55TH HORN 100 AT DUQUOIN IMPACTS USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP The "Magic Mile" at DuQuoin will once again play a major part in determining a national champion as the United States Auto Club Weld Racing Silver Crown cars return to the DuQuoin...
55TH HORN 100 AT DUQUOIN IMPACTS USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
The "Magic Mile" at DuQuoin will once again play a major part in determining a national champion as the United States Auto Club Weld Racing Silver Crown cars return to the DuQuoin State Fair "Magic Mile" for the 55th running of the Ted Horn 100 on Sunday night, September 4. Over forty cars and drivers are expected for the Horn Memorial, with several coming from the state of Illinois. The Promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises has posted prizes and awards in excess of $40,000 for the Horn 100, with the winner to receive in excess of $9,000. Perhaps more important than the prize money is the valuable championship points that can be gaines at DuQuoin. Currently just 14 points separate the USAC Silver Crown point leader and second place, with the driver third in the standings just
The question on many minds is whether or not defending Ted Horn 100 winner Tyler Walker of Los Angeles, California will return to DuQuoin to defend his title. Walker, who set a new world one lap qualifying record for the dirt championship cars of over 123 miles an hour at DuQuoin last year, is one of several USAC drivers who have moved from the Silver Crown cars to various aspects of NASCAR competition. Walker has been splitting his time between the NASCAR Truck and Busch Series in 2004, as well as making some sporadic Silver Crown starts. After smashing Teddy Beach's one year old track record last year, Walker went on to lead all 100 laps of the Ted Horn 100, becoming just the 8th man since 1948 to lead a championship race from start to finish at DuQuoin.
Should Walker appear, he will have plenty of competition from former Horn 100 winners, current USAC Silver Crown point leaders, and young drivers in search of an historic mile dirt track triumph. Leading the way in the former winners category is 2003 Ted Horn 100 champ Rich Tobias of Anneville, Pennsylvania. Tobias stirring drive in the first ever night time championship race on the "Magic Mile", from 25th to first won't soon be forgotten. Joining Tobias is two-time Horn 100 winner Johnny Parsons of Speedway, Indiana. Parsons, several times a starter of the Indy 500, won in 1992 and 1995 and this year the sixty-year old drives for Benton, Illinois car owner Ricky Nix. Other former winners include 1999 victor Tony Elliot, 1998 winner Russ Gamester and 2001 winner Paul White.
Most of the top ten in the current Weld Racing title chase are also expected at DuQuoin, led by defending national champion Dave Steele of Tampa, Florida. Steele, who has won all but one of the pavement events in 2005, is the all-time USAC Silver Crown series lap leader and still looking for a dirt track win. Chasing Steele in the points at press time (in order) are youngster Josh Wise, veteran Brian Tyler, Jay Drake, John Heydenreich, Bud Kaeding, Jason McCord, Wayne Reutimann, Jr., Ted Beach and Ron Gregory.
Californian Wise led much of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May then won the Sumar 100 at Terre Haute in June. He set a new track record during qualifications in Springfield two weeks ago and cut Steele's advantage to just 14 markers. He teams on the Tony Stewart MoPar squad with fellow Californian Drake, who is competing in the Indy Racing Infmiti Pro Series this season as well. Tyler, from Parma, Michigan, won the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield two weeks ago after starting 16th and has asserted himself as a title contender, just 60 markers back of Steele. Third generation Kaeding is looking for his first mile dirt track win, while second generation Reutimann is an up and coming driver in the USAC ranks. Gregory is also something of a second generation shoe, his step father Gary Irvin was a long-time competitor in the USAC Silver Crown series. Veteran Heydenreich, known as "Hot Rod", has been a consistent competitor and is always a threat to win. Beach is one of the "young guns" in the series, he set a track record at DuQuoin in 2003 and won this year's Hoosier Hundred in May.
Several veterans join the mix, including 1997 Silver Crown champion Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana. Darland, along with Gamester, White and Elliot, is attempting to become just the 14th man in auto racing history to post a USAC dirt car win on each of the three dirt miles, Springfield, DuQuoin and Indianapolis. Darland, a former one lap track record holder at DuQuoin, will be joined by the likes of Tracy Hines of New Castle, Indiana. Hines, the 2000 USAC Silver Crown champ, has been competing in the NASCAR Truck and Busch series in 2005, while still running the majority of the Silver Crown schedule. Other veterans expected include Indiana drivers Kevin Huntley and Jon Stanbrough, Pennsylvania's Tom Capie as well as last year's runner up Jerry Coons, Jr. of Arizona.
A group of young and very talented drivers are hoping that a DuQuoin win might put them on the radar of a NASCAR or IRL owner. Several of the drivers have just one DuQuoin start or are complete rookies, which gives them a slight disadvantage to the veterans on the tricky "Magic Mile". Some of that youth includes such pilots as Matt Westfall, Shane Hollingsworth and Aaron Pierce, Nick Lundgreen and third generation driver Cole carter, son of 1978 Horn 100 winner Pancho Carter.
The state of Illinois may have several natives in the field with the potential for as many as eight drivers from the home state, as well as three car owners from Illinois as well. Leading the Illinois brigade is young A.J. Fike of Galesburg, who in 2004 became the first driver in 33 years to pilot three different types of race cars on Labor Day weekend at DuQuoin. Fike, driving part-time in NASCAR, should be joined by Springfield's Justin Allgaier. Allgaier and Fike may be looking for a spot in the history books as both are expected to enter both the Horn 100 and the ARCA Southern Illinois 100, as no one has ever won both on the same weekend. Those that could be joining Fike and Allgaier on the entry list are Murphysboro veteran Randy Bateman, MSCS Sprint Car champ Alex Shanks of Marion, Tim Siner of Waterloo, Matt Neely of Robinson, Levi Jones of Olney, David Gough of Machesny Park and Hud Cone, formerly of Paris. Cone drives for the Harris Brothers of nearby Sikeston, Missouri. Famed Illinois car owner Bob Galas of O'Fallon, Missouri has sent six cars to victory circle at DuQuoin, five with legend Gary Bettenhausen and once with World of Outlaws star Jeff Swindell. This year Galas teams with youngster Kyle Steffens of St. Charles, Missouri. Steffens has plenty of experience at DuQuoin, he won the Bill Oldani Memorial for UMP Modifieds in 2000 at the tender age of 16!. In addition to Ricky Nix, Springfield's Scott Long fields the car driven by Ryan Durst.
This contingent of standout drivers will be attempting secure a page in the racing history books. The "Magic Mile" at DuQuoin has a rich history, one that dates back to 1946, when horse aficionado William Hayes carved the race track out of an old strip mine adjacent to the fairground property. Hayes vision of big time auto racing in the small Southern Illinois town was rewarded in 1948 with not one, but two American Automobile Association national championship events. It was in the second event that tragedy struck, changing the face of American auto racing forever.
Eylard Theodore "Ted" Horn was an icon by the time that October event at DuQuoin came about. He had clinched a record third consecutive AAA national driving title, and had won an incredible 23 of the 24 sprint car events he had entered! Horn's face was plastered on automotive ads everywhere, his name was frequent on radio spots and he made numerous personal appearances. Horn never won the Indianapolis 500, but he never finished lower than fourth at the Brickyard since dropping out his rookie year of 1935. He was arguably the most famous auto racer in America during the late 1940's.
Horn was newly married coming into DuQuoin, towing "Beauty", the championship car of his own design and creation. The October event was just a few moments old when Horn's machine and the car of future stock car star Johnny Mantz tangled in turn 4. Horn's car flipped, and the great champion suffered fatal injuries. In his honor, the Hayes family named the championship race in his memory.
A list of the great racing drivers in America make up the winners of Ted Horn's memorial event. Names like Tony Bettenhausen, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Jack Hewitt and Chuck Gurney all have at least one Horn 100 trophy to their credit. Perhaps the greatest racing driver the country has ever seen, A.J. Foyt won his first of 67 national championship wins at DuQuoin and hold a record six Horn Memorial trophies.
The best open wheel drivers in the world converge on several hundred acres in Southern Illinois in search of a place in racing immortality. Practice for the 55th Horn 100 begins at 5 p.m., with the battle for the pole slated for six. In qualifying, drivers will be taking aim at topping Walker's world record lap of 28.193 seconds set last year. A last chance race is scheduled for 7, with the green flag dropping on the Ted Horn 100 at 8. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster, the DuQuoin State Fair Box Office or by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200.