Bryan Clauson and Brady Bacon, two of America’s most talented open-wheel stars, are the latest drivers to join the field for this Saturday’s “Tony Bettenhausen 100” USAC Silver Crown race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
The expected field which could be the largest on dirt in three years will take the track for practice at 9 am Saturday, with a 100-mile race concluding the day’s activities. The race is celebrating 80 years, having debuted in 1934, making it one of America’s longest-running motorsports traditions.
Clauson, of Noblesville, Ind., will return to the series for the first time in two years piloting an entry fielded by long-time car owner Gene Nolen of Edinburgh, Ind., who has also returned to the series after a brief absence. Clauson’s last Silver Crown appearance was in October of 2012. Clauson’s two previous series victories came in 2010 and 2012 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio and he was the 2010 series “Rookie of the Year.”
Bacon, of Broken Arrow, Okla., will make his series debut at Springfield piloting a car entered by Springfield natives Dennis and Dave McQuinn. Bacon currently stands second in the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car standings going into the August 21-23 “Sprint Car Smackdown” at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway. McQuinn, a long-time series participant, will be seeking his first series win Saturday.
Guiding Clauson’s effort will be long-time chief mechanic and car owner Keith Kunz of Columbus, Ind., whose driver Cole Whitt won at Springfield in 2009 and Kyle Larson won at DuQuoin, Ill. in 2010. Kunz’ Midget team is coming off a resounding victory by Rico Abreu at the famed Belleville (Kans.) Midget Nationals.
Clauson, who qualified for the Indy 500 in 2012, is also expected to race in the POWRi midget programs at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway Friday and Macon (Ill.) Speedway Saturday. The POWRi show at Macon Speedway is highlighted by double features in POWRi midgets. Between the USAC and POWRi shows, it’s an all-star open wheel weekend.
Two-time Springfield winner (2012-2013) A.J. Fike will have his work cut out for him Saturday if he plans to become the second driver in 80 years to score a third straight victory. Chuck Gurney was the first in 1989-1990-1991.
Challengers in addition to Clauson and Bacon include the following drivers who all have previous USAC National race wins in various series: Zach Daum, Jacob Wilson, Caleb Armstrong, Bobby East, Tracy Hines, Chris Windom, Dave Darland, Davey Ray, Russ Gamester, Jon Stanbrough, Kody Swanson, Chris Urish, John Heydenreich, Jerry Coons Jr. and Christopher Bell.
Swanson currently leads the Silver Crown standings and has won all three previous 2104 races on dirt. Urish won last year’s 100-miler at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds and Tracy Hines holds the one-lap Springfield track qualifying record of 122.846 mph.
2014 USAC Silver Crown Standings:
1-Kody Swanson-345, 2-Tracy Hines-300, 3-Bobby East-291, 4-Chris Windom-243, 5-Jacob Wilson-195, 6-Jerry Coons Jr.-177, 7-Tanner Swanson-165, 8-Bobby Santos-159, 9-Caleb Armtsrong-155, 10-David Byrne-147.