INDIANAPOLIS – When Brian Tyler and Aaron Pierce fought over the last two laps in last season’s USAC Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Engineering race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, they captured the spotlight Bud Kaeding and P.J. Jones had been in over the first 54 laps.
Those four ended up making up the list of lap leaders for the 67-lapper, but had the race lasted any longer, they might have had to contend with one of the drivers who quietly garnered his first podium finish.
Tim Barber hardly even whispered in finishing third in USAC’s first race on a 1.5-mile track. Driving Ken Pierson’s No. 28 Eibach Springs/Riverside Raceway Park entry, Barber stayed strong all day as Jones and Kaeding eventually faded after leading those first 54 laps.
While he didn’t have enough to contend with Tyler and Pierce at the end, that third-place run did gain him confidence and momentum, which he carried over to the next pavement race at Kentucky Speedway. That race also resulted in a third-place finish.
“As far as one fast lap, we’re usually mid-pack, but I think we were looking for a race setup rather than a qualifying setup,” Barber said. “Basically, everyone just backed up to us.”
Barber hopes his experience at last year’s race will result in another podium finish and perhaps even his first series victory. The pavement opener and second round of the season for the Silver Crown Series comes Thursday at Homestead.
“We’ve done a couple different things as far as aerodynamics and handling items, and now, with a more massaged Shaver motor (this one manufactured by Chevrolet), we’re hoping we can go out there and do even better,” Barber said. “Homestead is a nice track, and not being a D-shaped, the turns are similar to each other, so you know a little more about what to expect. Hopefully everything works well with the car so we can improve a couple positions.”
Barber is chasing points in 2007 after running only pavement races in 2006. He made all nine races in 2006 and was eighth in points.
This year, in the series season opener at the half-mile dirt Manzanita Speedway, Barber finished 18th in his first career USAC Silver Crown dirt race, retiring after 40 laps with front axle problems.
“Obviously we’re new on the dirt, but I don’t see why we can’t contend for the championship,” said Barber, who debuted in series competition in 2005 with a ninth-place finish at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado. “Hopefully the luck will come our way, and I don’t see any reason why we won’t have that luck.”
From the pits, Pierson looks forward to an impressive season too. He orchestrated the deal to get a car for Barber for Manzanita, and hopes his driver not only does well, but his team eliminates its five DNFs in nine pavement starts from a year ago.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” said Pierson, one of the first car owners in the series and first to purchase a C&R chassis. “Tim hasn’t had a lot of experience on dirt, but I think we’re going to do all right on the asphalt. We’re going to do whatever we can. We’re hoping for at least a Top-5 finish in the points.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. currently leads the point standings after winning the race at Manzanita, while Paul White, who expects to compete in all 15 races on the schedule, is third in points. The series will practice Thursday at Homestead with the 67-lap, 100-mile race Friday afternoon.