Indianapolis 500 veteran Donnie Beechler of Springfield, Ill. is the latest entrant for this weekend's NAPA "Hawkeye Hundred" USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet race at the Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. Beechler, the fifth-fastest ...
Indianapolis 500 veteran Donnie Beechler of Springfield, Ill. is the latest entrant for this weekend's NAPA "Hawkeye Hundred" USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet race at the Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway.
Beechler, the fifth-fastest qualifier for this year's Indianapolis 500 at 224.449 mph., raced from 27th to seventh in Sunday's race in the first 75 laps and was appeared headed for a "top-10" finish in his Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. An cracked oil fitting forced him into the pits and he retired just before the checkered flag, relegating him to a disappointing 25th-place finish. Sunday was his fourth consecutive appearance in the "500."
Donnie, whose racing career started in 1982, finished second to Dave Darland in the 1997 Coors Light Silver Bullet standings and fourth two years earlier. He was sixth in last year's final Indy Racing Northern Light Series points and had a career-best third-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. He owns five career wins in both the USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet cars and the USAC World Com National Midget Car Series.
The Knoxville race will mark Donnie's 2001 Silver Bullet debut. He will be driving the #175 Mopar/Brentwood Dodge Mopar/Stanton entry fielded by Stanton Racing of Nicholasville, Ky.
"I'm really excited about coming to Knoxville," he says. "Gary Stanton built the car I drove to second in the 1997 standings and I'm sure I'll have a competitive car for this weekend. We had a good run at Indy, turning laps at over 219 and had maybe a "top-three or five," but our luck just ran out.
"The cars are two different animals," he added, relating the IRL and USAC cars. "The racing concept is the same and coming through the USAC ranks certainly played a big part in preparing me for the IRL. The big difference is that aerodynamics dictate the IRL car's performance, while in the Silver Crown cars it's more mechanical grip. There's a lot more driver involvement in racing the Silver Crown machines.
Donnie has raced at Knoxville as recently as 1999 in a winged sprint car, but this will be his first appearance in the Silver Bullet Series at the 1/2-mile dirt track. "I broke a valve in the sprint car race and didn't finish," he adds. "You need to have a really good motor at Knoxville since you never really lift much. I watched this race on TV last year and saw Jay Drake run high most of the night, but I'll need to see the track conditions and the weather to decide my best line around the track."
A 100-lap feature event is scheduled at 9:30 Saturday night, following warmups at 8:15 pm. Knoxville's 1/2-mile dirt oval will also host Friday activity, including the Masters Classic, with Silver Bullet practice from 6:30-7 pm and qualifying at 7:30. A 20-lap "qualifying race" to finalize the starting field is slated at 9:30 Friday. Saturday night's program also includes sprint-car competition. News media are also expected to attend a special non-sanctioned open practice session on Thursday night from 7-10 pm.
In addition to other previously-announced entries, Aaron Fike of Galesburg, Ill. will join brother A.J. in the field for this weekend's Knoxville race. The two became the first brothers to win back-to-back USAC "rookie" titles, taking the National Midget Car Series honors in 1999 and 2000.