Caption

Eldora Speedway provided the scene for a famous victory that stunned the racing world in 1998

Twenty years ago at Eldora Speedway, all eyes were on Jack Hewitt. Even those of the other drivers’ wives.

Hewitt had won the first three features at the 4-Crown Nationals with wins in the USAC Midgets, USAC sprints and UMP Modifieds. All that remained for dirt track history – becoming the first driver to sweep all four divisions – was a USAC Silver Crown victory.

Hewitt led all 50 laps in the Silver Crown race for what ranks among dirt racing’s greatest accomplishments. For many drivers winning four features counts as a great season. Hewitt did it in one night.

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It was after that race, Hewitt recalls, someone asked the late Tony Elliott’s wife where Elliott finished in the Silver Crown feature: “She said, ‘I don’t know! I was watching Hewitt!’ That was kind of cool.”

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The 4-Crown returns to Eldora Speedway this weekend for the 37th running. Racing started Friday with the World of Outlaws winged sprint car series, Eldora stock cars and USAC Silver Crown qualifying. The official 4-Crown event – the four features that now make up the event – continue today with the USAC midgets, sprints and Silver Crown plus the All Star Circuit of Champions sprints. In addition, the USAC .25 (quarter) midgets race on Little Eldora is today.

Sixty-six different drivers have won at least one 4-Crown feature since the event started in 1981. Only seven drivers have won four (or more) features in their 4-Crown careers, let alone in one night: Dave Darland (7), Tracy Hines (5), Rich Vogler (5), J.J. Yeley (4), Steve Butler (4), Kyle Larson (4), Jerry Coons Jr. (4).

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Hewitt has 19 career 4-Crown victories. The last came during his record 1998 run. Hewitt’s 4-Crown car count includes eight Silver Crown victories, five sprint and three each in the midgets and modifieds.

“The 4-Crown is my favorite race because if you got all four rides that’s where you get to show off the most and have fun that day,” Hewitt said. “When you go to the fair you want to ride all the rides instead of watching some of them. When you have four rides it’s special.”

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Kyle Larson is the only other driver to win three features in one night, pulling off a USAC-version of the 4-Crown sweep in 2011. Larson had never raced at Eldora until that night. That year the WoO sprints kicked off the 4-Crown as the first leg on Friday night, but Larson did not have a ride.

Hewitt led 99 of a possible 125 laps in 1998, including from start to finish in the 50-lap Silver Crown feature.

“We were so pumped up,” Hewitt said. “Every car worked. The track was Jack Hewitt style. We wasn’t a bit tired. It was just our night. The one thing I would have done different is I would have played the lottery because I think we’d won that, too.”

Among the highlights at this weekend’s event:

• Alabama’s Kevin Thomas Jr. leads the USAC sprint standings with a 21-point lead over Indiana’s Tyler Courtney. As many as six past 4-Crown sprint winners are expected to compete with C.J. Leary (2017), Justin Grant (2016), Brady Bacon (2014), Chris Windom (2013), Robert Ballou (2007) and Dave Darland (1999).

• California’s Kody Swanson can win his fourth Silver Crown championship by simply showing up. Swanson holds a 76-point lead over California native and former Piqua resident Justin Grant. A maximum of 76 points can be earned Saturday.

• Logan Seavey, a California native, makes his return to Eldora after an impressive running in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in July. Seavey, making his Trucks debut, led 53 laps and finished eighth. He leads the midget standings with a 98-point lead over Brady Bacon.

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