39th ARCA Crowe Memorial preview at Illinois

39th Annual 100-Mile Stock Car Race Allen Crowe Memorial 100 Automobile Racing Club of America August 19, 2001 Illinois State Fairgrounds Springfield, Illinois Wynn’s Sportsman Nationals Also on Card Marion, IL August 13, 2001 Stock...

39th Annual 100-Mile Stock Car Race
Allen Crowe Memorial 100
Automobile Racing Club of America
August 19, 2001
Illinois State Fairgrounds
Springfield, Illinois

Wynn’s Sportsman Nationals Also on Card

Marion, IL August 13, 2001

Stock car racing takes center stage for the last day of the Illinois State Fair as the cars of the Automobile Racing Club of America ReMax Series invade Springfield for the 39th annual tribute to one of Springfield’s favorite sons, the late Allen Crowe. For the third consecutive year the 100-mile Memorial race is sponsored by the PAR-A-DICE Casino and Hotel from Peoria.

Nearly forty of the finest ARCA has to offer are expected to be on the grounds race morning, led by defending race winner and defending ARCA National Driving Champion Frank Kimmel of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Kimmel, a six-time winner on the ARCA ReMax circuit this season (most recently at Nashville), got his elusive first victory on a one-mile dirt track in last year’s Crowe Memorial after several seasons of trying. The two-time ARCA National Champion also has some Winston Cup experience as well, being called on to sub for the injured Jimmy Spencer a couple of seasons ago, and his current ARCA team recently announced they will attempt some NASCAR racing in the future. Kimmel currently holds a commanding lead in the ARCA ReMax point standings in search of his third crown, some 1000 points ahead of second place. Kimmel will again pilot the Advance Auto Parts-Pork Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by Larry Clement.

The growing NASCAR Winston Cup stock car series has a connection with Springfield that goes back to the very first race, and that connection continues in the year 2001 as the son of 1999 Winston Cup Champion Dale Jarrett comes to town. Young Jason Jarrett, driver of the Biomet Pontiac, won the inaugural ARCA race at the new Kansas Speedway and will attempt to become only the second son of a Winston Cup Champion (the late Davey Allison was the first) to make the starting field for the Allen Crowe Memorial 100. According to early season accounts Jason is looking forward to the opportunity. "I’m really looking forward to the dirt races," said Jason in an article printed during the first part of the year. "Everybody talks about them, I’d like to test at both dirt tracks but won’t get the opportunity." Jarrett currently leads the ReMax rookie point standings, and is second to Kimmel for the national title.

Many of the drivers atop the ARCA point standings are expected to file through the gates on the 19th, including current point leader Kimmel, Andy Belmont in the AOL Ford (3rd), Ron Cox, Chuck Weber, Norm Benning, and Donny Morelock driving for former NASCAR star James Hylton.

Two names familiar to Springfield race fans also sit in the top ten in the ARCA point chase, at least one is expected to compete in the Crowe Memorial. Two-time winner ('96 and '97) and former ARCA National Driving Champion Tim Steele of Coopersville, Michigan, driver of the HS Die Ford he now owns currently sits fourth behind Kimmel in the title chase, however Steele recently took over operation of the team from his father and plans to skip the Springfield event in order to regroup. Todd Bowsher, currently 8th in the points, drives the family owned #21 Ford Taurus. That car had a "retro" paint job earlier in the year, resembling the Don Wagner Ford Torinos piloted by his father, two-time (1971 & 73) Crowe Memorial winner and former ARCA stock car champion Jack Bowsher. Todd is also the brother of the 1991 and 1992 Crowe Memorial winner (and former ARCA champ) Bobby Bowsher.

A former driver turned owner heads for Springfield on Sunday with the family car. Chicago’s very own Bill Venturini campaigned stock cars on the USAC circuit for several years, then moved his family to North Carolina and captured two ARCA driving crowns. Son Billy continues in the family business driving his dad’s Chevrolets. A fourth name familiar to Springfield fans is Michigan’s Tracy Leslie, whose battle here with Bob Keselowski as a rookie in 1988 kept fans on their feet for the last several laps.

Since it’s inception the Crowe Memorial has had a number of Illinois drivers attempting to steal the big prize away from the invaders of the traveling series, and the 2001 edition is no exception. At least five Illinois entries are expected to challenge the ARCA regulars, led by Joe Cooksey of Centralia in the Maurtco Chevrolet. Cooksey, whose family owns an oil distributing business, pulled off the tour and chose to refocus the team’s ARCA efforts on the dirt races at Springfield and DuQuoin. Joe has stepped his program up a notch, making the NASCAR Busch race at Gateway in St. Louis back in July and the recent Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Cooksey is always a strong runner on the dirt, in 2000 he became the first Southern Illinois driver to capture the pole for the Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin, and last year finished third at Springfield and fourth at DuQuoin.

Other Illinois drivers include Mokena’s Bob Strait, the polesitter for the 1999 Allen Crowe Memorial 100. Bob’s ride has extra special meaning for Central Illinois race fans; his team is owned by Bill Hendren and fielded cars for El Paso’s Ken Rowley. Rowley, always a crowd favorite, came within an eyelash of winning the 1993 Crowe Memorial and retired after the 1998-racing season. Also on the list are Carlyle, Illinois’ resident Charlie Schaefer in his own Chevrolet, Peoria’s Todd Coon in the Mid City Truck Repair Chevrolet, and Bloomington’s Eric Smith in the Southtown Ford. Hometown hero Rich Hayes’ Mobile World Pontiac does not appear on the pre-race entry list at this time, but is a late possibility.

More fan favorites dot the 39th Crowe Memorial entry list, returning to Springfield for a shot at a record 5th win will be none other than 62-year-old Dean Roper of Fair Grove, Missouri. Roper, the all-time ARCA win leader on the dirt, indicated earlier in the year that he will once again be behind the wheel of a car prepared by the Mueller Brothers from Wisconsin. Dean is continuing in his attempt to become the oldest race winner in ARCA, a record currently held by the late Iggy Katona who won at Daytona at age 56.

Roper is one of the leaders in just about every statistical category for stock cars at the Springfield Mile. Dean is the all time leader in wins (7), is tied with Bob Keselowski for the most Crowe Memorial victories (4), has the most ARCA wins at the Illinois State Fairgrounds (4), and is atop the lap leader board for all stock car races with 333 leading circuits. To illustrate Dean’s dominance in the 1980’s, he won seven of nine stock car races at Springfield between 1981 and 1986! Unfortunately Dean lost his son late last year, driver Tony Roper suffered fatal injuries in a NASCAR truck race at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Other drivers expected at Springfield on the 19th include Dennis English of Benton, Kentucky, Roger Blackstock of Shelby Township, Michigan, Doug Keller of St. Joseph, Missouri, former NASCAR driver James Hylton in his own Ford and North Carolina’s Brent Glastetter in a car owned by NASCAR’s Joe Falk.

The Allen Crowe Memorial is known for great racing and exciting finishes, and the 2000 race was one of the best. Race day dawned sunny and warm for the 37 car-driver combinations on the grounds, with an extremely fast track awaiting them. Rookie Damon Lusk of South Carolina, driving for NASCAR legend James Hylton, became the first Crowe Memorial rookie in several years to take the top slot with a lap of 33.708 seconds, 106.799 miles per hour, just shy of Bob Hill’s 1995 track record. Frank Kimmel was just a tick shy of Lusk’s hot lap, with rookie Brian Ross starting third. Two women, Shawna Robinson and Karla Lampe, became the first women in history to make the field for a major auto racing event at Springfield when they completed qualifying runs.

When the green dropped on a sunny and warm day, Kimmel raced in front of the rookie Lusk and led the first twenty circuits, while 13th starter and’ 99 race winner Bill Baird moved through the field. Kimmel relinquished the lead while in the pits on lap 20 to Tim Steele, while Peoria’s Todd Coon took the top slot from lap 29 through lap 32.

It looked as if Baird would repeat as winner of the Crowe Memorial; he took the lead on lap 33 and continued in front with Kimmel giving chase. Finally, on lap 78 dove under Baird for the lead. A caution flag on lap 98 set up one of the wildest finishes ever seen at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and with ARCA rules requiring the last two laps under green conditions, gave fans another "overtime" event.

Baird challenged Kimmel high and low over the last two laps under speed, trying desperately to pass the defending national champ. Coming out of turn four, Baird nudged underneath Kimmel and finished second by the slimmest of margins. Kimmel used the points to cement his second national crown, and took a top share of a purse that exceeded $113,000.

ARCA racing continues part of a stock car racing tradition at the World’s Fastest One Mile Dirt Track, a tradition that dates back to the first American Automobile Association stock car race in 1950. Jay Frank of Los Angeles in an Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" led all 100-miles that day and took home the first place check before 8,000 spectators, but it would be another eleven years before the racing "hardtops" would again grace the Illinois clay.

In September of 1961, the local Seratoma club sponsored a 100-mile stock car race to be contested at the fairgrounds, an event won by Len Sutton in a Pontiac, making him the first man to win both a championship and stock car event on the Springfield Mile. The next year, 1959 and 1962 Indianapolis 500 winner Rodger Ward took first place in the 100-mile race, also in a Pontiac.

By 1963, the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 at Springfield was entrenched as one of the premier races on the championship trail. The Tinley Park, Illinois resident was the first three-time winner of the Springfield championship event, and naming the fair championship race in his honor after his death in a 1961 racing accident at Indianapolis honored his memory. Tragically, the stock car race would receive a similar designation two years later.

Allen Crowe was a driver who was the pride of Springfield, Illinois in 1963. Allen had honed his skills on the local small tracks such as "Little Springfield" and Macon Speedway in midgets and stock cars during the late fifties. He was just beginning to move into the United States Auto Club Midget and Sprint car series, as well as securing a ride for the Indianapolis 500 and other championship races. Allen was expected to pick up where local drivers Rex Easton and Chuck Weyant had left off.

Sadly, Allen’s career was cut short when he crashed in a sprint car race at New Bremen, Ohio in June of 1963, and his injuries proved to be fatal. Springfield fans, the race promoter and the Illinois State Fair decided to honor Allen Crowe in the same manner they had honored Tony Bettenhausen, by holding a speed contest in his honor. Thus, the stock car race was designated the "Allen Crowe Memorial 100". The first Crowe Memorial was run in late August of 1963 and won by NASCAR great Curtis Turner. The Crowe Memorial became part of the racing program during the last weekend of the Illinois State Fair on August 20, 1965. This year’s event marks the 39th running of the race honoring Allen Crowe.

While not many race fans outside of Springfield, Illinois may know the name of Allen Crowe, they certainly know the names of the men who have won his memorial event. NASCAR stars such as Turner, 1965 winner Bobby Isaac and 1998 winner Ken Schrader are part of the auto racing heritage at Springfield. Championship car stars such as Joe Leonard (1964) and Al Unser (1972) also dot the win list, as does the great A.J. Foyt with his thrilling 1979 victory. Add in USAC Stock Car drivers Butch Hartman, Don White, Bay Darnell, Norm Nelson and Sal Tovella, as well as ARCA greats Jack Bowsher, Ramo Stott, and Bob Brevak, and you have club of Crowe Memorial winners that could form their own Hall of Fame.

The Crowe Memorial has attracted other stars as well, NASCAR greats such as Benny Parsons, Dick Trickle, Alan Kulwicki, Joe Ruttman and Rusty Wallace all entered Springfield events, as did Jeremy Mayfield and the late Davey Allison. ARCA sent top drivers such as Les Snow, Ralph Latham, Marv Smith and Lee Raymond to slide around in the dirt, while USAC stars Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen, Whitey Gerken and Roger McCluskey all moved Springfield earth. Throw in local heroes such as Steve Drake, Herman Huffman with sons Randy and Jerry, Dick Taylor, Glen Bradley and Ed Bauman and it becomes clear why the grandstands are full on the last Sunday of the Illinois State Fair.

Sharing the day’s racing car with the ARCA ReMax series will be the 8th annual Wynn’s Sportsman Nationals, an event for street stock machines. The Sportsman event has turned into a benefit race for Springfield’s own Wes O’Dell. O’Dell is the defending champion of the event, and has won 5 of the seven 20-mile main events held so far.

The 39th running of the PAR-A-DICE-Allen Crowe Memorial 100 takes place on Sunday, August 19, 2001 and begins with practice at 9 a.m. for the ARCA cars. Qualifying is slated for approximately 11 a.m., with the 100-mile race beginning at 2. Drivers will be shooting for the biggest piece of a purse that exceeds $110,000 for the second straight year, as well as the one-lap qualifying record set in 1995 by Iowa’s Bob Hill of 33.546 seconds, a speed of 107.315 miles per hour. The ARCA race record for 100 miles is currently held by Bobby Bowsher at 1:08:00 or 90.000 miles per hour, while the track record for 100 miles has been held by Don White since 1966 at 1:06:30.14, or 90.222 miles an hour. Tickets are available by calling the Illinois State Fair Box Office, Ticketmaster, promoter Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200, or visit the promoter on the World Wide Web at www.trackenterprises.com.

-ARCA/ISF

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About this article
Series ARCA , Stock car
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield , Dick Trickle , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Shawna Robinson , Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Joe Ruttman , Mario Andretti , Chuck Weber , Jason Jarrett , Joe Leonard , Donny Morelock , Tim Steele , Damon Lusk , Ron Cox , James Hylton , Norm Benning , Benny Parsons , Rodger Ward , Tony Bettenhausen , Bill Baird , A.J. Foyt , Alan Kulwicki , Davey Allison