Illinois: Tony Bettenhausen 100 preview

6 "Indy Car" vets entered for Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at Springfield. At least a half-dozen drivers with Indy Car racing experience, plus a handful with Indy Car tests under their belts, will compete in this Saturday afternoon's "Tony...

6 "Indy Car" vets entered for Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at Springfield.

At least a half-dozen drivers with Indy Car racing experience, plus a handful with Indy Car tests under their belts, will compete in this Saturday afternoon's "Tony Bettenhausen 100" at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The race is round eight of this year's USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown championship.

Silver Crown point leader J.J. Yeley is one of four entered drivers with Indianapolis 500 career starts to their credit. Yeley finished ninth in the 1998 "500," while Johnny Parsons has a dozen Indy starts, Donnie Beechler has four and Roger Rager competed in the 1980 "500." Dave Steele and Brian Tyler also have competed in "Indy Car" races and numerous other entered drivers have passed "Indy Car" driver tests.

Yeley, of Phoenix, Ariz., is the defending champion of the race and the series and is in the midst of a record-breaking USAC season. He has 20 feature victories in USAC competition, including three in the Silver Crown series so far. The 20 wins established a new all-time USAC single-season record, breaking A.J. Foyt's 1961 record of 19 which was subsequently tied in 1988 by Sleepy Tripp and 2000 by Jay Drake.

Steele, of Tampa, Fla., also owns a pair of 2003 Silver Crown triumphs and trails Yeley by 30 points going into Saturday's competition. Dave Darland, a two-time "Bettenhausen" winner, ranks third in the standings, 56 back with 66 available Saturday.

Practice is slated to start at 9 am, with qualifying at 10:30 and a 15-mile "qualifying race" at noon. The "Tony Bettenhausen 100" gets the green flag at 1:30 pm.

Beechler will certainly command much of the Springfield attention this weekend, competing in his hometown for a race victory which has eluded him. He will pilot the #45 RTD Motorsports/NAPA Auto Parts Stanton/Mopar entered by Freedom Motorsports of Sherman, Ill. In seven previous "Tony Bettenhausen 100" starts Donnie's best finish has been third in 1997.

Formers race winners Paul White (2001) and Russ Gamester (1998) are also entered for Saturday's "Tony Bettenhausen 100."

Drivers will be aiming for Robby Flock's 1-lap qualifying mark of 120.048 mph, established in 1996, and Jack Hewitt's 100-mile race record of 106.920 mph, set in 1987.

USAC WELD RACING SILVER CROWN SERIES STANDINGS
1. J.J. Yeley 364
2. Dave Steele 334
3. Dave Darland 308
4. Tracy Hines 282
5. Jay Drake 237
6. Paul White 224
7. Brian Tyler 210
8. Tyler Walker 173
9. Jason McCord 158
10. Rich Tobias, Jr. 155

-usac-

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Series USAC
Drivers Donnie Beechler , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Brian Tyler , Jay Drake , Johnny Parsons , Russ Gamester , Paul White , Tyler Walker , Jason McCord , Robby Flock , Tony Bettenhausen , A.J. Foyt