SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Like father, like son.
Robbie Rice had a dream to become a USAC Silver Crown champion, and in 2021, that dream was fully realized as the series‘ entrant champion, making him the first ever second-generation Silver Crown champ, following his father, Larry Rice, who won titles as a driver in 1977 and 1981.
The team materialized as a dirt-only outfit on the 2020 USAC Silver Crown trail, contesting three events with 2018 USAC National Midget champion and Silver Crown Rookie, Logan Seavey, at the wheel where they displayed immediate speed and brilliance that just scraped the surface of the potential the Brownsburg, Ind. team possessed.
During the offseason prior to the start of the 2021 campaign, the team‘s initial plans were to have Seavey compete solely on the dirt side of the equation. However, mere weeks before the season opener on the pavement of Brownsburg‘s Lucas Oil Raceway in late May, a pavement car was added to the team‘s arsenal, setting the course for an assault on the series championship.
“We got all the pavement stuff from (team owner) Ted Finkenbinder,” Rice revealed. “He‘s such a nice guy and a diehard racer. Without his continued support, the pavement wouldn‘t have happened. He‘s been very patient.”
A miniscule level of pavement experience presented a continuous learning curve throughout the season, with a crew consisting of Rice, who last appeared on the pavement as a USAC Sprint Car driver in 2001, and crew member Ronnie Gardner, the five-time USAC Western States Midget titlist who won all 23 of his series races on the dirt. Plus, there was Seavey, whose open wheel experience on the asphalt was zilch.
As expected, the team excelled on the dirt in 2021, capturing both Rice‘s and Seavey‘s first triumphs with the series by winning twice on the half-mile ovals of Pennsylvania‘s Selinsgrove Speedway in August‘s Bill Holland Classic and once more at Ohio‘s Eldora Speedway in September‘s 4-Crown Nationals, while adding a pair of second place results on the Illinois miles of Springfield and Du Quoin in August and September, respectively.
On the pavement, the expectations were tempered, but the team excelled in that area with steady and realistic goals in mind — to finish, to be there at the end. That aspiration was checked off with the team finishing all four paved events to completion while completing all but five of the 400 laps run this season.
“We really wanted to concentrate on the dirt this year and get a win and we accomplished that,” Rice explained. “We also just wanted to finish all the laps on the pavement, and we did that also. We accomplished our main goals this year, so that‘s great. Logan got some laps and got some experience. Ronnie (Gardner) and I got some experience in the shop as well, so we‘ll be ready to hit it again next year.”
Officially licensed as No. 222, Rice Motorsports became the highest-numbered car to score the USAC Silver Crown entrant title, surpassing the No. 111 which Snider-Foyt Racing utilized during the 1999 season. Furthermore, Rice Motorsports‘ 109-point gap between themselves and second place BCR Group was 109 points, the largest margin of victory in the entrant standings since 2015.
Like Kody Swanson‘s driving championship season, Rice Motorsports‘ entrant title initially wasn‘t in the plans. With a Rookie driver and a relatively new Silver Crown team with just three prior races under its belt entering the year, it just proves what big things can be accomplished when a small, but dedicated group puts it together to fulfill a dream.
“I think we surprised ourselves a little bit,” Rice admitted. “I just wish my dad was here. It was his favorite division of all, and to do this with Ronnie and Logan, it‘s been special.”