DuQuoin Southern Illinois 100 preview

NASCAR Comes To Duquoin As Drivers Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart And Owner Andy Petree Compete In Arca-Southern Illinois 100!!!! Schrader Returns after 15 Year Absence, Stewart after 4 Year Drought, and Petree Makes 1st Dirt Mile Appearance. ARCA...

NASCAR Comes To Duquoin As Drivers Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart And Owner Andy Petree Compete In Arca-Southern Illinois 100!!!!

Schrader Returns after 15 Year Absence, Stewart after 4 Year Drought, and Petree Makes 1st Dirt Mile Appearance. ARCA RE/MAX Regulars Kimmel, Steele, Jarrett and Illinois Shoes

Marion, Il August 20, 2001-If all goes well at Darlington, South Carolina on Sunday, September 2 the 49th running of the 100-mile Stock Car race during the DuQuoin State Fair will have a NASCAR flavor to it, as Winston Cup stars Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart return to the "Magic Mile", and Cup owner Andy Petree tries to make his first ever start on a dirt mile. They will be among approximately 40 drivers vying for slots in the Southern Illinois 100 for the Automobile Racing Club of America’s RE/MAX Stock Car Series. Federated Auto Parts comes on board to sponsor the 100-mile affair.

A switch in race dates by promoter Track Enterprises put the Southern Illinois 100 on Labor Day, the date previously reserved for the 100-mile Ted Horn Memorial of the USAC Silver Bullet Series. The championship dirt cars will now run on Sunday, with the Southern Illinois 100 moving to Monday (Labor Day, September 3), an open date for the Winston Cup series. Barring a weather delay or an injury, Schrader, Stewart and Petree will immediately head for DuQuoin after the running of the Southern 500. All three will have good equipment waiting for them, Schrader will be in his own Federated Auto Parts Pontiac numbered 99, while Stewart will drive as a teammate to defending ARCA National Champion Frank Kimmel on the Larry Clement team. Petree is expected to pull out one of his own Winston Cup machines for the Southern Illinois 100.

Schrader has raced at the "Magic Mile" many times, nearly everytime in USAC forms of competition. While Schrader has won and set records on the other two Midwest dirt miles at Springfield and Indianapolis, he has yet to win in any type of race car at DuQuoin. Ironically, Schrader began his USAC Stock car career at DuQuoin in the Sieveking Ford in 1979, qualifying 3rd competing with A.J. Foyt, Rusty Wallace and Joe Ruttman, but dropping out due to mechanical failure. Kenny has two victories in ARCA cars on the dirt miles, taking the Hoosier Lottery 100 at Indianapolis in 1994, and the Allen Crowe Memorial 100 at Springfield in 1998.

Schrader’s other appearances at DuQuoin came in USAC Dirt and Stock competition, and most recently a UMP Late Model event held July 1. Schrader’s last State Fair appearance at DuQuoin came in 1986 at the wheel of the late Glen Neibel’s dirt car for the Ted Horn Memorial. Kenny qualified 12th that day, but a blown engine on the second qualifying lap sent him to the sidelines for the day. His NASCAR commitments have kept him from appearing at the mile until this year.

In July, he was able to garner a 5th in the 30-mile UMP feature, tying his best DuQuoin finish in any type of car. Kenny is a former USAC Stock Car and NASCAR Rookie of the Year, as well as the 1982 USAC Silver Crown and 1983 USAC Sprint champ. He has numerous victories in all sorts of cars and his willingness to drive anything anywhere have gained him a large fan following. A large contingent from the St. Louis area near Kenny’s home of Fenton, Missouri are expected to invade DuQuoin on Labor Day.

Like Schrader, Stewart has become popular for his ability to drive any type of race car on any type of surface. Tony began in three-quarter midgets in his home of Rushville, Indiana and graduated to USAC Sprint and Midget cars. Tony won all three USAC (Silver Crown, Sprint, Midget) titles in the same season in 1995, a feat no other driver has ever accomplished. That performance pushed him onto the national scene, and helped him garner a ride in one of John Menard’s potent Lola-Buick’s for the 1996 Indy Racing League season.

At Indy that year, Stewart qualified at over 233 miles an hour for the middle of the front row, and moved to the pole after the tragic death of teammate Scott Brayton. Stewart led several laps before mechanical failure out the car behind the wall, but not before he impressed enough people to take Rookie of the Year honors. Stewart became the IRL’s national champion in 1997, and became the first Indy car race winner in several years to drive on the dirt at DuQuoin.

Stewart moved to the Winston Cup series in 1999, winning twice and taking Rookie of the Year honors. Last year he won more Cup races than any other driver (6), and finished 6th in the final point tally. This year, he has three wins and is within striking distance of the Winston Cup points lead. Stewart is fresh off a Winston Cup victory, taking the SHarpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway August 25th. Tony is also one of few drivers to pull double duty on Memorial Day, in 1999 he finished 9th at Indy and nearly won the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, and this year he posted top ten finishes in both events.

Stewart has had good runs at DuQuoin in the Silver Crown cars, but had to make those runs from the back of the pack. In 1996, he started well back in the field in George Snider’s Skoal dirt car, making a run to 4th by the end of the 100-mile grind. In his last appearance in 1997, Stewart made the Horn Memorial through the last chance race, and another great run through the pack netted him a third place finish, his best DuQuoin showing to date. The Southern Illinois 100 will be Stewart’s first attempt at a race for the full bodied stock cars on a mile dirt track.

This also will be Petree’s first attempt at a one-mile dirt track. While Petree does have some driving experience, he is better known for his work behind the pit wall. Petree was a winning crew chief for the Skoal Team and driver Harry Gant, before he was tabbed by Richard Childress to replace the departed Kirk Shelmerdine on the GM Goodwrench crew. Petree helped revitalize the "Flying Aces" and directed the late Dale Earnhardt to two of his seven Winston Cup titles. In 1995, Petree bought the Leo Jackson team and hired driver Robert Pressley for the Skoal Chevrolet. In 1996, Petree replaced Pressley with Ken Schrader. Most recently, Petree has had Joe Nemecheck as driver for the Oakwood Homes Chevrolet, and Bobby Hamilton of the Square D machine. In the spring race at Talladega this year, Hamilton posted the first Winston Cup win for Andy Petree Racing.

Schrader, Stewart and Petree won’t have an easy time taking home the top prize at DuQuoin, as the ARCA RE/MAX Series will have several top drivers on hand Labor Day. A large contingent of Illinois drivers is also expected to be on the grounds attempting to garner the coveted 1st place trophy.

Current ARCA RE/MAX and defending national champion Frank Kimmel is expected to head the list of drivers trying to keep the NASCAR contingent out of victory circle. Kimmel, also the 1998 ARCA titlist, has won 7 times on the circuit this year and has a commanding 1000 point lead in pursuit of his third ARCA crown. Kimmel’s luck hasn’t been the best on the "Magic Mile", he has led three races but hasn’t found victory lane. In fact, a few years ago Kimmel ended his race in the first turn upside down! The Jeffersonville, Indiana native gained his elusive first win on the dirt last year at Springfield in a classic battle with Bill Baird, and picked up his second dirt win in the PAR-A-DICE Allen Crowe Memorial at Springfield on August 19.

The other ARCA driver with perhaps the best chance of besting the NASCAR drivers is four-time and defending Southern Illinois 100 winner Billy Thomas of Phenix City, Alabama. Thomas is a master of the dirt surfaces, especially the one-mile of clay at DuQuoin and in 2000 tied Norm Nelson for second on the list for the most Southern Illinois 100 wins. Thomas is tied with Dean Roper for the most ARCA victories at DuQuoin, four. Billy is also the all-time lap leader at DuQuoin in stock car competition, having led 8 races for 438 laps. The owner of the Talladega Short Track holds one other dubious record at DuQuoin, his 2000 victory was the slowest DuQuoin race on record, an average speed of 51.910 miles per hour. Once again Thomas will be behind the wheel of the Joe Miller Chevrolet.

Most of the top ten in ARCA points are expected to be at DuQuoin, including AOL Ford driver Andy Belmont (3rd), Ron Cox (4th), Norm Benning (6th), Chuck Weber (7th), rookie contender Donny Morelock (8th) and Belmont’s brother and teammate Kevin (10th). The ARCA RE/MAX series had a rainout this past weekend in Michigan, and have a race at the Chicagoland Speedway Saturday, September 1 so it is possible the standings could change prior to their arrival at DuQuoin.

Also in the top ten reside former ARCA national champ Tim Steele (5th), a three time ARCA winner this year and the owner of the HS Die Ford. Todd Bowsher (8th) will attempt to follow his father Jack's tire tracks into DuQuoin's victory lane, the youngest of the Bowsher racing brothers drives his father’s number 21 Ford, a car that had a retro paint job earlier in the year resembling dad’s Don Wagner Specials during the 1960's and '70's.

A former ARCA champ announced his intention to come out of semi-retirement earlier in the year. Bill Baird, of nearby Sturgis, Kentucky is always tough on the dirt surfaces, and will bring wife Jan's Saturn Chevrolet onto the grounds race morning.

Unfortunately, the ARCA caravan comes to DuQuoin with a heavy heart after the sudden passing of legend Dean Roper at Springfield two weeks ago. Roper suffered a fatal heart attack while running ninth in the PAR-A-DICE Allen Crowe Memorial 100 and his absence will be felt in the pits and in the stands. Dean was attempting to become the oldest race winner in ARCA history, and his list of records is unmatched by any driver. Roper was the driver with the most ARCA wins on dirt, nine, and was the all-time leader in victories at DuQuoin with six, five in the Southern Illinois 100 alone. Dean Roper had 14 wins in stock cars on the mile dirt tracks of the Midwest.

Illinois drivers draw a large fan contingent, and this year’s field of Illinois shoes is no exception. Heading the Illinois contingent with an excellent chance to win will be Centralia’s Joe Cooksey in the Maurtco Chevrolet. In 2000, Cooksey became the first Southern Illinois resident to set on the pole for the Southern Illinois 100, his lap in excess of 100 miles an hour good enough for the top slot, and Joe posted a 4th place finish in the 100 mile event. Mokena's Bob Strait , the 1991 winner, will also be on hand, driving for the Bill Hendren team that fielded cars for 25 years for DuQuoin favorite Ken Rowley. Strait has a very good shot at this year’s crown, his Dauphin team prepared a mount that finished second at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the team is focused on taking this event. Also from Illinois will be Eric Smith of Bloomington in the Southtown Ford, and Charlie Schaefer of Carlyle in his own Chevy.

In Chevrolet’s will be Benton, Kentucky's Dennis English, an auto body shop manager when he is not racing and Dexter, Missouri's Jim Eubanks. Doug Keller of St. Joseph, Missouri finished in the top five at Springfield and has entered his own Pontiac.

One driver who expressed an eagerness to try racing on the big dirt tracks is rookie Jason Jarrett, driving for the team that fielded cars for Brian Ross in 2000. Earlier in the year, Jarrett indicated that he was looking forward to the uniqueness of racing NASCAR style cars on a big dirt track, in fact the youngster wanted to schedule a test session at both Springfield and DuQuoin. Jarrett’s appearance may mean the appearance (but not in racing machinery) of one and perhaps two past NASCAR Winston Cup champions. Jason is the son of 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett, driver of the Robert Yates UPS number 88, and grandson of two-time Cup champ and TV commentator Ned Jarrett, a fine dirt driver in his own right. Young Jason adapted to the dirt at Springfield very well, qualifying on the outside of the front row and finishing third. Presently, Jason is second in the ARCA national points and leads the rookie of the year standings.

The Jarrett family would have enjoyed the 2000 edition of the Southern Illinois 100, right along with the estimated 10,000 spectators in the stands. Race day dawned sunny and hot, with 38 cars on the grounds. Third qualifier Joe Cooksey established the pole speed, and no one would come within three tenths of a second the rest of the day.

Much to the delight of the partisan crowd, Cooksey charged into the lead at the start, with an opening lap of nearly 100 miles an hour. Cooksey led the first 12 circuits, until 1992 winner Strait in the Hendren Chevy muscled past for the top slot. Strait led 4 laps, then pit stops handed the lead to several drivers before Thomas took the top slot on lap 29 and led the rest of the way. Cautions plagued the race, most of them due to a new track surface breaking up entering turn three and causing a dust storm, a 16 car wreck on lap 38 being the worst. That incident is perhaps the largest race accident at DuQuoin, but no drivers were injured. The race was also red flagged at that point so the track could be watered.

Thomas motored easily to his 4th Southern Illinois 100 win, and the lions share of a total purse of around $100,000.

Big name drivers and owners are nothing new to the clay oval carved out of an old strip mine by the Hayes family in 1947, DuQuoin has a long history and tradition rivaled by very few racetracks across the country. It's stock car racing tradition alone pre-dates most of the present day NASCAR facilites, and DuQuoin has seen it’s share of NASCAR drivers pass through the gates.

Stock car racing began on the "Magic Mile" on Labor Day in 1950 as part of the fair, and as part of the American Automobile Association’s first ever stock car season. DuQuoin was part of a five race series, all on one-mile dirt tracks. California native Jay Frank won the event which drew a large crowd, but for an unknown reason the stock cars did not return until 1954. The 2001 Southern Illinois 100 will be the 51st stock car event at DuQuoin, and the 50th stock car race held during the DuQuoin State Fair.

Past winners of stock car races at the fairgrounds include such big names as USAC Stock Car legends Norm Nelson, Don White, Joe Leonard, Butch Hartman, Jack Bowsher, Verlin Eaker and Paul Feldner. Indy 500 winners Jimmy Bryan and A.J. Foyt are the only men ever to win the stock car race and the championship race, though no driver has accomplished both on the same weekend. ARCA drivers who have won at DuQuoin include Lee Raymond, Bob Keselowski, Bob Brevak, and Bob Schact. And winners who have gone on to become NASCAR legends include Frank Mundy, Marshall Teague, Fred Lorenzen, Paul Goldsmith and Rusty Wallace, who as a fair haired rookie set the racing world on it’s ear by besting Foyt in 1979. Other NASCAR drivers who have raced (but not won) at DuQuoin include the late Alan Kulwicki, Grant Adcox, Ramo Stott, gary Bradberry and Jermey Mayfield.

Illinois drivers have claimed a fair share of the races at DuQuoin over the last 51 years, including Chicago area drivers Sal Tovella, Bay Darnell, Lorenzen and Schact. The only downstate driver to take a Southern Illinois 100 win was Peoria’s Rick O’Brien in 1982.

The Southern Illinois 100 underwent several changes in the last 20 years, as did the "Magic Mile". The race went to a 200-mile distance in the 1980’s, the longest dirt track race in the country, then switched to a 250 kilometer distance (156 miles) in 1992. The Southern Illinois stock car race returned to it’s original distance in 1996.

The fifty-four year-old "Magic Mile" was originally built by the Hayes family in 1947, with the massive main grandstand and the north and south bleachers. With seating for 18,000, it was one of the finest dual purpose facilities in the country at that time, rich southern Illinois clay used for horses and cars, with a boiler plate guardrail on the inside and outside of the track. The first auto race on the mile was a sprint car event in 1947, won by Jimmy Wilburn. As members of the Hayes family passed on, fewer had interest in running the massive fair. It was eventually sold to the Jabr family, but they were unable to fully maintain the grounds or racetrack. In 1985, the State of Illinois acquired the fair and a massive cleanup of the grounds ensued.

In 1998, due to several well-publicized incidents of cars crashing through the guardrails, a program was put in place to renovate the mile. First, the inner hub rail was replaced, then the decaying bleachers were replaced with new aluminum stands. In 2000, a new outer concrete retaining wall 18 inches thick was put in place, and in 2001 lights were completed around the facility. In all, over 2.6 million dollars were spent to upgrade the facility for the safety and comfort of both spectators and participants.

The 49th Southern Illinois 100 takes place Labor Day, Monday September 3rd. Practice gets underway around 9 a.m., with qualifying around 11 and the Southern Illinois 100 around 1:30 p.m. Drivers will be shooting for the 1-lap qualifying record set by Ben Hess in 1992 in the Jim Spicuzza Target Expediting Oldsmobile of 34.752 seconds, an average speed of 103.591 miles per hour. The 100-mile ARCA record is held by Dean Roper at 1:06:35 (90.101) set in 1983, while the 100-mile race record was set by Jack Bowsher, 1:02:52.34 (95.432 MPH) and has stood since 1972.

Also on the card will be the semi-feature for the UMP Modified cars, and their 20-mile main event, the Bill Oldani Memorial. The modifieds put on some of the best racing seen on the mile race tracks, running three and four wide at times. Sixteen-year old Kyle Steffens of St. Louis scored a popular win in last year’s event, and was so happy that he bear-hugged track announcer Jim Childers in victory lane! St. Louis' Kevin Gundaker holds the 20-mile race record of 11:36.69, 103.346 miles per hour.

Information on the racing action can be found at www.arcaracing.com, or at www.trackenterprises.com. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster, the DuQuoin State Fair box office, or by calling 217-764-3200.

-ARCA-

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Series ARCA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Robert Pressley , Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Joe Ruttman , Ned Jarrett , Chuck Weber , Jason Jarrett , Joe Leonard , Donny Morelock , Tim Steele , Kirk Shelmerdine , Ron Cox , Andy Petree , Norm Benning , Doug Keller , Brian Ross , Robert Yates , Harry Gant , Bill Baird , A.J. Foyt , Kyle Steffens , Alan Kulwicki