Take Two: Bettenhausen 100 Back At Springfield

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Take Two: Bettenhausen 100
The Bettenhausen 100 will return to the Illinois State Fairgrounds this weekend. (Gene Crucean photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The roar of the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series returns to the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield on Sept. 22 for the 58th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Brandt.

The historic event honors the great Bettenhausen racing family from Tinley Park, Ill. The DIRTcar Modifieds are also on schedule for the event.

Following August’s washout, the date marks just the third time the Bettenhausen 100 will have been held in the month of September, following Chuck Gurney’s victory in 1996 and Kody Swanson’s triumph in 2014.

Tony Bettenhausen, the 1951 AAA and 1958 USAC national champion, won the first national championship race held in September at the Springfield Mile in 1947, at that time under AAA sanction.

This Sunday, look for a field chock full of talented veterans and hungry young lions prepared to make their mark in the 100-miler at the one-mile dirt oval.

Chris Windom enters as the defending winner of the Bettenhausen 100 en route to a sweep of both Illinois dirt mile races on the schedule in 2018. North Carolina’s Brian Tyler leads all drivers in the lineup with four Bettenhausen 100 victories (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011).

A.J. Fike won back-to-back Bettenhausen 100s in 2012 and 2013, just as Kody Swanson did in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, Russ Gamester prepares for his 26th career start in the race, which ranks third all-time and includes a triumph in 1998.

Justin Grant captured the first of his two career USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series victories in 2017 at Springfield.

A handful of drivers have gotten the job done on the Land of Lincoln’s other dirt mile, the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, but are seeking their first Springfield victories.

Two-time DuQuoin Silver Crown winner Shane Cockrum, plus another pair of past DuQuoin Mile winners in Shane Cottle and Chris Urish are up to the task.

Jeff Swindell is a three-time Silver Crown winner on dirt miles, twice at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and once at DuQuoin, but Springfield has eluded him thus far despite three career third place finishes in 1992, 1993 and 2017.

Springfieldian Korey Weyant wowed fans with a high-wire ride on the cushion in the qualifying race at Springfield a year ago. Joined by fellow Illinoisans Patrick Lawson, a 29th place finisher in 2018, and Terry Babb, who took 31st in 2018, the trio is ready to make an impression on the home crowd.

On the two occasions the Silver Crown cars graced a one-mile dirt oval this year, Tyler Courtney was the victor in May’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. He led a race-high 49 laps last year at Springfield.

Jacob Wilson won the most recent dirt event in a stellar performance for his first career series win at DuQuoin. He came home a strong fourth at Springfield a year ago.

Brady Bacon has also won on the dirt this year, taking a wild last-lap victory at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway in June for his first career win in a Crown car.

Bacon’s Klatt Enterprises team holds a slim 15-point lead over Nolen Racing in the owner standings for the season.

Veteran Silver Crown winners seeking their first mile dirt victories on Sunday include C.J. Leary, a two-time series winner seeking his first dirt mile victory. David Byrne finished 10th at Springfield a year ago. John Heydenreich and Eric Gordon will each return to Springfield after lengthy absences. Heydenreich last raced there in 2007 and Gordon did so in 2003.

Kevin Thomas Jr. led 42 laps and finished second in 2018 at Springfield. Steve Buckwalter finished fifth at Springfield in 2015. Those veterans are joined by 2018 Bettenhausen 100 top-10 finishers Kyle Robbins and Austin Nemire, all of whom are gunning for their first career Silver Crown wins.

Mike Haggenbottom is eighth in the standings and enters his second Bettenhausen 100 run after starting 20th and finishing 12th a year ago. Matt Goodnight stands 12th in points and is coming off his best run of the year in the most recent dirt race, a 10th at DuQuoin.

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