The 2006 United States Auto Club Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Filters continues to generate even more interest heading into the resurrected 54th running of the Hoosier Hundred Friday night May 26 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The ...
The 2006 United States Auto Club Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Filters continues to generate even more interest heading into the resurrected 54th running of the Hoosier Hundred Friday night May 26 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The prestigious event was postponed earlier in the year due to concerns over the fencing but thanks to the efforts of a number of people in the governmental and business community the 100 mile grind will take place as scheduled.
New Hoosier Hundred promoter Bob Sargent and staff have been working feverishly to put all the pieces in place for a successful event and have been helped greatly by Indiana State Fair director Cindy Hoye, Indianapolis businessman Bob Parker, Matt Steward of the Indiana Governor's office and 1981 Hoosier Hundred winner Larry Rice as well as former promoter Tom Johnson to return the event to the 2006 schedule.
With the recent announcement by USAC that the 2006 point fund is at $250,000 and the new generation pavement car having only run two events in 2006, the 100 miles on the Indiana State Fair dirt now play a prominent role in determining the 2006 USAC Silver Crown Series champion.
Wins on both pavement and dirt would seem to make current point leader Brian Tyler of Parma, Michigan the favorite for the 2006 USAC Silver Crown title and one of the favorites heading into the Hoosier Hundred. Tyler, the driver of the 6R Racing 21 is a two time winner of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and his ten wins in the series place him in a tie with Gary Bettenhausen for fourth on the all-time series win list.
If Tyler is to gain his first Hoosier Hundred triumph he will have his work cut out for him as a stellar field of former winners, veterans and up and coming drivers stands at the ready to join the elite list of Hoosier Hundred winners. That list includes Indianapolis' own Aaron Pierce, currently just six points behind Tyler in the 2006 standings. In just his third year in the large machines, Pierce has proven his ability both on the dirt and pavement and is seeking his first win in the series. Tied with Pierce for third in the point standings is veteran Dave Steele of Tampa, Florida. The two time and defending USAC Silver Crown champ had been in the points lead of the series since the start of the 200 season. Steele has been a 2006 teammate to Brian Tyler and it is unknown at press time if he will enter the Hoosier Hundred. Currently fourth in the points, third generation driver Bud Kaeding of Campbell, California made a big impact in the series in 2000 when he finished second to Jack Hewitt in the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield after leading a good portion of the race. Since that time Kaeding has recovered from a nasty sprint car crash to post a win in the big cars at Tulsa and team up for the pavement races with former USAC Silver Crown titlist and current NASCAR driver Jason Leffler. Floridian Wayne Reutimann Jr., himself a third generation shoe is currently seventh in points and is also a threat to win on the clay as well, having several fine runs on the dirt at both Springfield and DuQuoin and posting a seventh place run in the title chase last season
However, Tyler's greatest challenge might not come from the drivers currently in the top ten in the point chase. Defending winner Teddy Beach of Donnellsville, Ohio is just 21 years of age and in 2005 became the youngest winner of the Hoosier Hundred. He quickly acclimated himself to the tricky one mile oval in 2003, then went on to smash the track record at DuQuoin later in the year. Last year he bided his time and on lap 86 took the lead from Josh Wise enroute to his first USAC Silver Crown win. This season Beach returns with the family operation from Ohio and will be a threat to repeat. Another one of the heavy favorites for the Hoosier Hundred crown is three time winner Dave Darland of Lincoln, Indiana. Darland honed his skills as he terrorized the small dirt tracks in central Indiana in his father's sprint car, then made the transition to the big machines winning the 1995 Hulman 100 on the Indiana State fair mile. In fact, Dave took the 1995 Hoosier Hundred later in the year, then backed that up with a victory in the 1996 Hoosier Hundred as well, giving him three straight on the Track of Champions. Darland's third Hoosier Hundred win came in 2004 and he ran up front for most of last year's race as well. A win in 2006 could vault the 39 year old Darland into the title chase as he sits 12th in the standings. A popular former winner comes back with a different car number this year in the form of Kokomo's Tony Elliot. Elliot returns to drive this year for Loucks Racing Team which has changed the car number from 03 to 33. Elliot is a former USAC sprint car champ who won the Hoosier Hundred in 2000 and 2001.
Popular Speedway, Indiana veteran Johnny Parsons returns in 2006 having thrilled the Hoosier Hundred crowd with his rim riding ability over the years. Parsons, who drives for Illinois car owner Ricky Nix, is tied for the most Hoosier Hundred starts with fellow former Indy 500 driver George Snider at 28 and seeks to break that tie on the 26th The sixty one year old Parsons is currently chasing Jim McElreath as the oldest starter ever in the Hoosier Hundred.
Other veterans of note could include New Castle's Tracy Hines, the 2000 USAC Silver Crown champ and current NASCAR Busch Series driver, second generation driver Rich Tobias of Anneville, Pennsylvania, Oakland City, Indiana's Hud Cone, Phoenix, Arizona's Jerry Coons Jr., Val Verde, California naitve Jay Drake and Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania driver John "Hot Rod" Heydenreich. Hines appearance in the Hoosier Hundred could be contingent on his NASCAR Busch committments, while Drake is a former Indy Racing Pro Series driver.
A group of young and talented shoes is eying a place in Hoosier auto racing history as well, including a number from the state of Indiana. Indianapolis native Shane Hollmgsworth is a second generation driver who burst on the scene in 2004, while another second generation driver Ron Gregory of Noblesville drives for a team combined of his step father and former driver Gary Irvin and Hoosier Hundred winning car owner Gene Nolen. Third generation driver Cole Carter of Brownsburg took over the seat vacated by Hollingsworth last year and qualified the machine in the front part of the field at Springfield. Carter is the son of 1977 Hoosier Hundred winner and former Indy 500 driver Pancho Carter. Another Indiana native who has stirred some interest in the central part of the state is Kokomo's Shane Cottle. Nicknamed the "Throttle", Cottle won the Gas City USAC Sprint event earlier in the year and has secured the Contos Racing ride vacated by the retired Jason McCord. Illinois' Levi Jones is he defending USAC Sprint Car champ and he teams this season with Californian Josh Wise on the Tony Stewart MoPar team. Jones took the "Budweiser" challenge at the Hoosier Hundred a couple of years ago while Wise won the Sumar Classic at Terre Haute last year and is the current one lap track record holder at Springfield, not to mention having led a good portion of the 2005 Hoosier Hundred. Another young Indiana driver gets his first shot at one of the big dirt cars when Flyin' Bryan Clauson of Noblesville takes the seat of one of the Bill Biddle entries as a teammate to Jay Drake. Clauson has caught the eye of one NASCAR owner as he is part of the Chip Ganassi Racing NASCAR driver development program.
One driver whose status for the Hoosier Hundred is unknown is that of Chilean Pablo Donoso driving for the Johnny Vance team. A protege of former 500 driver Eliseo Slazar, Donoso announced earlier in the year his intent to run the entire portion of the 2006 schedule including the dirt tracks. Should Donoso make the Hoosier Hundred field he would be the first driver from South America to start the Hoosier Hundred.
Approximately forty cars and drivers expected for the 54th Hoosier Hundred, those that make the trip to the Indiana State Fairgrounds will be participants in a tradition that began in 1953 as the creation of late Indianapolis Motor Speedway Safety Director Jo Quinn and Indiana businessman Roger Wolcott. Between them Quinn and Wolcott restored auto racing to the Indiana State Fairgrounds after the sport was banned as a result of the fatal crash of Al Putnam in 1946. Quinn and Wolcott sought to make the Hoosier Hundred a bigger event than the successful 100 mile fair race at Springfield and quickly succeeded.
The first Hoosier Hundred was set for September 19, 1953 but rain postponed the event until the next week. When the 18,000 fans returned, they saw Bob Sweikert in the Dean Van Lines car beat Manny Ayulo, Johnnie Parsons and Don Freeland to the checker in a photo finish. The white Dean machine kept a strangle hold on the Hoosier Hundred crown, winning the next three races with Jimmy Bryan at the helm, while Jud Larson broke Bryan's streak in 1957. Eddie Sachs would go on to win the 1958 race, the last race for Roger Wolcott who perished later in the year.
Quinn named the trophy the Wolcott Cup and had twenty five silver cups made for future winners. Ironically, former Wolcott Racing Team driver Rodger Ward won the first one with his 1959 win.
The next year saw the emergence of the Hoosier Hundred grand champion as A.J. Foyt captured his first win in 1960, with five more to come before the decade closed. Mario Andretti, Ward and Parnelli Jones managed to squeeze in wins as well as the Hoosier Hundred crowds swelled to nearly 30,000 people and the race became the second biggest on the national championship trail, exceeded only by the Indy 500. The Hoosier Hundred also enjoyed immense media coverage, with local and national TV coverage and a live race broadcast by Indy's flagship station WIBC with "Voice of the 500" Sid Collins at the helm.
Al Unser won the last Hoosier Hundred to be run as part of the National Championship in 1970, and the first one as part of the Silver Crown division in 1971 as he won four straight. Over the next twenty five years Jack Hewitt, Gary Bettenhausen, Pancho Carter, Larry Rice and Chcuk Gurney all parked in the Hoosier Hundred victory lane.
A.J. Foyt took over promotion of the race in 1991, and in 1996 consolidated both the Hulman 100 and the Hoosier Hundred into one event running on the traditional May date two nights before the Indianapolis 500. On Friday night May 26 the tradition continues with the 54th running of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Practice begins at 4:30 p.m. EDT, with qualifications at 6, the last chance race at 7 and the run for the Hoosier Hundred trophy at 8. Over $42,000 in purse and contingency awards are posted for the 2006 Hoosier Hundred which offers one man a place among auto racing's immortals. Tickets are now on sale at 217-764-3200 or at the Indiana State Fair Box Office at 317-927-1482. Additional information can be found at www.usacracing.com or www.trackenterprises.com or www.hoosierhundred.com.