Springfield, IL (August 14, 2016)-While the focus on potential front runners for the Bettenhausen 100 USAC Silver Crown race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds has been primarily on the men who steer the machines car owners who are from the central part of the Prairie State are shooting for an appearance in victory lane on Saturday, August 20 as well. No less than four and perhaps as many as ten machines owned by teams from central Illinois are expected to be on the grounds for the 55th Bettenhausen 100.
Central Illinois has always been an auto racing ‘hotbed’ with numerous tracks located in various cities. Some like Fairbury, Macon, Danville and Jacksonville are still operational while others like Springfield Speedway, Champaign Motor Speedway and Shepp’s Speedway are long gone. When troops returned home from World War II many race tracks sprung up in central Illinois to accommodate midget and stock car racing. It was only natural that race car owners and drivers would also come from the central part of the state, some of whom moved on to national circuits as owners and drivers of sprint cars, midgets, stock cars and championship (Indy) cars. Springfield’s Bessie Lee Paoli fielded championship cars for Chuck Stevenson at a time women were not allowed in the pit area. Normal’s Bill Hendren has been trying since the mid 1970’s for a USAC or ARCA stock car win at Springfield.
Decatur’s David Hardy and Springfield’s Dennis McQuinn are much like Hendren. Each is a loyal follower of the USAC Silver Crown Series and each has fielded cars for a number of years at the Illinois State Fair in search of a victory. Hardy was associated with Forsyth’s Butch Garner in the USAC and ARCA stock cars that the popular Garner ran throughout the Midwest. Garner won numerous short track late model events but was unable to capture the grand prize for Hardy, a victory at Springfield. Hardy left the sport but returned in 2011 partnering with his sons to form the Hardy Boys racing team. As second generation driver Shane Cockrum gained experience in the Hardy dirt cars the team upgraded their equipment and by 2014 they were a serious threat to win on the dirt miles. A practice crash at Springfield hindered their 2014 run but they pulled off a popular victory at DuQuoin later in the year. Last year in a car purchased from Tony Stewart, Cockrum led the first 41 miles of the Bettenhausen 100 before tire issues dropped him from contention. Again the team rebounded winning a second straight Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin.
McQuinn’s history goes back to days of sprint cars at the defunct Springfield Speedway wrenching cars for popular Dean Shirley and Jerry Russell. The first time a McQuinn owned entry appears at Springfield looks to be 1990 with Russell at the wheel. Over the years Johnny Parsons, Dave Darland, Jarrett Andretti, Brady Bacon, Chase Stockon and Steven Russell have wheeled McQuinn race cars. Four-time Bettenhausen 100 winner Brian Tyler was slated to Drive for McQuinn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May but Canton’s Chris Windom substituted and drove to 5th. It is possible that McQuinn will field 2 cars at Springfield.
Springfield’s Moughan Racing and Bland Brothers are relatively new to Silver Crown ownership but not new to the sport. Joey Moughan is a third generation driver following in the footsteps of grandfather Jim Sr. who ran sprint cars and stock cars and Jim Jr. who ran sprint cars and Silver Crown cars. Like Joey Moughan, J.C. Bland cut his teeth in the local sprint car scene joining the Silver Crown series last season in a car painted to resemble A.J. Foyt’s 1960 Bowes Seal Fast Special.
Galesburg’s Don Fike put a Bettenhausen 100 trophy on his mantle in 2012 after nearly ten seasons of trying courtesy of son A.J.’s long awaited trip to victory lane. A.J. followed up with a repeat win in 2013 on a track he terms his “home track, one I want to win on more than anything”. Not only has A.J. won two Bettenhausen races he became just the fifth driver in Illinois State Fair history with a dirt car and stock car victory winning the Allen Crowe 100 last year.
Two other potential entrants within shouting distance of Springfield are Decatur’s Terry Babb and Elkhart’s Chris Urish. Babb is a long-time open wheel campaigner in USAC, POWRI and local sprint car events while Urish won the 2013 Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin and runs selected USAC and MOWA sprint car races when not working in farm fields.
USAC Silver Crown car owners from other parts of Illinois exist as well. Murphysboro’s Patty Bateman is the listed entrant for the machine formerly driven by husband Randy and now occupied by Casey Shuman while Edwardsville’s Pat Lawson and Granite City’s Tad Roach pilot machines they own.
The 55th Bettenhausen 100 is part of a two day race on the last weekend of the Illinois State Fair that features USAC Silver Crown championship dirt cars Saturday and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on Sunday. On Saturday, August 20 registration and pits will open at 7:00 AM, grandstands and ticket office at 9:00, Silver Crown practice at 10:00, qualifying at 11:30, UMP Sportsman hot laps at 12:00 noon, Silver Crown semi at 12:30, UMP Sportsman heats at 1:00, and the Bettenhausen 100 at 2:00.
By Jay Hardin Track Enterprises Staff