NASCAR Invades ARCA RE/MAX Series at DuQuoin! Nearly forty entrants are expected to compete for over $140,000 in prize money and a coveted trophy from a victory on the historic DuQuoin State Fairground mile on Labor Day as the Automobile Racing...
NASCAR Invades ARCA RE/MAX Series at DuQuoin!
Nearly forty entrants are expected to compete for over $140,000 in prize money and a coveted trophy from a victory on the historic DuQuoin State Fairground mile on Labor Day as the Automobile Racing Club of America RE/MAX Stock Car Series visits the nation's premier one mile dirt oval. Only four of the famous mile dirt tracks in the United States currently host forms of automobile racing, so a victory in one of the 100-mile grinds is rare and appreciated. The entry list may include most of the top ten in the current ARCA RE/MAX series point chase, several young and talented drivers, two famous veterans coming out of semi-retirement for the ARCA dirt races and several popular home state drivers. The entry list includes one NASCAR Nextel Cup pilots, and could include more in the coming days depending on the NASCAR race in California.
One NASCAR pilot whose entry at DuQuoin is not in question is local favorite Ken Schader of Concord, North Carolina, formerly of Fenton, Missouri. Schrader is well known throughout the Midwest, not only for his racing exploits but as the co-promoter of the I-55 Raceway in Peveley, Missouri. Schrader, currently the driver of the BAM Schwan's Dodge in Nextel Cup Competition, is sponsored on the ARCA circuit by race sponsor Federated Car Care. He considers DuQuoin his "home" mile dirt track having grown up just 90 miles from the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds and making his big time stock car debut in the Southern Illinois 100 in 1979 where he qualified third. While he owns several victories on the miles at Springfield and Indianapolis, DuQuoin remains the lone Midwestern fairground facility that has not been conquered by Ken Schrader. In an attempt to break that jinx, Schrader again filed the first entry this year for the Federated 100.
Will he or won't he is the question once again regarding defending Federated 100 winner and 2002 NASCAR champ Tony Stewart. The "Rushville Rocket" has been a fixture in ARCA competition at the "Magic Mile" since 2001, finishing second in 2001 and 2002 to five-time ARCA national champ Frank Kimmel. Last year Stewart did not make his intentions to compete at DuQuoin known until just before race day. The former USAC Triple Crown champion obtained a Chevrolet from his NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs, and with sponsorship from his NASCAR sponsor Home Depot, dominated the 100-mile event for a well received win. The triumph put Stewart in a rare class that includes boyhood hero A.J. Foyt, a class of drivers who have won 100-mile races on one of the fairground mile dirt tracks.
Whoever the ARCA "Invaders" are should present significant competition to the ARCA regulars who are led by five time ARCA RE/MAX Series champ and two-time Federated-Southern Illinois 100 winner Frank Kimmel of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Kimmel, the winner at DuQuoin in 2001 and 2002 comes into DuQuoin with a nearly insurmountable points lead in the 2004 standings. Kimmel has won 6 of the last 9 ARCA races held on the dirt, a surface he originally did not care for!
Other drivers currently in the top ten in the ARCA points expected to enter the Federated 100 include top rookie T.J. Bell (5th), Jason Jarrett, (4th) son of 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett, Winder, Georgia's Mark Gibson (8th) who lists DuQuoin as one of his favorite tracks, improving Christi Passmore (6th), Indiana's Darrell Basham (10th) and second generation driver Todd Bowsher (9th). DuQuoin fans should be familiar with the Bowsher name, Todd' s dad Jack was a standout with ARCA and the now defunct USAC Stock Car series and won the 1972 Southern llinois 100 in record time, the only DuQuoin stock car event to be run without a yellow flag.
In addition to the top ten in points, ARCA regulars Andy Belmont and Norm Benning of Pennsylvania, Mike Buckley and Brad Smith of Michigan, and rookie Brandon Knupp of Ohio are expected to enter the Federated 100.
Labor Day weekend always draws a strong contingent of drivers from Illinois and the surrounding area, and this year is no different as three Illinois drivers currently sit in the top ten slots in the ARCA RE/MAX standings, one of those near the top of the ARCA Rookie Point chase as well.
North Barrington's Brent Sherman continues to improve each year in the ARCA stock cars, and is second in this year's title chase. Right behind Sherman is another second generation driver with a familiar name, Chicago's Billy Venturini. Young Bill is the son of Bill Venturini, a former ARCA national champ and a frequent DuQuoin competitor with ARCA and USAC. Seventh in the points is another familiar face, rookie A.J. Fike of Galesburg. A.J., who ran last year's Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin in the USAC Silver Crown Series, switched to the ARCA cars this season and has teamed with former ARCA champ and USAC Silver Crown shoe Andy Hillenburg for a full season run. A.J. will be attempting something at DuQuoin no driver has accomplished in 33 years Labor Day weekend. He stunned many by announcing last week that he would enter the USAC Silver Crown Ted Horn 100 on Sunday, as well as the ARCA event and the UMP Modified race as well. The list of drivers that have run three different races at DuQuoin on labor Day weekend includes legendary names Rodger Ward, Tony Bettenhausen and A.J. Foyt, but no driver has done the DuQuoin "hat trick" since the late Larry Cannon in 1971. Ironically, Cannon was also an Illinois native, hailing from Oakwood.
Sentimental favorite Joe Cooksey of Centralia was hired earlier this season by the SERVPRO team after Ron Cox suddenly retired from competition. Joe became the first Southern Illinois driver to capture a Federated 100 pole position when he qualified for the top slot in 2000. Other Illinois drivers expected at DuQuoin include Carlyle's Charlie Schafer and eighteen year old Justin Allgaier of Springfield, in his third year of ARCA competition. Justin will be trying to make history at DuQuoin, he has a ride for Sunday's USAC Silver Crown Ted Horn 100 and if he can make both events he will become the first driver to accomplish that feat in fifteen years, not to mention the youngest driver ever to run both races.
An area driver who may have a ride at DuQuoin is Fredericktown, Missouri's Perry Tripp. Tripp is a veteran of stock car and sprint car competition in Missouri and Illinois, and has run several ARCA races.
Two veterans come out of retirement to compete once again at DuQuoin, as Sturgis, Kentucky ace Bill Baird returns to the ARCA series. The 1999 ARCA National Champion has a victory at Springfield and has promised to jump in the infield lake should he win at DuQuoin. The other veteran is ageless Red Farmer, an original member of the famous "Alabama Gang" that included Bobby and Donnie Allison, and the late Neil Bonnett. Should he make the race, Farmer would extend his record as the oldest driver ever to compete at DuQuoin, as he turns 72 in October!
These men and several others will be continuing a tradition of one of the most unique forms of auto racing in the country, full bodied stock cars racing on a fairground dirt track. Big stock cars on the dirt is unusual, only twice a year do they take to the dirt surface requiring dirt screens, grooved tires and at times windshield wipers! Both of the dirt venues are in Illinois, and one is the beautiful DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
Set on several hundred acres in the town of DuQuoin Illinois, the former strip mine was converted to Illinois second State Fair by the late Bill Hayes in 1923. Hayes thought that the trip to Springfield was too much to make for the citizens of Southern Illinois and was determined to give them the same entertainment as citizens near the state capitol. A lifelong horse enthusiast, Hayes quickly discovered the entertainment and profitability of auto racing as a draw for the fair, the first fairs included auto racing events on the half mile track on the west side of the grounds.
Shortly after World War II the present one mile track was complete along with seating for nearly 18,000 spectators. When the American Automobile Association added stock cars to its racing schedule in 1950, DuQuoin was one of the five events. Jay Frank won before a large crowd on that Labor Day in 1950. Stock cars returned in 1954, and have been a regular part of the fair lineup ever since.
Many racing legends have won at DuQuoin, even more have been thrilled to compete here. Indy winner Jimmy Bryan won the 1957 Southern Illinois 100, then future NASCAR legend Fred Lorenzen took the next two. USAC Stock Car greats Don White and Norm Nelson dominated the sixties at DuQuoin, with A.J. Foyt slipping into victory lane in 1969. The late Butch Hartman dominated the seventies, a decade that ended with a young USAC rookie named Rusty Wallace besting A.J. Foyt in a 1979 thriller.
The eighties saw the late Dean Roper establish himself as the master of the dirt miles with six DuQuoin triumphs, the first DuQuoin stock car race under ARCA sanction and the last USAC Stock Car race in history, while the nineties saw a second generation winner in Bobby Bowsher, with NASCAR veterans and future NASCAR drivers all trying their hand on the DuQuoin dirt. In fact, the list of NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers who have entered or participated at DuQuoin is quite extensive and includes Jeremy Mayfield, Gary Bradberry, Nelson Stacy, Dick Trickle, Curtis Turner, Joe Ruttman, Mike Wallace and the late Alan Kulwicki.
The 2004 field for the Federated 100 carries on a DuQuoin stock car tradition that goes back over fifty years when the cars are started on Labor Day. Practice for the ARCA RE/MAX series begins at 9 a.m., with Old Milwaukee qualifying at 10:30. The 52nd Federated Southern Illinois 100 is slated to begin at 1:30.
Tickets are going fast but are still available at the DuQuoin State Fair Box Office, Ticketmaster or by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200. Additional information can be found on the world wide web at www.trackenterprises.com or at www.arcaracing.com.