FIKE SEEKS 3RD STRAIGHT “TONY BETTENHAUSEN 100” SATURDAY
Illinois driver A.J. Fike, of Galesburg, hopes to do something Saturday only one driver in the past 80 years has been able to do when the USAC Silver Crown Series returns to the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield for the “Tony Bettenhausen 100.”
Fike has won the past two runnings of the race, which dates back to 1934. Only Chuck Gurney, between 1989 and 1991, was able to string together three consecutive victories in the storied race.
Last year Fike started from the pole, led the first seven miles, then wrestled the lead back from Chris Windom on the 93rd lap to secure the 100-lap win. Two years ago, Fike started fifth and ran down leader Levi Jones after 36 laps, then led the final 65 circuits for the victory.
So far this year Fike has three “top-10s” in four starts. He’s 14th in the latest Silver Crown point standings.
Saturday’s race is the seventh in this year’s 10-race series and will prove pivotal in the title chase, with Kody Swanson holding a 45-point lead over Tracy Hines. Defending two-time champion Bobby East sits third in the standings, 54 points back of the leader with a maximum of 66 available Saturday.
Hines holds the one-lap track qualifying record of 122.846 mph established in 2006. He finished fourth at Springfield last year but joins Dave Darland, Russ Gamester and Fike as former winners expected to compete Saturday. Darland is a three-time winner (1997, 1999 and 2003), while Gamester was the 1998 winner.
Illinois drivers expected to compete Saturday in addition to Fike are Patrick Lawson of Edwardsville, Zach Daum of Pocahontas, Chris Windom of Canton, Jerry Bruce of Benton, Randy Bateman of Murphysboro, Shane Cockrum of Benton and Chris Urish of Elkhart.