Illinois: Series event preview

10 ILLINI EYE "TONY BETTENHAUSEN 100" TROPHY IN SATURDAY'S USAC RACE AT THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIR At least 10 Illinois natives are expected to compete in Saturday's 48th running of one of America's most revered auto...

10 ILLINI EYE "TONY BETTENHAUSEN 100" TROPHY IN SATURDAY'S USAC RACE AT THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIR

At least 10 Illinois natives are expected to compete in Saturday's 48th running of one of America's most revered auto racing classics -- the "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

The 100-mile USAC K & N Silver Crown Championship Series race presented by Optima Batteries continues a long tradition of motorsports excellence at the historic 1-mile dirt oval. Billy Winn won the inaugural in 1934 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the defending champion.

Four Illinois drivers, including Tinley Park's Gary and Tony Bettenhausen, Chicago's Emil Andres and Champaign's Don Branson, have won the classic event. Tony won in 1947, 1950 and 1951, Gary won in 1978 ad 1983, Andres won in 1939 and Branson won in 1966.

Donnie Beechler of Springfield is among this year's crop hoping to become the fifth Illini winner and is joined by Robinson's Mat Neely, Olney's Levi Jones, Galesburg's A.J. Fike, Springfield's Jeff Leka, Murphysboro's Randy Bateman, Elkhart's Chris Urish, Champaign's Patrick Bruns, Granite City's Tad Roach and Canton's Chris Windom. Saturday's race would be the first this season for Beechler, Bateman, Leka and Roach, while Fike finished second in last Sunday's race at Iowa Speedway. Neely has a best of fifth this year, while Jones has a sixth, Urish has a ninth and Bruns has a 10th. Windom's only 2008 appearance results in a 23rd-place finish.

In addition, Johnny Parsons of Speedway, Ind., who started a dozen Indianapolis 500s and finished fifth twice, is seeking his 152nd career Silver Crown start and will pilot a car fielded by Benton, Ill. car owner Ricky Nix.

Five previous race champions are expected to compete, including defending winner Stenhouse. Tracy Hines (2006), Brian Tyler (2004-05), Russ Gamester (1998) and Dave Darland (1997, 1999 and 2003) are the others.

Hines holds the 1-lap track qualifying record of 122.846 mph set in 2006. Jack Hewitt set the 100-mile race record of 106.920 mph in 1987.

Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz. leads the series standings entering Saturday's race. He is 53 points ahead of Darland, 58 ahead of Jones and 61 ahead of Hines.

-credit: usac

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Series USAC
Drivers Donnie Beechler , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Brian Tyler , A.J. Fike , Johnny Parsons , Russ Gamester , Levi Jones , Tad Roach , Tony Bettenhausen , Randy Bateman , Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , Chris Urish , Chris Windom , Jerry Coons Jr.