FOR ILLINOIS DRIVERS COULD END AUGUST 18
It’s been 29 years since an Illinois driver won the “Tony Bettenhausen 100” at the Illinois State Fairgrounds but that drought could end with at least eight Illini drivers expected to compete in the August 18 USAC Traxxas Silver Crown race on the one-mile dirt Springfield oval.
Gary Bettenhausen of Tinley Park, Tony’s son, was the last to get the job done, in 1983. It was his second victory in the race named for his famous father, himself a three-time Springfield winner.
Defending USAC Traxxas Silver Crown champion Levi Jones of Olney might have the best chance to end the drought. He finished second to winner Brian Tyler last year on his way to his second consecutive series title. His five 2012 podium finishes include a pair of thirds in his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian entry.
A.J. Fike of Galesburg, who won the pole for the 100-miler in 2009 and finished 12th last year, joins Jones as major threats for victory. Throw in Springfield’s own Donnie Beechler, the Indianapolis 500 veteran who has competed in numerous races at the Springfield mile but got upside down during last year’s race, and 2011 USAC “Hut Hundred” Midget winner Zach Daum of Pocahontas and you have some real contenders.
Fellow Illinois drivers Randy Bateman of Murphysboro, Chris Urish of Elkhart, Shane Cockrum of Benton and Steve Adams of Cooks Mills are also expected to be in the field.
North Carolina’s Brian Tyler will aim for his fifth Springfield victory. He won in 2004, 2005, 2008 and last year. Chuck Gurney holds the all-time Springfield record of seven triumphs.
Jones and Fike are both in the “top-10” in the series standings entering the August 18 race. Jones is fifth, 60 points behind leader Kody Swanson, while Fike is ninth, 121 in arrears.
Swanson, with three seconds, a fourth and a fifth in five starts, has a 20-point lead in the series over Bobby East, the winner at Newton, Iowa in June. Jerry Coons Jr., winner at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May and at Toledo, Ohio in June, is third, ahead of Bobby Santos, winner of a pair of races at Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind.