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Greenfield's CJ Leary moves up in USAC

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GREENFIELD — Two of the more accomplished local short track drivers in recent memory have combined for what they hope is one winning partnership.
Greenfield’s CJ Leary has joined fellow Greenfield native Brad Armstrong and Team 6-R Racing for the remainder of the USAC Silver Crown Series, beginning next week in the J.D. Byrider 100 at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Tenth this season in the USAC Sprint Car points standings in a family-funded operation, Leary will make his career Silver Crown debut in practice on Monday for 6-R, of which Armstrong is a co-owner. The J.D. Byrider 100, the most prestigious event on the Silver Crown docket, is Thursday.
“I’m not that nervous,” Leary, 18, said of his transition from dirt tracks. “I’m sure it will be different, but I have quite a bit of pavement experience. I ran CRA Late Models for a season so I think that will help me out for a lot in this deal.
“The test (Monday) will be my first time in the car, but I see no reason we shouldn’t run in the top five.”
Armstrong appreciates Leary’s confidence. Armstrong, 43, raced many of the same dirt and asphalt courses that Leary has come to master.
Including sprint cars, midgets, karts and late models, Leary has found victory lane in scores of events in his decade of competitive racing. In the past three years, Leary has 25 midget car wins and five sprint victories.
 “He’s really an up-and-comer,” Armstrong said. “He’s doing well in USAC sprint cars, top 10 in points. He’s an 18-year-old kid, on the way up. His career is definitely ascending, and we like that.”
Armstrong, currently the Hancock County Commissioner, drove for 20 years on the sprint and Silver Crown circuits before retiring four years ago.
He owned a sprint car team at the time he retired, and Armstrong merged that operation with 6-R, which is headed by Darryl Guiducci out of Zionsville.
“Its rewarding,” Armstrong said of being solely a car owner. “I thoroughly miss racing, but I’m 43-years-old and it’s just not prudent. It’s kind of a risk vs. reward thing.
“And it’s neat to take kids and hopefully help them as they’re going up through their career.”
Armstrong has known Leary since he was, indeed, a kid, having raced against Chuck Leary for years before they both retired. 
Chuck Leary is CJ’s dad and, along with wife Tammi, owner of Leary Construction – CJ’s primary sprint car sponsor.
“It’s kind of come full circle,” Armstrong noted. “Chuck and I raced together in the Silver Crown Series. Hopefully we can go places with this, and build on the success CJ’s already had.”
The USAC Silver Crown Series is often a jumping off point to ARCA and the NASCAR Truck and Nationwide Series. NASCAR vets Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, J.J. Yeley and Carl Edwards have come through the Silver Crown Series.
On hand for the J.D. Byrider 100 will be two entries for Tony Stewart’s race team: cars driven by former USAC champ and NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader and defending series champ Bobby East.
New Castle’s Tracy Hines, the winningest USAC driver in Lucas Oil Raceway history, will also compete.
The late Jason Leffler holds the one-lap qualifying record of 121.667 miles per hour on the .686-mile paved oval.
CJ Leary understands the importance of the event, and the remainder of Silver Crown races this season.
“Me and my dad have been trying the last couple years to move up the ladder, and Darryl’s given us this opportunity to move forward,” said Leary, who is on track to graduate early from Greenfield-Central after the first semester. “We’re hoping this is the right direction to go.”
Leary said he’ll race on both the sprint and Silver Crown circuits the rest of the year.
Stepping into a Silver Crown car for the first time, some drivers might be content to play it safe. In fact, that’s what 6-R handlers have cautioned Leary heading into next week.
Leary, like any good racer, is only focused on passing.
“Their main thing is they just want to finish the race and keep the car in one piece, but I have a little bit higher standards,” Leary said. “I want to run in the top five. I want people to notice me and see my talent.”
Part of Leary’s aggressiveness comes from a palpable internal clock that every driver is aware of. If, in two or three years, Leary hasn’t made it into one of the sanctioned NASCAR or IndyCar feeder series, his time may be up.
“Normally, if you’re going to make it you’re going to make it by 21, 22-years-old,” he said. “That’s kind of the breaking point anymore.
“At that point, I’d have to maybe think about taking over the family business or go to college. But the main goal is to make this racing deal work. That’s what I’ve worked for the past 10 years of my life. I want to make something out of it.” 

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