Springfield, IL Augustt 19, 2007-The traditional two day of auto racing on the last weekend of the Illinoi State Fair saw four different winners, youth served, several records set and both days schedule significantly altered due to the rain that...
Springfield, IL Augustt 19, 2007-The traditional two day of auto racing on the last weekend of the Illinoi State Fair saw four different winners, youth served, several records set and both days schedule significantly altered due to the rain that plagued Central Illinois all weekend.
Saturday, August 18, was set aside for the 47th Tony Bettenhausen 100 for the K&N Engineering USAC Silver Crown Championship dirt cars and the 2nd Best Western Lincoln Welders 50 for the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series. While the day dawned partly sunny storm clouds quickly moved in and as 16th qualifier Paul White completed his second time trial lap in his Silver Crown car, a thunderstorm hit the track drenching the grounds with a substantial amount of rain. Proceedings were delayed almost two and one half hours while the track crew turned in a herculean effort to restore the World's Faastest One Mile Dirt Track to a raceable condition. Lineups for both the USAC Silver Crown Series and the ARCA Truck Series were set on practice times as racing action began at around 2:45 p.m. CDT.
Due to a curfew the grounds were supposed to be vacated by 4:30 p.m. to allow the grandstand and grounds to be converted for the Joe Walsh concert. The ARCA ARCA Best Western Lincoln Welders 50 was reduced to 30 las due to time constraints, a record 24 trucks started the 30 mile affair, with the fastest four inverted. Rookie Frank Wilson Jr. of St. Marys, West Virginia set a new track record of 34.778 (103.514 MPH), started fourth and by the end of the first lap had the lead in his Dan Cava's Toyota World-Sunoco Ford Ranger. Wilson led all 30 miles despite the pace being slowed by three caution flags, two for accidents which resulted in no injuries to any drivers. Nick Gullatta pressured Wilson in the final laps but ran out of time and finished second. He was followed by defending winner Norm Weaver, Rob Jones and Steve Cronenwett.
The USAC Silver Crown cars then took to the track for the 47th running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100. The largest starting field in Bettenhausen and USAC Silver Crown history (for dirt tracks), 39 strong pushed off from the pit area onto the Springfield Mile trying to squeeze in 100 scheduled miles before the time limit expired. For the first time since 1978 an Illinois driver occupied the pole position as Olney's Levi Jones, by virtue of a time of 30.316 (118.749), became the first Prairie State native to start at the front since Bubby Jones started on the pole in 1978. With Kyle Wissmiller of Saybrook alongside, the all Illinois front row was a first in the 73 year history of championship dirt car racing at the Illinois State Fair!
Jones quickly jumped from the pole at the start and was chased by his teammate, 19 year old Ricky Stenhouse of Olive Branch, Mississippi. On lap 3 trouble erupted in the second turn as Jon Stanbrough flipped and collected Chris Urish of Elkhart, Illinois, Mike Hess of Petersburg, Illinois and Dickie Gaines driving a car for home town owner Scott Long. The fuel cell in the Hess car split upon impact and a huge fire erupted, severely burning the Hess machine and thoroughly scorching the cars of Gaines and Urish, whose fuel cell may also have split in the wreck. Due to the safety devices built into the cars and the fire retardant uniforms and helmets of the drivers, no injuries were reported. The accident brought out the red flag and a delay of nearly 20 minutes ensued to clean up the accident scene.
On the restart Stenhoue began to seriously pressure Jones, but had to wait through two more caution periods, one for the stalled car of Vienna, Illinois driver Derek King, the other for the stalled car of Aaron Pierce, before Stenhouse was able to take the lead for good on lap 29. Jones blew a tire on lap 73 bringing out the final of the four cautions on the day that flew for 24 laps. Due to time constraints the race was slated to be finished at 75 laps but technically exceeded that distance as USAC rules dictated the last two laps must be run under the green flag and the caution period to removed the Jones car far exceed the 75 lap distance. Stenhouse was never headed and in the process became not only the youngest winner of a 100-mile championship dirt car race at Springfield, but the youngest driver ever to post a win in a national championship auto racing series at the Illinois State Fair, at 19 years, 10 months and 16 days. Rookie Billy Wease finished second, with defendng national champion Bud Kaeding third, 2001 Bettenhausen winner and 2001 national champ Paul White fourth and Shane Cottle fifth. Sixty two year old Johnny Parsons was sixth and in the process became the career leader n USAC Silver Crown Series starts at Springfield with 25. The nine Illinois drivers in the field did not fare too well Saturday, in addition to the aforementioned Urish and Hess, Springfield's Donnie Beechler ran 9th, Dupo's Tim Siner 20th, Springfield's Justin Allgaier 30th, Galesburg's A.J. Fike 30th and Murphysboro's Randy Bateman 32nd. Saturday marked the first time in 73 years that a championship dirt car race at Springfield was cut short due to weather, the 4th time that official time trials were not used to set the starting lineup, and just the 6th time that a red flag caused no official time of the race to be recorded.
Sunday, August 19th dawned rainy and humid for the 15th running of the Wynn's Sportsman Nationals and the 45th Allen Crowe 100 for the ARCA RE/MAX stock cars. The morning rain caused a two hour delay and for just the 6th time since 1950, the starting field for the Allen Crowe 100 was not set according ot official time trials but by the current ARCA RE/MAX points.
The 15th Sportsman Nationals was contested after a 45 minute ARCA practice session concluded at 12:15 p.m., with Tim Dick of Monticello on the pole and Phil Moreland Sr. of Assumption alongside. Dave Smith of Monticello took the lead on lap one from his 4th starting position and was quickly pressured by 5 time Sportsman Nationals champ Wes O'Dell of Springfield. O'Dell took the lead on lap 4 and led through lap 18 until he slid high in turn one, allowing Tim Dick to take the lead. Dick ran to the checkers for his first Sportsman National win and revealed in victory lane that he was just 19, becoming the youngest winner of the event in just his first full season of racing. O'Dell took second followed by Dave Smith. Three time and defending winner Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin was invovled in two separate incidents that caused him t drop out just past halfway.
The 45th Crowe 100 saw eight time ARCA champ and 5 time Crowe 100 winner Frank Kimmel of Clarksville, Indiana on the pole with rookie Michael McDowell alongside. With the field set by points the starting grid was quite interesting as four of the front ten had never raced on a mile dirt track, while veteran dirt track racers like Ken Schrader, two time Crowe 100 winner Bill Baird, Joe Cooksey, John Gill and A.J. Fike were relegated to the rear of the field. Former USAC Silver Crown driver and Springfield track record holder Josh Wise appeared to be the man to beat in ARCA practice but he crashed his car and had to go to a backup sending him to the rear at the start, unfortunately the car quit on the parade lap and he pulled into the pits.
Kimmel sailed to the lead at the green flag and set a blistering pace and gave up the lead when he pitted during a lap 13 caution for a wreck involving Bill Baird and A.J. Fike in the third turn. Kimmel qucikly moved through the field and passed leader Ron Cox on lap 55 and was never seriously challenged, picking up his record sixth Allen Crowe 100 win and his 70th ARCA RE/MAX victory. McDowell ran second, rookie and former dirt late model driver Patrick Sheltra was third, Justin Marks fourth andDexter Bean fifth. Kimmel completed the 100 miles in just over 1 hour and 11 minutes for a speed of 83.507 miles an hour. Kimmel's win was the 12th for a Ford product at Springfield, the first for the Fusion model and the sixth for a car carrying the number 46. Kimmel became the driver with the most stock car pole positions at Springfield (4), the 13th stock car race winner to start on the pole and extended his laps led total at the Illinois State Fairgrounds to 487, also tops among all competitors. Eight Illinois drivers started the 45ht Crowe Memorial, Springfield's Kelly Kovski finished a career best 6th, Marion's Phillip McGilton 10th in his first dirt track race, defending winner Justin Allgaier of Springfield ra in the top 5 before fading to 11th, El Paso's Kenny Adams 22nd, Springfield's Wes O'Dell 27th, Arenzville's Mark Littelton 28th, Centralia's Joe Cooksey 29th and Galesburg's A.J. Fike 35th. The race was slowed 5 times for 25 laps including 3 for accidents which resulted in no injuries to any drivers.