Not too often can one take a weekend jaunt and cover lots of ground, not to mention the miles. This upcoming 2016 Labor Day holiday is one to anticipate and, hopefully, remember. I get to enjoy two of my favorite passions. One is going to a pair of what should be two great races at two great facilities. The other can be called grandfather time, an occasion to watch a baby grow into a toddler, maybe hold her for awhile (if she allows—she’s getting more mobile) and say hello to her parents as well, of course.
Saturday afternoon should find me wandering around the pits at the Magic Mile, the gracefully aging one mile dirt oval at the Illinois State Fair/Du Quoin. The first automobile race at Du Quoin was held 70 years ago, a sprint car race won by Sprint Car Hall of Fame member Jimmy Wilburn. Two years later open wheel standout Ted Horn was killed at Du Quoin. This weekend’s race does a lot to keep Horn’s memory alive.
The Horn Memorial entry list contains past winners Brian Tyler (2008), Jeff Swindell (1990), Kody Swanson (2010), Shane Cockrum (2014 and 2015), Chris Urish (2013) and Shane Cottle (2007). 36 cars are entered for the Saturday night race, the highest number of entries in many years.
Dave Darland has 19 starts, more than anyone else entered. Tyler and Jerry Coons Jr. each have taken the green flag 15 times.
Half of the 36 are residents of Illinois and Indiana, with the Illini State presenting ten of its own.
Four rookies will attempt to start; all four are known to Midwest sprint car fans. Three are Hoosiers, Dakota Jackson, Joe Ligouri and Matt Goodnight. Hunter Schuerenberg hails from Sikeston, Missouri.
Granddaughter time is planned between races. After playtime with her on Sunday afternoon, I hope to be heading south down U.S. 41 to Tri-State Speedway, where sprints will dominate. The non-wing MSCS and the winged MOWA sprinters are two thirds of the show with UMP mods also on Tom Helfrich’s quarter mile oval. The Midwest Open Wheel wingers are a makeup date from an earlier rainout.
Kyle Cummins won this race last year and Jon Stanbrough in 2014. Daron Clayton has won it three times, Hunter Schuerenberg twice.
Jerrod Hull is the MOWA point leader, 58 points ahead of Parker Price-Miller. MOWA feature winners this year include Price-Miller, Hull, A.J. Bruns, Zach Daum and Bill Balog.
History, of both race tracks and sanctioning bodies, is an underappreciated part of open wheel rsacing culture. Like any other history, collecting data is a never ending challenge. Over time race tracks have not been as diligent as they could be in keeping and maintaining coherent records. Some sanctioning bodies are the same, even though USAC is a shining exception.
As time passes, myths, legends and facts mix together to create stories, the life blood of not only racing but our society. On Saturday evening as I turn my gaze across the beautifully maintained Du Quoin oval, it can be easy to take myself back 40 or 50 years. We look back and think of racers who powered their way around the track. We marvel at the memories and declare that surely “there were giants on the earth in those days” of Biblical proportions.
But as we look at Du Quoin through 2016 eyes, as it were, let us acknowledge that there are giants in our presence this coming weekend, people with names like Swanson, Cockrum, Darland, Tyler and Coons. Our succeeding generation of fans will look upon these gentlemen as we look back to the Foyts, Andrettis, Bransons and Unsers. Today’s giants deserve their place in the history books and our memories.
The same applies to Tri-State Speedway @Haubstadt. Its history may not be a lengthy or storied but it has its share of giants, past and present.
As we celebrate our blessings on this very underrated holiday weekend, such as family, the life of Bran Clauson, race tracks such as Du Quoin and Tri-State, and the opportunity to see giants of racing test themselves against the elements and each other, let us live in the moment as much as we can. Let us enjoy our passion, cheering or, if you are like me, just marveling and admiring how these people do what they do. And, let us enjoy and appreciate the other blessings, those that come in small packages and grow up before you know it.
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