Marion, IL August 6, 2001-A major announcement regarding the entry list for the 49th annual Southern Illinois 100 stock car race for the Automobile Club of America ReMax Series was made today, and it concerns one of NASCAR's biggest stars, as well...
Marion, IL August 6, 2001-A major announcement regarding the entry list for the 49th annual Southern Illinois 100 stock car race for the Automobile Club of America ReMax Series was made today, and it concerns one of NASCAR's biggest stars, as well as a Winston Cup team owner who has decided to climb behind the wheel.
Bob Sargent, head of Track Enterprises, the promoter at the DuQuoin and Illinois State Fairgrounds, announced he has received word that NASCAR Winston Cup driver Tony Stewart, pilot of the Joe Gibbs owned #20 Home Depot Pontiac, and NASCAR team owner Andy Petree, owner of the #33 Oakwood Homes Chevy of Joe Nemecheck and the #55 Square D Chevy of Bobby Hamilton intend to attempt to make the field for the Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fair on Monday, September 3rd.
Stewart and Petree are additions to what promises to be a stellar field for the Southern Illinois 100, as NASCAR star and local favorite Ken Schrader announced earlier this year he and the Federated Auto Parts Pontiac would be on hand for competition in the late summer classic. Ironically, Schrader once drove for team owner Petree in the Skoal Bandit Chevrolet, and Stewart has competed at DuQuoin several times in the United States Auto Club Silver Bullet Series for the championship dirt cars. The appearances of Schrader, Stewart and Petree are contingent upon their arriving on time from the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina the previous day. Should there be a weather problem at Darlington, that race could be postponed until the next day, keeping the three from making the trek to DuQuoin.
The addition of Stewart and Petree only increases interest in the Southern Illinois 100, a race for which tickets were going at a brisk pace after Schrader announced his intention to enter a car. A large and possibly sellout crowd is now expected to enter the gates at the beautiful DuQuoin State Fairgrounds come Labor Day. This year's event has been moved to the traditional date for the Ted Horn Memorial for the USAC cars, allowing Schrader, Stewart, Petree and perhaps other drivers to make the trip to DuQuoin on an off day.
Stewart first ran at DuQuoin as a rookie on the USAC Silver Crown trail in 1992 driving the Ben Leyba Hoosier Tire Clinic machine, starting 9 and finishing a strong 4th. The next year Tony barrel rolled the car in turn 3 during the Ted Horn Memorial and ended up 17th. Stewart changed to the Gene Nolen team and the Glen Neibel V-6 the following year, starting the 100-mile championship race in 26th and moving the car to 3rd by the checkered flag. In 1995, driving for Neibel's own operation, Stewart used the points from a sixth place run toward his 1995 Silver Crown title, a year in which he also won the USAC Sprint and Midget title, become the only man to win all 3 titles in the same season. It was that performance that got him a ride in John Menard's potent V-6 Lola-Buick for the inaugural IRL season in 1006, and Stewart took advantage of the opportunity. Reminding long time race fans of Parnelli Jones, Stewart qualified for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 on the front row at over 233 miles and hour, and moved to the pole position after the tragic loss of teammate Scott Brayton. Stewart led several laps early on before dropping out of the race with mechanical troubles, but still earned Rookie of the Year honors.
That same year, Stewart returned to the DuQuoin "Magic Mile" for the Ted Horn Memorial 100, driving this time for owners George Snider and A.J. Foyt. Starting 25th in the Skoal #1 after running the last chance race, Stewart methodically moved through the pack and was chasing the leaders at the end, finishing in 5th. In 1997, Stewart won the IRL race at Pikes Peak and the IRL championship. He made his last DuQuoin appearance in 1997 in the Ted Horn Memorial 100, once again driving for Snider and Foyt. Starting near the back once again in 22nd, the "Rushville Rocket" moved the Snider-Foyt car to a stellar 3rd place finish at the race's end.
"Tony the Tiger" is the 1999 Winston Cup Rookie of the year, won the most races on the NASCAR circuit last year (6), and in 2001 has won twice and sits 5th in the points after his 17th place run in Sunday's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart has driven midgets, dirt cars and even UMP late models on the various mile dirt tracks in the Midwest, but has never driven one of the full bodied stock cars on the big dirt tracks.
Petree does have some experience behind the wheel of stock cars, but is perhaps better known as a chief mechanic and now as the owner of two top flight NASCAR teams. Petree began his career in 1977, and has worked for several teams throughout his NASCAR career, including that of the Skoal Bandit team of Harry Gant. Petree was tabbed by Richard Childress to replace the departing Kirk Shelmerdine as crew chief for the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet of the late Dale Earnhardt, and Petree helped revitalize the "Flying Aces" pit crew. Petree guided Earnhardt and the Childress team to their last two NASCAR Winston Cup titles in 1993 and in 1994. Those titles led Petree into ownership, he bought the team once owned by Leo Jackson and installed Ken Schrader as driver of the Skoal Bandit Chevrolet for the 1996 racing season. In 2000, Petree hired driver Joe Nemecheck and added a team sponsored by Square D, with the car driven by St. Louis native Rusty Wallace. Hamilton replaced Wallace in 2001, and posted Petree Racing's first Winston Cup win earlier this year at Talladega.
Schrader will be behind the wheel of a Pontiac that he owns, while Stewart will run as a teammate to 2000 ARCA driving champion Frank Kimmel on the Larry Clement owned Advance Auto Parts team. Petree is expected to pick one of the cars out of stable reserved for either Nemecheck or Hamilton, and prepare it for the 100-mile grind.
The NASCAR "invaders' won't have an easy time winning the Southern Illinois 100, they will face stiff competition from Kimmel, defending and four-time Southern Illinois 100 winner Billy Thomas, last year's polesitter Joe Cooksey of Centralia, and leading ARCA rookie contender Jason Jarrett, son of Winston Cup driver Dale Jarrett.
Tickets continue on sale and can be obtained at the DuQuoin State Fair Box Office, through Ticketmaster, or by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200.