DuQuoin, IL (September 1, 2015)-by Jay Hardin Track Enterprises
When A.J. Fike drove to victory lane in the SuperChevyStores.com-Allen Crowe 100 ARCA Racing Series event at the Illinois State Fair two weeks ago, he walked into the auto racing history books in front of a live TV audience as one of a select group of racing drivers who have displayed a versatility seldom seen in today’s age. The 35 year old Galesburg, Illinois native became just the fifth driver in the long history of racing on the Springfield Mile to win races in both a USAC dirt championship car and a full bodied stock car and the first driver to join that exclusive club in 36 years! With that in mind a look was taken at the DuQuoin State Fair history books to see who was part of the club of ‘double duty’ racers.
A.J. joined namesake A.J. Foyt, Len Sutton, Al Unser and Roger McCluskey as the only drivers to win in stock car and dirt car competition in the state capitol. Unser is the only driver to win both on the same weekend (1972) and Foyt himself was the last to join the club when he won the 1979 Allen Crowe 100 USAC Stock Car event after 4 previous victories in the Tony Bettenhausen 100 dirt car race.
When it comes to racing more than one vehicle on the last weekend of the DuQuoin State Fair, 33 men since 1950 have tried to win both the Ted Horn 100 and the Southern Illinois stock car event on the same weekend, yet no one has swept both days. In fact, Jimmy Bryan and A.J. Foyt are the only two to post a dirt car and stock car victory on the “Magic Mile”. Bryan won the Ted Horn 100 in 1955-56 and won one of two stock car races held in 1957. Foyt, a six time winner of the Ted Horn 100 dirt car race, gained his lone stock car win at DuQuoin in 1969.
A double was attempted many times beginning in the early 1950’s but it did not always involve a combination of dirt cars and stock cars. At various times from 1954 through 1972 a third event would be held on DuQuoin’s race weekend, usually in the form of sprint cars or midgets. As a result many of the same drivers who would enter the Ted Horn 100, would moonlight in the sprint cars or midgets. In something of a surprise research indicates that the number of drivers who made the main event in sprint cars and championship dirt cars exceeds the number who made main events in midgets and championship dirt cars at the southern Illinois oval. The double nearly went away in the 1970’s and during the 1980’s just two drivers, Ken Schrader and Tom Bigelow were able to make the starting field in both events.
Jerry Nemire revived the tradition in 2003 and since then only once (2011) has no driver made the starting lineup for the Horn 100 and the Southern Illinois 100.
In 1954 Chuck Stevenson was the first driver to attempt the double, his feat made even more difficult by his entry in the AAA Sprint Car race held during the weekend making him the first to attempt a “DuQuoin Triple”. The “DuQuoin Triple” is even more difficult than the double, just ten men since 1950 have attempted three different events on the last weekend of the fair. Prior to 2004, Danville, Illinois barber, politician and future Indy 500 starter Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon was the last driver to run three different events, making the main in midgets, stock cars and the dirt car race. The fair eventually went back to just two events in the 1970’s and three events did not return until 1994 with the Oldani Memorial UMP Modified event added to the last weekend of the fair. A.J. Fike himself stepped into history in 2004 when he entered the “Triple Club” making the Ted Horn 100, the Southern Illinois 100 and the Oldani Memorial feature.
Fike returns to DuQuoin as a favorite to pull off what has been impossible, win both the Horn 100 and the Federated-Southern Illinois 100. He will be one of two drivers attempting the weekend double. The recently appointed fire chief of Benton, Illinois, Shane Cockrum returns to the site of his triumphant 2014 Ted Horn 100 victory and is a potential dark horse in the Southern Illinois 100 driving the last race for the Brad Hill Motorsports crew. Car owner Brad Hill of West Frankfort passed away over the winter and a group of southern Illinoisans are running the car as a tribute to Hill.
The Ted Horn 100 is Sunday night, September 6 while the Federated-Southern Illinois 100 takes place on Labor Day at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.