ERIE, Mich. — Historical items seem to have a habit of finding their way into the hands of the appropriate person.
In this particular instance, the historical item was a Silver Crown car built by Grant King and driven by the legendary A.J. Foyt between 1974 and ’77. For the longest time the car was owned by Jerry Nemire, who had driven it between 1981 and ’85 before retiring it from competition.
Now the car, restored back to its former glory by Nemire, is in the hands of three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.
How the car came to be in Stewart’s hands is an incredible story.
After Foyt drove it, the car was owned by Sherman Armstrong, who fielded it for drivers including Tom Bigelow and Greg Leffler. According to Nemire’s son Kenny, in 1981 Mike Sering purchased the car and hired Bill Compton to drive.
That driver/owner paring didn’t last long.
“Bill Compton started driving it and didn’t do so well in it,” Kenny Nemire explained. “Mike said you’re not getting the job, you’re fired, more or less. My dad was wrenching the car because Bill had come to my dad to wrench the car. Mike said, well, we need to hire a driver and he asked if my dad wanted to drive it.
“My dad said: ‘No, I don’t want to do that to Bill. I was hired to wrench it and that’s what I’m going to do.’ So finally Mike said: ‘Hey, we’re going to hire somebody, or do you want to run it?’ So my dad said that he would run it.”
Jerry Nemire took over driving duties of the car and was fairly successful in it, earning rookie-of-the-race honors in the 1981 Hoosier Hundred. Jerry Nemire eventually took full ownership of the car sometime in the 1980s. After he stopped driving it, the car was put in storage.
Fast-forward to four years ago and Jerry Nemire decided that after more than 20 years, he wanted to pull the old Silver Crown car out of storage and restore it to how it looked when Foyt drove it.
“Our family and a few friends thrashed to put it together real quick and painted it because he wanted to take it to the Hoosier Hundred,” Kenny Nemire said. “The car is basically all restored back to the way it came when Foyt had it. It has the original bumpers, actually the rear bumper is still the same chrome from 1974. It has the original upholstery. I think the only thing they put on it that isn’t original is the rear brakes.”
Shortly after Jerry Nemire completed the restoration, Stewart became aware of it and fell in love with the car. Foyt is Stewart’s racing hero and he said it would mean the world to him to own it.
“To have the opportunity to have a piece of history from my hero like that, that’s not just another uniform or an autograph. To have a car that was so beautifully restored that was a car that my hero had ran, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Stewart said.
Stewart explained he became aware of the car through a magazine article and he later saw Jerry Nemire at a race track, where they spoke about the idea of Stewart acquiring it.