Golden Bettenhausen 100 contested at Illinois State Fair on Saturday The 50th running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 won't see a back to back winner in 2010 but several former winners comprise part of the entry list for the golden edition of the...
Golden Bettenhausen 100 contested at Illinois State Fair on Saturday
The 50th running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 won't see a back to back winner in 2010 but several former winners comprise part of the entry list for the golden edition of the Bettenhausen Memorial and the 76th national championship dirt track race held on the historic Springfield Mile as the Illinois State fair enters its second century of auto racing.
Defending race winner Cole Whitt moved to the NASCAR K&N Series, however three time (1997, 1999, 2003) winners Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana and Brian Tyler of Parma, Michigan (2004, 2005, 2008) continue in their quest for a 4th Springfield victory while Russ Gamester of Peru, Indiana (1998), Tracy Hines of New Castle, Indiana (2006) each try to add a second Bettenhausen win to their resume.
They are joined by three time USAC K&N Silver Crown champ Bud Kaeding of Campbell, California. Kaeding is attempting to become the first four time national champion in series history and ironically has never won a 100-mile race on the dirt. In fact, nineteen of the top twenty drivers in the 2010 USAC K&N Filters title chase should be on the Springfield entry list on August 21. 2008 K&N National Champion Jerry Coons Jr. of Tuscon, Arizona (2nd) is one and he could be joined by some of USAC's "Young Guns"as well.
Pleasant Garden, North Carolina's Shane Hmiel is in search of the second leg of the dirt car "Triple Crown". Hmiel is sixth in points and had a strong performance at Indianapolis in May, winning the Hoosier Hundred. Joining Hmiel are the Swanson brothers, Kody (5th in points) and Tanner, from Kingsburg, California. The Swanson brothers had the first 1-2 finish in Silver Crown history at Berlin with Tanner getting his first win at Kody taking second.
Noblesville, Indiana resident Bryan Clauson is a series rookie driving for Tony Stewart. 2008 Tony Bettenhausen 100 polesitter Shane Hollingsworth of Indianapolis also won the 2009 Hoosier Hundred. Second generation driver Bobby East of Indiana has experience in two of NASCAR's top three divisions and has returned for a shot at a Silver Crown title. However, he has just one start on the dirt miles and that ended upside down at the May Hoosier Hundred.
USAC veterans Tom Capie of Trevose, Pennsylvania and former one-lap track record holder Jeff Swindell of Memphis, Tennessee should.be on the entry list as well as John "Hot Rod" Heydenreich who returns to the series after an absence.
Forty-four years have passed since Central Illinois' Don Branson (Champaign) pulled into Springfield's victory lane, winning the 6th Bettenhausen 100 in 1966. 2010 could see another winner from the central part of the state as A.J. Fike of Galesburg enters the 50th Bettenhausen as a dark horse favorite, not only for the Tony Bettenhausen 100 but for the national title as he is currently third in the standings thanks to a win in Iowa. Fellow Illini Levi Jones (Olney), a pilot for Tony Stewart's race team, won the pole for the May Hoosier Hundred and is 4th in the points. Fike, who will be pulling double duty for the weekend racing in Sunday's ARCA event, and Jones lead a contingent of Illini participants that could number at least 8 by race day.
Hometown drivers Donnie Beechler and Mike Hess have extensive experience in the big dirt cars on the Springfield Mile. Beechler is a 4 time starter in the Indianapolis 500 with 5 USAC Silver Crown wins to his credit, three on dirt miles. Hess is a two-time Powri National Midget champion. They are joined by Elkhart's Chris Urish, Pocohontas' Zach Daum, Davey Ray of Loves Park and Murphysboro's Randy Bateman as well as Benton car owner Ricky Nix who fields Powri Midget champ Brad Kuhn at the wheel.
A new format greets the drivers and fans for the 50th Bettenhausen 100 replacing a format change for the 49th running last year. In 2009 the top 6 qua1ifiers were inverted at the start meaning fast qualifier A.J. Fike had to start sixth. Cole Whitt charged to the lead from the inside front row and led all 100-miles to become at 18 years and 2 months the youngest driver to ever win a 100-mile national championship race at Springfield. This year there will not be an inversion of the qualifiers;but a 'competition red flag' at the conclusion of the leader's 51st lap. At that time all cars will be stopped in running order along the main stretch and the crews allowed to work on the machines. Should a tire be changed on the car the car will be sent to the tail of the field for the restart. In addition, the field will restart in DOUBLE FILE order for the second half of the race. The new format was used for the Hoosier Hundred in May and Shane Hmeil gave up a commanding lead at the competition stop, changed three tires and was forced to come from 12th on the restart to retake the lead on lap 77.
Over 30 drivers attempt to join immortals A.J. Foyt, Rodger Ward, Mario Andretti, Chuck Gurney and Jack Hewitt as winners of the Tony Bettenahusen 100 on August 21. Practice is slated to begin at 9 a.m. with qualifications at around 10:30 and the 50th running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at 1:30. Tickets are available at the Illinois State Fair Box Office, Ticketmaster outlets.
-source: Illinois State Fair