DUQUOIN, Ill. – official release — TJ Crawford photo — Shane Cockrum of nearby Benton, Ill., became the first Southern Illinois driver to win the Ted Horn 100 as he came out on top of a wild USAC Silver Crown Series race Sunday night at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
It was the first USAC win of any kind for Cockrum, who has been active in all three National divisions.
“I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet that I’m a USAC winner. It’s great to represent southern Illinois and be able to put it on the front stretch at the end of the Ted Horn 100. It just couldn’t be any better feeling than right now,” Cockrum said.
The win for Cockrum came after a wild race. Bobby East took the lead at the start after securing the pole earlier in the day. Point leader Kody Swanson stayed with East early on, using a pick of a slower car down the front stretch on lap nine to grab the lead. Swanson, East and Dave Darland formed a three-car breakaway early in the race as they opened up a huge advantage over the rest of the field.
A caution on lap 16 for C.J. Leary brought the field back to them and East took advantage. He stayed glued to Swanson’s bumper as they again encountered slower traffic. East slid past for the lead on lap 32 and brought Darland along with him, dropping Swanson to third.
Just after, Caleb Armstrong stopped to bring out a caution on lap 34. Under the yellow, fourth-running Zach Daum first visited the pits to change a flat tire and then leader East pitted with suspension issues. Both cars returned, although Daum lost a lap in the process.
Darland led as Cockrum moved past Swanson for the second spot just as they hit the halfway mark, with Jerry Coons Jr. and a hard-charging Chris Windom, up from his 22nd starting spot, completing the top five.
East brought out a yellow just a couple laps later as Swanson also had issues after an encounter up in the rough stuff above the cushion. East returned a lap down, while Swanson came back out in attempt to salvage some points, six laps down to the leaders.
Darland led on the restart with 44 laps to go, but Cockrum immediately jumped on the opportunity and grabbed the point on lap 57. Coons followed him to take the second spot away from Darland, leading to a spirited battle between those two for the runner-up spot that culminated with a crash on lap 65 which put Darland upside-down and involved Coons and Levi Jones. Coons and Jones both were able to make repairs under red flag and resume the race. Darland was uninjured but done for the event.
Cockrum led Windom as they went green with 36 laps to go, and Windom kept up the pressure to Cockrum’s outside. With under 20 laps remaining, those two pulled away and Windom was ramping up the pressure, nearly pulling even with Cockrum off turn two on lap 84. Just three laps later, Windom was back with a vengeanace and hit the top side in turn-two to grab the lead.
Windom quickly pulled away and appeared to be well on his way to his second-career series victory, but heartbreak struck him again as he crashed while running the cushion through turns one and two on lap 91.
Cockrum led the field back to green with 11 laps to go, and he pulled away from second-running Tracy Hines until Coons shredded a left-rear tire with just two laps to go while running third.
That set up a final two-lap dash to the checkers, but the only battling was going on behind Cockrum, who escaped the pack to race off to his first victory aboard the Hardy Boys Racing – Marion Underground Construction No. 66 Beast/Foxco.
“We had a few challenges throughout, but we know it’s a 100-mile race. Our car was good regardless of how much we pushed it. Windom came after us late, and I really hated to see him go by us. I saw he had a sketchy line up there, especially on entry, and his bad luck ended up benefitting us. I was trying to pace myself, but my car was definitely better when we could go hard,” Cockrum said.
In a wild race to the checkers, Hines slowed over the final lap, allowing Jones to slip past for the runner-up spot in an improbable return from his earlier issues after being caught up in the lap-65 red that saw him spin up against the outside concrete. His team made repairs and soldiered home with a bent-up tailtank on the Foxco Racing – Great Clips No. 56 Beast/Foxco. It was Jones’ first dirt Silver Crown start since winning the Hoosier Hundred in May of 2013.
“I just made a mistake trying to avoid the crash, clipped the inside guardrail and spun it around into the fence. I figured we were done, but it’s a testament to the Fox family – they build a car that stands up to that and can go 100 miles. I’m excited for Shane Cockrum and all his guys to be able to win this race. I got to help those guys a little bit last year, and I know they’ve got to enjoy that,” Jones said.
Brady Bacon, who had raced into the top-five before running short of fuel over the final few laps, pitted during the yellow with two laps to go and came back in a furied charge to nab the final podium spot off the final corner in the McQuinn Motorsports – Cashless Racing No. 14 Eagle/Chevy.
“We were having some issues with fuel, but it had gotten pretty bad before the last yellow. We were really good those last two laps, though. We struggled early in the race, but after the fuel burned off some, our car got quite a bit better. The top got pretty treacherous, so I was making sure I did everything to be able to finish,” Bacon said.
Hines held on to finish fourth in the Lightfoot Racing – Hughs Brothers No. 16 Beast/Chevy, closing Swanson’s point lead to nineteen markers entering next Sunday’s Tony Bettenhausen 100 in Springfield, Ill. A.J. Fike wound up fifth in the RFMS Racing – H.E. Mitchell Construction No. 3 Beast/Foxco.