80th Anniversary Illinois State Fair
Championship Race Illini Proud!
By Jay Hardin Track Enterprises Staff
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[August 14, 2014]
- Saturday’s Tony Bettenhausen 100 USAC Silver Crown race at the
Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield marks the 80th anniversary
of the first 100-mile national championship dirt track race on the
stories ‘Springfield Mile’. That first event featured two-man
Indianapolis cars and was won by the popular Billy Winn, who would
win the second one as well. As the late Tony Bettenhausen of Tinley
Park is remembered this year, along with members of the Bettenhausen
racing family, the 53rd Bettenhausen 100 is marked by the largest
Springfield entry list in seven years as evidenced by the large
number of Illinois participants in the field.
“Illini Pride” has swelled the entry list this year with at least
8 drivers entered from the home state, plus an owner with two
machines expected and yet another driver or owner perhaps in the mix
to attempt to conquer the World’s Fastest Mile Dirt Track.
The Illinois contingent is led by two-time defending Bettenhausen
100 winner A.J. Fike of Galesburg in a machine owned by his father
Don. A.J. nearly pulled off the impossible last year by winning on
Saturday and then nearly winning the Allen Crowe 100 stock car race
on Sunday, a feat performed only by Al Unser in 1972. Fike became
the first home state driver in 29 years to win the Bettenhausen in
2012, the last before Fike was Gary Bettenhausen, the eldest son of
Tony and also a Tinley Park native. Gary, who won his father’s race
in 1978 and 1983, passed away earlier this year at the age of 72.
Another contender from the Prairie State is Canton’s Chris Windom in
the RW Motorsports entry. Windom led 85 laps of last year’s race at
Springfield before surrendering the lead to Fike and led lat at
DuQuoin two weeks later before running out of fuel. He did score his
first win in the mighty uprights at Eldora in the USAC Silver Crown
finale last year.
Yet a third Illinois driver could join Fike and Windom as Silver
Crown victors and drivers pulling double duty over the weekend.
Benton’s Shane Cockrum qualified fourth at Springfield last year
after a practice crash and was in contention for a victory at
DuQuoin until the car ran low on fuel. He, like Fike and Windom,
should have an ARCA ride for Sunday as well.
Two other contenders from Illinois already have impressive resume’s
in and out of the series. Pocahontas driver Zach Daum was the 2009
USAC Rookie of the Year and is a former Powri midget champion.
Elkhart’s Chris Urish scored an upset win at DuQuoin last Labor Day
weekend and the driver should have plenty of fan support Saturday
from his native Logan county.
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Other Illinois drivers expected include series veteran Randy
Bateman of Murphysboro, Patrick Lawson of Edwardsville, Tiffany
Wyzard of WIlliamsville and Jerry Bruce of Benton. Another
possible entrant is Chris Fetter of DuQuoin who purchased not
one but two of the machines over the winter.
Springfield’s Dennis McQuinn is a long time crew chief and car
owner who provided cars for capitol city native Donnie Beechler.
McQuinn is expected to return with two cars this year, one for
Oklahoma hotshoe Brady Bacon and the other rumored for third
generation driver Steven Russell. Frequent entrant Ricky Nix of
Benton is thought to be considering a series return with an as
yet to be named driver.
Should the stars align one third of Saturday’s field will come
from the home soil, a fact not lost on promoter Bob Sargent of
Track Enterprises who greatly appreciates the support of the
home contingent. “I really appreciate the support of all the
competitors, drivers or car owners who call Illinois home.”
“They add a lot of local flavor to the two Illinois dirt miles,
they appreciate the history and what it means to compete on one
of these historic tracks and they draw a lot of attention to our
Fans wishing to see their local favorites should not wait until
the last minute to arrive at the Illinois State Fair on
Saturday. Practice for the Silver Crown Championship dirt cars
starts at 9 a.m. with qualifications at 10:25 and the 53rd
Bettenhausen 100 at around 1:30.
[Text received; TRACK ENTERPRISES]