By Jay Hardin
Track Enterprises Staff
August 21, 2018-(DuQuoin, IL)-Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois has the proverbial broom ready as he tries for the “Illinois Sweep” in the USAC Silver Crown Series as the big cars make their way to DuQuoin for the annual Ted Horn 100. The 2016 Silver Crown champion led the final 9 miles of the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield and joined Don Branson and A.J. Fike as the only drivers from central Illinois to win a Bettenhausen 100. Windom, who won at DuQuoin in his championship season, could become the 15th man in 70 years to sweep the championship races at Springfield and DuQuoin.
At Springfield Windom started 13th and made his way toward the front of the field eventually biding his time and riding behind leaders Tyler Courtney, Kevin Thomas Jr. and defending race winner Justin Grant for the better part of 90 miles. On lap 92 Windom sailed into the lead and began pulling away from Thomas Jr. en route to his first Bettenhausen victory. In doing so he stopped the 5-race win streak of USAC point leader Kody Swanson and gave car owner Gene Nolen his first win on the Springfield mile. Nolen joins a list that includes Al Dean, Vel Miletich and Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Bob Bowes, Bob Wilkie, Ray (Junior) Kurtz, Bob Hampshire, Ralph Depalma and Bob East of entrants who fielded winning cars on all three dirt miles.
Windom told the crowd in the Springfield post-race interview that he knew “the car was good enough to win the whole race.” I’ve run enough of these races now and the pace they were running, wasn’t going to be the pace I could run the last ten laps.” “I just saved the car; the cautions came out like we needed and it worked out in our favor.” With the victory Windom became the seventh driver from Illinois to win a championship race at Springfield since the first event in 1934. Others in addition to Branson and Fike were Tony and Gary Bettenhausen, Emil Andres and Paul Russo.
At DuQuoin Windom will be trying for the 23rd Illinois mile sweep since the DuQuoin “Magic Mile” joined the national championship lineup in 1948. Tony Bettenhausen first turned the trick in 1951, A.J. Foyt, Jack Hewitt and Chuck Gurney each pulled off the sweep three times, Jimmy Bryan and Mario Andretti did so twice. The last driver to sweep the Illinois dirt miles was Brian Tyler in 2008.
Windom’s experience at DuQuoin should make him one of the favorites coming into the Ted Horn 100. He led 17 laps in 2013 before running out of fuel and finishing 6th. In 2014 he led 3 laps before an accident ended his night 11 miles from the finish. A second in 2015 was followed by 30 leading laps and victory in 2016. Last year Windom qualified fourth and ran strong until ignition woes sidelined him on lap 80. Owner Gene Nolen has positive experience at DuQuoin as well. Johnny Parsons won in the Nolen V-6 in 1992 setting a 100-mile track record that still stands. The late Tony Elliot won driving for Nolen in 1999. Parsons also won the pole for Nolen in 1992.
Practice for the Ted Horn 100 and the Silver Crown machines begins on the Magic Mile at 5 p.m. Sunday, September 3. Qualifications are set for approximately 6:30 with the start of the annual Ted Horn 100 slated for 8 p.m.
It’s all part of the holiday doubleheader weekend of racing, featuring USAC Silver Crown on Sunday, September 2 and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on Monday, September 3. The DIRTcar Modifieds will race prelims on Sunday and their feature on Monday. Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader will battle with the other strong Modified competitors in the Bill Oldani event.
Tickets will be available at the gate on raceday or fans can purchase advance sale discount tickets by calling the Du Quoin State Fair box office at 618-542-1535 or the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200. Full event information can be found at www.trackenterprises.com.