been a long time, but hopefully we can get our program together good enough that we can make an impact, and if they didn’t know who I was, they will at the end of the year.”