Homestead: Pierce - USAC spotlight

PIERCE READY TO AIM FOR HOMESTEAD VICTORY INDIANAPOLIS -- Aaron Pierce showed in 2006 what it took to run well in front of the top names in American motorsports. With two victories in USAC Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Engineering ...

PIERCE READY TO AIM FOR HOMESTEAD VICTORY

INDIANAPOLIS -- Aaron Pierce showed in 2006 what it took to run well in front of the top names in American motorsports.

With two victories in USAC Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Engineering competition during NASCAR Nextel Cup Series weekends last season, Pierce hopes to back that up next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida when the series tackles its first pavement track of 2007.

The series will run with the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series for the 22nd time since 1999 and for the first of two times this season (Richmond being the other in June).

Like many drivers, Pierce, driving the No. 26 Sam Pierce Chevrolet/Kroger-Tide-Bounty-Pringles/Valvoline Riley/Chevy, looks forward to getting back on the pavement after the series opened on dirt at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz., where Pierce now resides. Though he prefers paved tracks, Pierce scored a seventh-place on the half-mile, and also owns seventh in the current point standings.

"With the team and car we've got now, we're lined up to win this championship," Pierce said. "(Crew chief) Brad (Brewer) and I match up well, and he's really helping me, as are other crewmembers Chuck Castor, Brandon Whetsel and of course my dad."

Not only did Pierce hold the checkered flag after those races at Chicagoland and Kansas Speedways, but he also was the polesitter in those races. His first pole of the season, which came in a series record run of 175.012 mph at Homestead, was in front of the IRL contingent. It also marked the first time the former Muncie, Ind. native led laps in the series, one of five races he led on the season.

"All the mile-and-a-half tracks, I just like those tracks," Pierce said. "They are so fast, and you have to get into the corner really hard. They fit my driving style the best. I like the shorter tracks, but on those longer tracks, you have to carry so much momentum, and I like that a lot. The corners are sweeping, and it takes a lot to go in there. We've tried a baseline setup at Homestead, and done well at other tracks, too.

"You've got to save your tires and your car," Pierce continued. "Racing for the first 20 laps isn't going to do anything for you. I challenged them at the beginning but had to hold myself back at the end. That's what helped me be there at the end. We race Homestead the same way we do everywhere else; you just have to save your equipment."

The Homestead race is the first of nine pavement races on the USAC Silver Crown Series schedule, following recent announces of the series debuts at Darlington Raceway and New Hampshire International Speedway. The race also marks what Pierce hopes will be a climb to the top of the point standings and eventually a USAC Silver Crown championship.

Outside the team's seventh-place finish at Manzanita, Pierce is on the right track. He was the fastest on all five days of tests Feb. 26-March 2 at Homestead and Darlington. He was the only car that took practice time on three separate days at Darlington, thus proving his high intentions to improve on last year's career-best third-place point finish.

"Those tests went very well," Pierce said. "We changed some stuff on the car, and got a new engine package to see how it was going to work out.

"We had some problems, but we got all of those issues fixed, so now we're ready for the race at Homestead," he continued. "The test at Homestead went well. I think we have some things left

-credit: usac

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Series USAC
Drivers Aaron Pierce