Wide Open Field for 55th Hoosier Hundred An epic battle within a wide open field of United States Auto Club Silver Crown drivers on one of the most storied pieces of auto racing real estate in the world is just part of the story leading into the...
Wide Open Field for 55th Hoosier Hundred
An epic battle within a wide open field of United States Auto Club Silver Crown drivers on one of the most storied pieces of auto racing real estate in the world is just part of the story leading into the 55th running of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Friday night, May 25. California's Josh Wise is not slated to return to defend his thrilling 2006 Hoosier Hundred win throwing the chase for the 2007 race trophy to a field of young chargers and seasoned veterans looking for a place in racing immortality.
With no clear favorite for the 55th Hoosier Hundred many eyes turn to current USAC Silver Crown point leader Aaron Pierce of Indianapolis. Driving a car owned by his father, an Indiana car dealer, Pierce owns a nine point lead over Wayne Reutimann, Jr. in the standings after Pierce won at Darlington on May 10. Pierce is trying to become the first driver from Muncie to win the Hoosier Hundred. Sitting behind Pierce in the standings is second-generation driver Wayne Reutimann, Jr. of Zephyr Hills, Florida. Reuitmann is one of the most improved drivers on the circuit and while he struggled on the dirt tracks in 2006 he has been outstanding on the big paved speedways.
Former USAC National champions Bud Kaeding and Paul White are also in the mix of potential winners for the 55th Hoosier Hundred. Kaeding, a third generation driver out of Campbell, California is the defending USAC Silver Crown champion as he and car owner Jason Leffler combined for the title last year. Kaeding has finished in the top ten three times in 2007 with his best runs a fourth at Manzanita and Darlington. White, the 2001 USAC Silver Crown champion has struggled since his title season, a year that saw him dominate on the dirt miles at Springfield and DuQuoin. Should Paul win the Hoosier Hundred he would become just the 14th driver since 1948 to post wins on all three of the fairground dirt miles on the schedule.
Other drivers in the top ten in the 2007 point chase slated for the Hoosier Hundred include fifth place A.J. Fike and ninth place Mat Neely, both from the state of Illinois. Galesburg's Fike has been retained to drive the Ron Hemelgarn-Roger Johnson entry in 2007 and will run a car from his father's stable for the dirt track events. Fike excels on the mile dirt tracks having an ARCA pole run to his credit. Neely, from Robinson, is part of the RW Motorsports stable that includes veteran midget campaigner Jerry Coons, Jr. of Arizona.
With 2000 USAC Silver crown champion Tracy Hines (the winner at Homestead) now sidelined due to an April motorcycle accident, perhaps the favorite Indiana driver to capture the Hoosier Hundred is Lincoln's Dave Darland. The 1997 USAC Silver Crown champion won three consecutive races on the "Track of Champions in the 1995 and 1996 seasons, and added Hoosier Hundred victory number three in 2004. If Dave can put the Galen Fox wrenched machine in victory lane at the Indiana State Fairgrounds once more he would join racing legend Al Unser in second place on the all-time Hoosier Hundred win list with four, just two behind another legend A.J. Foyt. Another veteran expected to compete at the Indiana State Fairgrounds is two time Hoosier Hundred winner Tony Elliot of Kokomo, Indiana.
Fellow veteran and former Indy 500 competitor Johnny Parsons of nearby Speedway should join Darland at the Indiana State Fair mile. The sixty-two year old Parsons is still capable of running with the younger drivers and his experience is invaluable on the flat and tricky one-mile dirt oval in Indianapolis. Besides Parsons, Parma, Michigan driver Brian Tyler is also in search of his first Hoosier Hundred victory. Tyler has become one of the favorites of fans of the series and has shown a unique capability to win on both pavement and the dirt twice winning the famed Tony Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield. Veteran Jon Stanbrough is thought to be among the entries as well having been reported securing the Baldwin Brothers machine for the dirt portion of the USAC Silver Crown schedule.
The seasoned veteran drivers will have to contend with a number of young, hungry shoes ready to take their first Hoosier Hundred victory on May 25, plus one with a win already in his pocket. One such driver won the first race of the season on the dirt half mile at Manzanita and recently picked up a coveted ride in the series as a replacement for Tracy Hines on the Tony Stewart team. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. of Memphis, Tennessee won the Copper on Dirt event at the beginning of the season driving for Carl Edwards and has since been hired to replace Tracy Hines. Stenhouse adapted to the big tracks very well last season and won the last chance race on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 2006.
The youngster with a Hoosier Hundred trophy to his credit is Donnelsville, Ohio native Teddy Beach. Beach won the Hoosier Hundred at the yender age of 20 in 2005 becoming the youngest winner of the event and is a former track record holder at DuQuoin. Fellow youngster Levi Jones of Olney, Illinois drives for NASCAR star Tony Stewart and is a teammate to Stenhouse. He also holds a dubious record at the Indiana State Fairgrounds leading the most laps of one race and not ending up in victory lane when he led the first 99 circuits last year.
Stenhouse and Jones should be joined by drivers such as Shane Hollingsworth of Noblesville, Indiana, Billy Wease driving for the Roger Penske backed Western Speed team, Missouri's Jesse Hockett and Illinois midget ace Mike Hess of Petersburg.
The 2007 Hoosier Hundred is the 5th scheduled race on the 2007 USAC Silver Crown slate and the national championship dirt track race held on the Indiana State Fair mile. The 2007 Hoosier Hundred is the 55th edition of the creation of the late Jo Quinn, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Safety Director and prominent Indiana businessman Roger Wolcott. Both Quinn and Wolcott were instrumental in getting a ban on auto racing rescinded after the death of Al Putnam in 1946 at the fairgrounds lifted. Quinn and Wolcott traveled to Springfield, Illinois to watch their successful national championship event and sought to make the Hoosier Hundred bigger and better. They didn't have to wait long for their creation to take off, though Mother Nature delayed the start.
Rain postponed the very fist Hoosier Hundred but when the skies cleared and the race was run on 1953 a large field of cars invaded the Circle City for the 100-mile grind. Four cars finished under a blanket at the line in a race that had the crowd on its feet at the end, cheering Bob Sweikert as the victor in the Dean Van Lines car. In fact, Al Dean's Kuzma dirt car owned the Hoosier Hundred as Jimmy Bryan won each of the next three Hoosier Hundred events.
A.J. Foyt literally became the master of the flat one-mile dirt track, winning his first of six Hoosier Hundred races in 1960 and coming home first again in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Foyt continued to start in 19 consecutive races, missed the 1977 event and came back for two more. A.J. 's good buddy and current USAC Silver Crown team manager George Snider has the most Hoosier Hundred starts.
Over the 55 years a number of great drivers posted wins in what would become the championship trail's second biggest race behind the one held in Speedway. Pamelli Jones, Rodger Ward, Jud Larson and Mario Andretti all won national championship events and when the dirt cars were split from the championship trail at the end of 1970, guys like Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Larry Rice, Gary Bettenhausen, Chuck Gurney and Jack Hewitt won Silver Crown Hoosier Hundred races.
A large field of capable drivers is expected to be a part of the Hoosier Hundred festivities two nights before the 9lst Indianapolis 500. The cars with a lineage that goes back over 100 years will once again traverse a race track that has been a part of auto racing since 1903. The mighty uprights begin practice for the Hoosier Hundred at 5 p.m. EDT, with qualifications at 6 and the green flag for the 55th running of the Hoosier Hundred at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $25 and can be obtained by calling 217-764-3200 or 317-927-1482. Race day tickets are $30 and a $5 off race day coupon can be found at participating Indianapolis area Kroger locations. Additional information can be found at www.trackenterprises.com, www.usacracing.com or www.hoosierhundred.com.