Illinois: Series round seven preview

"TONY BETTENHAUSEN 100" SATURDAY AT SPRINGFIELD Tradition will be served again Saturday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, where 75 years of racing will be celebrated with the running of the "Tony Bettenhausen 100" USAC K & N ...

"TONY BETTENHAUSEN 100" SATURDAY AT SPRINGFIELD

Tradition will be served again Saturday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, where 75 years of racing will be celebrated with the running of the "Tony Bettenhausen 100" USAC K & N Silver Crown Championship race.

Billy Winn won the inaugural Championship race at the mile dirt oval in 1934 and America's top open-wheel pilots have annually tested the Illinois oval. Nine Springfield race winners also won the Indianapolis 500.

This year's event is the seventh of 10 scheduled series races. Five different drivers have earned victories this year, including series point leader Bud Kaeding, who won the opener at Phoenix but is still seeking his first win on a dirt mile.

Brian Tyler of Parma, Mich., the defending winner of the race, is the only two-time winner in 2009 but both wins have come on the pavement, at Richmond, Va. and Oswego, N.Y. Tyler also won last year at DuQuoin, Ill., where the series convenes September 6 for the "Ted Horn 100."

Shane Hollingsworth of Indianapolis, Ind. bears watching Saturday, having won the "Hoosier Hundred" in Indianapolis in May. He also started on the pole at Indianapolis.

Three of the remaining series races are on the dirt, so Saturday's race could be pivotal in the chase for the 2009 title. Kaeding would like to become only the second three-time series champion, tying Jimmy Sills.

Tracy Hines and Levi Jones are teammates for Tony Stewart Racing and each has a mission. Hines, the 2006 Springfield winner, trails Tyler by 60 points in the standings and would like to make up for his one-point loss to Cole Whitt in the 2008 USAC Midget Championship. Jones remarkably is still searching for his first series victory and ranks sixth in the current standings.

Former "Tony Bettenhausen 100" winners expected to be on hand include Tyler (2004, 2005 & 2008), Dave Darland (1997, 1999 and 2003), Russ Gamester (1998) and Hines (2006).

Indianapolis 500 veteran Donnie Beechler of Springfield also returns to series competition Saturday. A veteran of 12 Springfield races, Donnie finished third in 1997, fourth in 2006 and has had four other "top-10" finishes on the Illinois State Fair oval.

-credit: usac

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Donnie Beechler , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Brian Tyler , Bud Kaeding , Russ Gamester , Levi Jones , Jimmy Sills , Shane Hollingsworth , Tony Bettenhausen , Cole Whitt