NASCAR'S SCHRADER LOOKS FOR FIRST DUQUOIN WIN The Federated Auto Parts-Southern Illinois 100 will again have a NASCAR connection as popular Ken Schrader brings his Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in search of his...
NASCAR'S SCHRADER LOOKS FOR FIRST DUQUOIN WIN
The Federated Auto Parts-Southern Illinois 100 will again have a NASCAR connection as popular Ken Schrader brings his Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in search of his first "Magic Mile" victory on Labor Day, as the stars of the Automobile Club of America RE/MAX series conduct the second of two dirt track events on the 2005 schedule. Schrader's appearance is contingent on the California 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race proceeding on schedule, and he could be joined at DuQuoin by other NASCAR drivers wishing to "play on the, clay" as well. Track Enterprises CEO Bob Sargent has posted awards and prizes in excess of $100,000 for the Federated-Southern Illinois 100, and welcomes Best-Western Hotels as an associate sponsor of the Labor Day weekend auto racing lineup.
The Federated-Southern Illinois 100 caps a flurry of motor sports activity on the fairgrounds that concludes at least 5 days of auto racing, three days on the "Magic Mile" alone. Thanks to Schrader and the efforts of Bob Sargent, the NASCAR Nextel Cup community began taking more than a passing interest in the festivities at DuQuoin, culminating in the 2001 appearance of Schrader, 2005 Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart and former NASCAR owner Andy Petree all taking a shot at winning the Southern Illinois 100. Stewart returned in 2002 driving for Petree, and in 2003 fielded his own machine, setting the one lap track record in qualifying and gaining his first mile dirt track win in the Home Depot Chevrolet.
Schrader will have a tough enough go facing the ARCA RE/MAX regulars expected at DuQuoin, as well as a few of the Illinois native drivers that have a legitimate shot at a top finish in one of the largest spectator attended sporting events in Southern Illinois.
Leading the ARCA brigade is three time and defending Federated-Southern Illinois 100 winner Frank Kimmel, of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Kimmel, in search of a record seventh ARCA national championship, currently leads by 370 markers in the 2005 standings. The 44-year-old Kimmel, who won the Best Western-Allen Crowe 100 at Springfield two weeks ago has six wins and 16 top ten finishes in 18 ARCA events this season. He also has been dominant on the dirt, winning eight of the last eleven ARCA dirt races and tying the late Dean Roper as the all-time ARCA dirt track winner in the modern era with nine wins. Kimmel drives Ford products prepared by brother bill and sponsored by Advance Auto Parts, and Pork, the other white meat.
Chasing Kimmel in the RE/MAX title grind is rookie Joey Miller of Lakeville, Minnesota. Driving a new Dodge Charger for much of 2005, the twenty-year old Miller has three wins and 13 top ten finishes. He also made his first ever dirt track start two weeks ago at Springfield and to his credit, was running at the finish.
Behind Kimmel and Miller in order in the current standings comes Ken Weaver of Dallas, Texas, Chad McCumbee of Supply, North Carolina, Mark Gibson of Winder, Georgia, Jason Jarrett of Hickory, North Carolina, Brandon Knupp of Sidney, Ohio, Mike Harmon of Birmingport, Alabama, Todd Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio and Bill Eversole of Chelsea, Michigan. Gibson is a veteran of the ARCA RE/MAX cars who has been getting assistance this season from Richard Childress' NASCAR Nextel Cup team. Gibson is desperate to win one of the dirt events and has stated that if he wins DuQuoin, he will jump into the infield lake and take DuQuoin track announcer Jim Childers with him! McCumbee is a rookie in the ARCA series and most noted for playing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the ESPN movie, "3". Knupp is in his second year in the bigger ARCA cars after graduating from the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series. Harmon is a veteran of the NASCAR All-Pro and Busch series, while Jarrett, the son of 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett, was out of a ride until substituting for the injured Billy Venturini and joins that team for the rest of 2005. Bowsher's dad Jack is a former winner at DuQuoin and a former ARCA champion, and brother Bobby is a former DuQuoin winner and ARCA champ as well. Jarrett is the son of 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett who ran well at Springfield last week, helping him gain a ride for the rest of the season.
The dirt races bring out a number of veterans who enjoy the atmosphere of the fair, and in some cases have become nearly obsessed with winning on the "Magic Mile". One such veteran is a resident of an adjacent state, Bill Baird of Sturgis, Kentucky. The 56-year-old Baird, a former ARCA RE/MAX national champ, came out of retirement last year hauling his lone car on a flatbed truck and picking up part of a pit crew from Frank Kimmel. Baird obviously had not lost his touch, he won at Springfield and ran very strong at DuQuoin. Like Gibson, Baird has indicated he will take a swim on the infield if he wins at DuQuoin.
Other veterans in the ARCA RE/MAX stable expected at DuQuoin include Pennsylvania drivers Norm Benning and Andy Belmont, Florida's Johnny Leonard, Brad Smith of Michigan, the Indiana father-son duo of Jason and Darrell Basham, Wayne Peterson and Tim Turner of Tennessee and young Josh Allison of Indiana.
The Federated-Southern Illinois 100 usually has some drivers from Illinois and the surrounding states that help draw in the big crowds seen for stock car racing at DuQuoin. Perhaps the most popular driver from the home state resides 50 miles north of DuQuoin in the form of Joe Cooksey from Centralia. Cooksey has a number of top ten and top five finishes on the two Illinois dirt miles, and in 2000 became the first Southern Illinois driver to win the pole for a stock car event at DuQuoin. Cooksey came out of semiretirement to substitute for Ron Cox this year, and now teams with Jasonj Jarrett on the Hixson Motorsports team.
Two other popular Illinois drivers are Justin Allgaier of Springfield and A.J. Fike of Galesburg. Allgaier is a veteran of ARCA racing and had a great run at Milwaukee this year, leading several laps at Wisconsin State Fair Park. He follwoed that run with a new track record at Springfield and led several laps of the Allen Crowe 100. Fike, who ran for Andy Hillenburg last year, returns with Hillenburg and runs part-time with the USAC Silver Crown and NASCAR Busch series. Both may attempt to become the first driver in DuQuoin history to win both the Ted Horn 100 USAC Silver Crown race and the Federated-Southern Illinois 100 on the same weekend, and join Jimmy Bryan and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers ever to win both events.
Other drivers of local interest include Bob Strait of Mokena and Doug Keller of St. Joseph, Missouri. Strait is a former winner of the Southern Illinois stock car event and came out of retirement to drive once again for the Hendren team of Normal, Illinois, which for years fielded cars for former track record holder Ken Rowley of El Paso. Keller led several laps at DuQuoin a few years ago and after dabbling in the NASCAR Truck series, curtailed his racing involvement. He recently indicated that he would return for the two dirt track events. Another Illinois driver is slated to come back off the injured list, second generation driver Billy Venturini, son of Chicago's Bill Venturini, announced this week he would return to the cockpit of his father's car.
Adding to the NASCAR "flavor" at DuQuoin was the surprise announcement this week that Eddie Pearson, son of NASCAR legend David Pearson, will enter the DuQuoin event. Pearson will employ a "retro" blue and gold paint scheme sinilar to the one his grandfather, known as the "Silver Fox" used during the 1960's.
Approximately forty ARCA drivers from varied backgrounds will continue a tradition of stock car racing that has grown into an annual pilgrimage for many race fans to the former strip mine in Southern Illinois. Carved out of reclaimed mine property, the mile dual purpose dirt track built by Coca Cola magnate William Hayes has become one of the crown jewels of dirt track racing in the nation and one of the most popular stops on the ARCA schedule.
Stock car racing began at DuQuoin in 1950 with Jay Frank taking a Labor Day 100-miler. The hardtops did not return until 1954, when Illinois resident Don O'Dell won in a Packard. Over the next 50 plus years, drivers such as Norm Nelson, Don White, Butch Hartman, Lee Raymond and Bob Keselowski gained fame for triumphs on the DuQuoin clay. Drivers who would become future NASCAR stars won at DuQuoin such as Fred Lorenzen and Rusty Wallace. Other future NASCAR stars such as Benny Parsons, Dick Trickle, Alan Kulwicki, Joe Ruttman and Jeremy Mayfield all appeared on a DuQuoin entry list.
A folksy, funny, soft-spoken resident of south central Missouri became DuQuoin's grand champion. Fair Grove, Missouri's Dean Roper was a veteran of the United States Auto Club stock car circuit by the time he finally broke into victory lane at DuQuoin in 1981, and after he did, he practically owned the track. Roper took the top spot six times on the "Magic Mile", five times between 1981 and 1986, with his last win coming in 1994 at the age of 55!
The ARCA RE/MAX drivers that make the trip to DuQuoin are attempting to place their names along side the greats in the auto racing history books. Their quest begins in the early morning of Labor Day, September 5 when the track opens for practice at 9 a.m. Pork Pole Qualifying begins for the ARCA series at approximately 11, with drivers taking shot at Tony Stewart's two year old standard of 33.822. The green flag for the 53rd Federated-Southern Illinois 100 is scheduled for approximately 1:30, with over $100,000 in cash and prizes at stake.
Tickets can be obtained at Ticketmaster, the DuQuoin State Fair Box office or by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200. Additional information can be found at www.arcaracing.com or www.trackenterprises.com.