2004 Illinois and DuQuoin State Fair Auto Race Schedules Released The schedule of major league automobile racing on the two one mile dirt fairground ovals of Illinois retains the traditional fair dates but provides some exciting changes in 2004...
2004 Illinois and DuQuoin State Fair Auto Race Schedules Released
The schedule of major league automobile racing on the two one mile dirt fairground ovals of Illinois retains the traditional fair dates but provides some exciting changes in 2004 as the roster of events has been released by promoter Bob Sargent and the staff at Track Enterprises, now entering their second decade as the race organizer at Springfield and DuQuoin.
The 2004 racing schedule for the two fairgrounds owned by the State of Illinois will once again see two United States Auto Club Weld Racing Silver Crown events, two Automobile Racing Club of America RE/MAX Series events, one ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series event, one event for the new World of Outlaws Late Model series, and races for sportsman and UMP Modified cars during the year. In excess of $350,000 in purse and prize money could be paid out for the various events in the 2004 season.
Racing on the unique one-mile dirt tracks begins in mid-August, as the 94th anniversary of auto racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds comes during the 151st Illinois State Fair. On August 21, the last Saturday of the fair, the fire-breathing championship dirt track cars of the USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown series invade the "World's Fastest One Mile Dirt Oval" with the 44th running of the "Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100".
Springfield's very name is synonymous with history and tradition in American motor sports. It was seventy years ago that Billy Winn won Springfield's first ever-national championship race. Since that time, auto racing legends such as Wilbur Shaw, Rex Mays, Jimmy Bryan, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Al Unser won national championship dirt track races on the Springfield Mile. When the dirt cars were separated from the national championship series in 1971, new heroes like Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Jack Hewitt and 7-time Springfield winner Chuck Gurney joined the honor roll of winners.
One driver captured the hearts of Springfield race fans during the height of his career during the 1950's, that being Tony Bettenhausen. Dubbed "Der Panzer", Bettenhausen was known for his hard charging, bolt upright style in the cockpit of a race car. Tony became the first three-time national championship race winner at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, an accomplishment magnified by the fact that he was a son of the Prairie State, making his home in the northern Illinois city of Tinley Park.
Tragically Tony lost his life in a practice crash at Indianapolis in 1961, leaving behind a racing legacy enshrined by the Illinois State Fair board when the championship race was named in his honor. Part of Tony's legacy was three sons who also raced, with eldest son Gary winning his father's memorial event twice.
The 2003 event saw blazing speed in practice, as several drivers were under the existing track record. The team cars of Galen Fox took the front row spots, with Jerry Coons, Junior leading one circuit and Dave Darland leading the other 99 on the way to Darland's third Bettenhausen Memorial triumph.
Racing resumes on Sunday, August 22nd as the ARCA RE/MAX Series machines come to Springfield for the 42nd running of the "Allen Crowe Memorial 100", along with the 11th running of the Wynn's Sportsman Nationals event.
Stock cars ran for the first time at the Springfield Mile in September of 1950, with Jay Frank's Oldsmobile Rocket 88 pulling into victory lane. The hardtops retuned in 1953, with the "Rebel" Frank Mundy taking first in the 100 mile grind. It would be another 8 years before the local Seratoma Club sponsored USAC Stock Car race brought the cars back to Springfield for an event run after the 1961 Illinois State Fair. Len Sutton, a fixture in the championship cars for the powerful Leader Card team, won the 100-mile event in a Pontiac.
Unfortunately, 1963 would see the addition of another memorial event at the Illinois State Fair. Allen Crowe was a Springfield native who had cut his racing teeth on the area tracks, gaining a considerable following. Viewed by many as a driver with potential, Allen made the Indianapolis 500 in 1962 and again in 1963. Sadly, his life was cut short in a racing accident at New Bremen, Ohio in June of 1963. This time, the fair board paid tribute to a local son by naming the stock car race in his honor. By 1965, the Allen Crowe Memorial became a part of the Illinois State Fair lineup.
In the last 41 years, many of the finest stock car drivers in the country have taken home an Allen Crowe trophy. NASCAR legend Curtis Turner won the first event in 1963, with Indy legend Bobby Marshman and NASCAR legend Bobby Isaac winning the next two events. USAC stars such as Norm Nelson, Butch Hartman, Don White and Ramo Stott all possess Crowe Memorial wins, while ARCA drivers Bob Brevak, Bob Keselowski and Bobby Bowsher won stock car events at Springfield. Even NASCAR's Ken Schrader took home a Crowe trophy, winning the 1998 race.
The grand champion of stock car racing at Springfield, however is the late Dean Roper. Winner of seven races at Springfield coming in a string of nine events from 1981 to 1986, Roper, Keselowski and defending winner Frank Kimmel all have four Crowe Memorial trophies. In fact, Kimmel dominated last year's race to become the first driver in history to win four consecutive Allen Crowe Memorial races.
One week later fairground auto racing moves 180 miles to the south, to perhaps the most beautiful racetrack setting in the country. Located on the south side of DuQuoin, Illinois, "The "Magic Mile" celebrates its 58th birthday, hosting major league auto racing since 1946. An ongoing renovation project has seen several million dollars pumped into the facility, which now sports a modern concrete crash wall, new bleacher grandstands and a new MUSCO lighting system, with a paved pit area being planned for 2004.
Three days of racing are slated for DuQuoin, two under the lights beginning with the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series 50 lap event on Saturday night, August 28.
Last year saw the ARCA trucks compete at DuQuoin in the first night race held during the fair, along with a field of steel block late model cars in a 20-mile support event. A strong field of ARCA trucks showed for the Saturday night affair, and close racing was the order of the evening as the distance between the first several trucks was never more than a few car lengths. Veteran Tully Esterline wrote his name in the books as the first ARCA truck pole sitter at DuQuoin, but it was rookie Brian Rowe who slid past Esterline at the halfway mark to go into the record books as DuQuoin's first ever truck race winner.
Racing action comes back on the traditional Labor Day weekend at DuQuoin, first with the USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series championship machines, racing during the fair for the first time on a Sunday night, September 5. Then, on Labor Day, it's the ARCA RE/MAX Series stock cars, which should once again see an invasion of NASCAR drivers trying to beat the ARCA regulars. UMP Modifieds will compete both days, with the 20-mile Oldani Memorial event held on Labor Day.
Championship machinery made its first appearance at DuQuoin in 1948, with the first of two events held during the fair. Future Indy 500 winner Lee Wallard took that inaugural 100-mile race, while the second event also saw a future 500 winner in victory circle. Unfortunately, the second event saw a tragedy with national ramifications that led to the championship race becoming a memorial event.
In October 1948, the championship machines pulled into DuQuoin for the second of two events, with the national title already in the pocket of the ever-popular Ted Horn. Horn was having one of his best seasons ever, winning the pole at Indianapolis and finishing 4th, taking his third consecutive AAA national driving title, and 23 of the 24 sprint car races he had entered that year. Towing his championship car, known as "Beauty", with the large number one on the tail, Horn was a favorite to win at DuQuoin.
During the early stages of the championship event, Horn and Johnny Mantz tangled in turns three and four, with the popular Horn thrown from his flipping machine. Horn passed away at the hospital, and AAA had lost its great champion. Shortly after the accident, the fair board honored Horn by naming the championship dirt race in his honor.
This year will see the 54th running of the Ted Horn Memorial event; there have been 56 scheduled runnings, with two races cancelled due to rain. The Horn Memorial has seen a number of great champions, from Tony Bettenhausen, to Jimmy Bryan, to Rodger Ward, to Mario Andretti and Al Unser. When the Silver Crown series took over in 1971, drivers such as George Snider, Bubby Jones, Gary Bettenhausen, Jack Hewitt and Kasey Kahne took home Horn Memorial trophies.
However, it was four time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt who captured the fancy of the DuQuoin race fans, taking his first national championship win at the "Magic Mile" in 1960 and securing five other Horn Memorial trophies, the last of his record twenty-six mile dirt track championship triumphs coming in the fall of 1972.
Last year's event is one that fans are still talking about, as a large crowd saw a new world record lap, a close finish and a first time winner.
Rained out from its original fair date, the Horn Memorial 100 was postponed to the following Saturday night, just the third night race under the new DuQuoin lights. Ohio rookie Teddy Beach set the track on fire with a blazing 29.947 circuit, the first lap over 120 miles an hour at DuQuoin and a new world's record for the Silver Crown cars on a one mile dirt track.
Race action saw Dave Darland on the fly looking for his first DuQuoin win early in the race, but an accident took out the 1997 Silver Crown titlist, ending his night. Moving through the field was second-generation shoe Rich Tobias, Junior, in a car of his own design that had been specially modified after he destroyed his primary car in a crash at Springfield. Tobias had to run the last chance race to make the show, then moved from 25th to take the lead just a few circuits from the end. Springfield's Donnie Beechler, a former Indy 500 competitor, provided last lap excitement as he closed on Tobias, but the Annville, Pennsylvania driver held off Beechler for his first ever Silver Crown triumph.
Racing action resumes at DuQuoin on Labor Day, as some NASCAR Nextel Cup stars are expected to be mixed in the field with the ARCA RE/MAX regulars for the 52nd running of the Federated Auto Parts-Southern Illinois 100.
Southern Illinois race fans got their first taste of stock car racing in 1950, as Jay Frank won a 100-mile event on Labor Day. Stock cars did not run again until 1954, and have been a part of the fair's racing entertainment ever since.
Thousands of racing fans have witnessed greats like Jimmy Bryan, Paul Goldsmith, Don White, Butch Hartman, Foyt, and Bay Darnell all win on the "Magic Mile'. ARCA drivers such as Bob Strait, Bob Schact, Bob Brevak and Billy Thomas all have DuQuoin trophies, while NASCAR drivers Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart have a DuQuoin triumph on their resume.
NASCAR's Ken Schrader filed the first entry for the 2003 Federated 100, and has filed the first entry for the 2004 race as well. Schrader and Stewart appeared to be the class of the field in 2003, on a day plagued by wet grounds and an approaching storm system.
Stewart won the pole position once for the third consecutive year, but for a period of time it looked as if he would be the bridesmaid again to defending ARCA series champion Frank Kimmel. Kimmel experienced problems with his mount during the event, and Stewart was able to pull away from Schrader for his first ever win on one of the one-mile dirt tracks. The race went over the 100-mile distance due to several caution flags, and Stewart was caught in a downpour as a thunderstorm erupted while he was interviewed in victory lane!
Mile track racing in the State of Illinois concludes on Sunday September 19 with the 13th annual Turbo Blue Illinois Fall Nationals at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. The late model portion of the event, formerly run under UMP sanction, has now been added to the newly formed World of Outlaws late model series schedule.
Twelve drivers, known as the "Dirty Dozen", have committed to running for the championship in that series and could appear at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on the 19th. They include five time national champion Scott Bloomquist, Mike Balzano, Rick Auckland, Steve Francis, Rick Eckert, Chub Frank, Bart Hartman, defending Illinois Fall Nationals late model winner Darrell Lanigan, four-time Fall Nationals late model champ Billy Moyer, Dale McDowell, Dan Schlieper and Wendell Wallace.
The Illinois Fall Nationals features a total purse that exceeds $50,000, with feature events for late model cars and the UMP Modified series. Last year's races saw Darrell Lanigan win the late model event, while St. Charles, Missouri driver Jim Shereck won the modified event.
Tickets for all of the 2004 Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairground events are on sale now at Ticketmaster locations, the Illinois and DuQuoin State Fair Box Office, or by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200. You may visit Track Enterprises on the World Wide Web at www.trackenterprises.com. By purchasing tickets in advance for the either of the two USAC Silver Crown or either of the two ARCA RE/MAX series events, fans can save $5 off the race day ticket price at the gate for any one of those four events.