Illinois State Fair pre-race notes

Tyler Seeks Third Bettenhausen 100 Win, Wise Looking for $25,000 Bonus Two time and defending race winner Brian Tyler of Michigan and Californian Josh Wise lead a strong contingent of around forty stars and cars heading to the storied Illinois...

Tyler Seeks Third Bettenhausen 100 Win, Wise Looking for $25,000 Bonus

Two time and defending race winner Brian Tyler of Michigan and Californian Josh Wise lead a strong contingent of around forty stars and cars heading to the storied Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois for the 46th running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 featuring the championship dirt cars of the United States Auto Club Silver Crown Series presented by K & N Filters. For the first time in the 72 year history of national championship dirt track racing at the Springfield Mile the dirt cars share center stage with the Automobile Racing Club of America Lincoln Welders Truck Series as they compete in the Best Western Classic on the "World's Fastest One Mile Dirt Track".

The 2006 Tony Bettenhausen 100 takes on even more significance this year as many drivers are eying a large amount of cash in conjunction with the event. USAC announced earlier this year that the 2006 point fund would be a total of $250,000, about three times the amount posted last year. In addition, Illinois and DuQuoin State Fair promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises took over promotion of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds earlier this year and with sponsorship from former USAC car owner Don Smith has posted the First Financial Bank Triple Crown, a $25,000 cash bonus to the driver that can sweep the races on the three dirt miles this season, the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the Tony Bettenhausen 100 and the Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin in September.

With the new USAC Silver Crown pavement car still in the early stages of development the dirt track events have become even more important in determining the 2006 national champion. The thirty eight year old Tyler may be the odds on favorite to capture his first Silver Crown national title this year as he comes into Springfield 18 points out of the lead on the strength of wins at Homestead and O'Reilly Raceway Park and a top ten in the Hoosier Hundred. Piloting a Beast owned by 6R Racing the former USAC sprint champ started sixteenth in last year's Bettenhausen 100 before taking the lead near the halfway point and becoming the first driver since Chuck Gurney in 1990 and 1991 to post back to back wins at Springfield.

As one half of the Tony Stewart Mopar Racing stable Josh Wise enters the Bettenhausen 100 as the driver with the chance to claim the First Financial Bank Triple crown prize having won the prestigious Hoosier Hundred in May thanks to a thrilling last lap pass of his teammate. Wise has two wins in the Silver Crown Series, both on the dirt and is well accustomed to the Springfield dirt having set a brand new track record in excess of 122 miles an hour last year during qualifications. Should Wise win at Springfield and then at DuQuoin, he will become just the 14th man in dirt track racing history to win on all three of the Midwest dirt miles and the first man since Al Unser in 1978 to win an open wheel racing "Triple Crown". Wise would also be the first driver since Jack Hewitt in 1986 to win the Hoosier Hundred, Bettenhausen 100 and Horn 100 all in the same year. In addition he would pocket nearly $55,000 for his efforts.

Six to eight drivers in the top ten in the USAC Silver Crown point chase will be trying to stop the charge of Tyler and Wise, led by the leader in the current USAC K & N Filter point standings Bud Kaeding. The third generation driver from Campbell, California has recovered from a sprint car crash a few years ago to emerge as a serious contender for the USAC Silver Crown title. Kaeding has three wins this season driving for former USAC champ and current NASCAR driver Jason Leffler. Floridian Wayne Reutimann won the 100-mile race at Milwaukee and his first win has propelled him to third in the current point chase. Two time and defending USAC Silver Crown champ Dave Steele of Tampa, Florida was going to run a limited schedule as a teammate to Brian Tyler but a win at Phoenix and the lure of big money had him put a dirt car together and the pavement ace is fifth in the standings. Fourth in the points is Indiana's Aaron Pierce after a win on the big Chicagoland track in July. Sixth is Bryn Gohn, followed by Tim Barber, Wise and Australian Peter Shepherd.

Four-time Bettenhausen winner Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana is now eleventh in the points and strong runs on the dirt would place him higher in the standings. Darland's run in the Hoosier Hundred and some sporadic pavement rides vaulted him toward a top ten perch in the point standings even though he lacks a full time ride in the series. Darland should be joined at Springfield by 1998 Bettenhausen 100 winner Russ Gamester of Peru, Indiana and 2001 winner and former Silver Crown champ Paul White of Temple, Texas putting at least four former winners of the event on the entry list.

USAC veterans fighting for a starting slot in the 46th Tony Bettenhausen 100 figure to include 2000 USAC Silver Crown champ Tracy Hines of New Castle, Indiana. Hines recently vacated his NASCAR Busch Series ride and returns to the USAC wars in the same car that he won the Ted Horn 100 last year at DuQuoin. Other USAC regulars include veterans such as 2004 Springfield pole winner Jerry Coons of Arizona, Jay Drake of California (currently tenth in points), John Heydenreich of Pennsylvania and Kevin Huntley of Indiana, along with the ageless Indianapolis 500 veteran Johnny Parsons who will turn 62 this August! Youngsters on the entry list should include third generation driver Cole Carter of Indiana and fellow Hoosiers Ron Gregory, Shane Hollingsworth and Shane Cottle. Former DuQuoin track record holder and 2005 Hoosier Hundred winner Teddy Beach of Ohio should be at Springfield as well as rookie and second generation driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driving for the Carl Edwards-RE Technologies team.

A number of area drivers have rides in the Silver Crown division and stand a good chance at a top finish or pulling into victory lane. Hard charging Levi Jones of Olney, Illinois is the defending USAC National Sprint Car champion and teammate to Josh Wise on the Tony Stewart Mopar team. The former Olney High School basketball star led 99 of the 100 laps of the Hoosier Hundred and appeared on his way to victory before Wise passed him for the win.

There is perhaps no driver more popular on the Tony Bettenhausen 100 entry list than Springfield's own Justin Allgaier. The twenty-year old led several laps of last year's ARCA Southern Illinois 100 and is the stock car track record holder at Springfield. Allgaier could be one of three drivers pulling double duty in dirt cars and stock cars on the final weekend of the Illinois State Fair. Other Illinois drivers who have Silver Crown rides include veteran Randy Bateman of Murphysboro, former Midwest Sprint Car Series champion Alex Shanks of Marion, Chris Urish of Elkhart, Tim Siner of Dupo and A.J. Fike of Galesburg. Fike has driven ARCA stock cars on both the Springfield and DuQuoin miles and in 2004 became the first driver in 33 years to drive three different race cars at DuQuoin on Labor Day weekend. The Harris Racing Team of Sikeston, Missouri has installed midget ace Derrick King behind the wheel of their machine for the remainder of 2006.

The 46th Tony Bettenhusen 100 also marks the return t the dirt miles of one of the most potent driver-crew chief combinations in USAC Silver Crown history as two time Hoosier Hundred winner and former Springfield track record holder Jeff Swindell of Memphis, Tennessee returns to the cockpit. Swindell teams up with long time O'Fallon, Illinois car owner Bob Galas as the two try to re-create the success they had in the late 1980's and early 1990's as part of the Delrose -Holt Racing Team based near Chicago.

Around forty of the finest dirt track drivers in the world follow in the footsteps of arguably the best driver in American motor sports during the early 1950's, Illinois' own Tony Bettenhausen. Nicknames such as the "Tinley Park Express" and "Der Panzer" came easily for the Tinley Park, Illinois farmer once fans and media members saw his bolt upright, hard charging style behind the wheel of a championship dirt car. The first three-time winner of championship races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds quickly became a fan favorite across the nation while pursuing his dream of an Indianapolis 500 victory. The forty-four year old Bettenhausen was the odds on favorite for that elusive "500" win in 1961, flirting with the magical 150 mile per hour barrier in practice. Sadly, that dream ended in tragedy when Bettenhausen was killed testing the car of a friend, Chicago's Paul Russo the day before qualifications for the 1961 Indianapolis 500. The popular driver left behind a legacy of success in racing with 21 National Championship wins and two National titles. He also left behind three racing sons, one (Gary) would win capture an emotional win in his father's race in 1978.

Springfield's long history of national championship racing has seen victors such as Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Ted Horn, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Jack Hewitt and Chuck Gurney, all Hall of Fame members. The 72-year history of upright National Championship racing at the Illinois State Fair continues with the 46th Tony Bettenhausen 100 on Saturday, August 19. Practice for the USAC cars is scheduled for 9 a.m., with a new 'pack' qualifying format at 10:25. The last chance race is slated for noon, with the 46th Bettenhausen 100 at 1:30. Adding a new twist is the first appearance of television for the Tony Bettenhausen 100 in over 20 years as the Outdoor Channel will tape the 46th Bettenhausen 100 and replay the race Saturday September 2.

Tickets are on sale at the Illinois State Fair Box Office at 217-782-1979, Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or Ticketmaster. Tickets are $20 in advance for adult, $10 in advance for children. Additional information can be found at www.usacracing.com or www.trackenterprises.com.

-credit: illinois state fairgrounds

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Mario Andretti , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Brian Tyler , Bud Kaeding , Carl Edwards , Jay Drake , Teddy Beach , John Heydenreich , A.J. Fike , Johnny Parsons , Russ Gamester , Ron Gregory , Paul White , Tim Barber , Aaron Pierce , Jerry Coons , Josh Wise , Rodger Ward , Wayne Reutimann , Cole Carter , Tim Siner , Shane Cottle , Justin Allgaier , Shane Hollingsworth , Tony Bettenhausen , Bryn Gohn , Randy Bateman , Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , Chris Urish , Peter Shepherd , Al Unser , Jeff Swindell