USAC Silver Crown: Tony Bettenhausen 100 Rolls for Second Shot on Sunday

RaceChaser Staff Dirt Track Racing, Midwest, Sprints & Midgets, USAC 0 Comments

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – official release — Sunday’s rescheduled Tony Bettenhausen 100 USAC Silver Crown Series race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield marks the 80th anniversary of the first 100-mile national championship dirt track race on the storied 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 could be a battle of drivers from various parts of the Prairie State. The field was set to take the green flag on August 16 when rains forced a postponement.

“Illini Pride” has swelled the entry list this year with at least 7 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 Springfield Mile.

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.

Fike’s main challengers could come from Benton and Canton respectively. Franklin County native Shane Cockrum, a second generation driver, sent southern Illinois into a frenzy when he became the first driver from the deep south to post a 100-mile race win at DuQuoin, winning the Ted Horn 100 on Aug. 31.

Canton’s Chris Windom led three laps late at DuQuoin but crashed with just 11 laps to go. Windom led 85 laps of last year’s race at Springfield before surrendering the lead to Fike and led late 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.

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.

Other Illinois drivers expected include thirty year series veteran Randy Bateman of Murphysboro and Patrick Lawson of Edwardsville.

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, one for Oklahoma hotshoe Brady Bacon and the other 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. Bacon gained a third for McQuinn at DuQuoin, the 17-year-old Russel finished 10th.

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