Illinois: Tony Bettenhausen 100 preview

The entry list for Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at the Illinois State Fairgrounds contains three "hometown" drivers, all of whom would dearly love to win the race honoring one of the all-time greats of American open-wheel ...

The entry list for Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at the Illinois State Fairgrounds contains three "hometown" drivers, all of whom would dearly love to win the race honoring one of the all-time greats of American open-wheel racing.

Donnie Beechler, Jim Moughan and Justin Allgaier are among those set for round number nine of the 2004 USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series. Only Beechler has previously tasted victory in Silver Crown competition, but he too will be seeking his first Springfield win.

Practice at the 1-mile dirt oval Saturday begins at 9 am, with qualifying at 10:30 and a 15-mile "qualifying race" at noon. The "Tony Bettenhausen 100," continuing a tradition dating back to 1934, starts at 1:30 pm.

Beechler, a veteran of the Indianapolis 500, has five Silver Crown triumphs but his best finish in eight Silver Crown starts at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is a third in 1997. Moughan, who returned to the Silver Crown series this year after a 15-year hiatus, has two Springfield career starts but has yet to crack the "top-10." Allgaier, at age 18, will seek his first Silver Crown start Saturday and hopes to also start Sunday's ARCA Stock car race at Springfield, making his the first driver to start both races since Tom Bigelow in 1989.

Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla. leads the Weld Racing Silver Crown standings, but Jay Drake of Val Verde, Calif. is on the "hot seat" entering Saturday's race, having won the last three series events. He would tie the all-time series record of four straight if he wins Saturday.

Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind. is the defending champion of the "Tony Bettenhausen 100," having won the race in 1997, 1999 and 2003. Former winners entered also include Russ Gamester (1998) and Paul White (2000).

Joining the three aforementioned Springfield drivers in Saturday's field are Illinois drivers Aaron Fike of Galesburg, Tad Roach of Granite City and Alex Shanks of Marion.

Drivers will be aiming at Robby Flock's 1-lap track record of 120.048 mph, set in 1996, while Jack Hewitt currently holds the 100-mile race record of 106.920 mph, set in 1987.

WELD RACING USAC SILVER CROWN SERIES STANDINGS
1.-Dave Steele-391
2.-Jason McCord-327
3.-Bud Kaeding-312
4.-Brian Tyler-277
5.-Jay Drake-266
6.-Dave Darland-255
7.-Bobby East-243
8.-Tracy Hines-208
9.-Aaron Pierce-207
10.-Boston Reid-200

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Series USAC
Drivers Donnie Beechler , Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Brian Tyler , Bud Kaeding , Aaron Fike , Jay Drake , Bobby East , Russ Gamester , Paul White , Jason McCord , Aaron Pierce , Boston Reid , Justin Allgaier , Robby Flock , Tad Roach , Tony Bettenhausen