Sunday September 2, 2001 USAC Silver Bullet Series DuQuoin, Illinois 51st Running Ted Horn Memorial 100 Presented By Southern Illinoisan Newspaper 100-Mile Championship Dirt Car Race DuQuoin State Fairgrounds-Home of the "Magic Mile" Gamester,...
Sunday September 2, 2001 USAC Silver Bullet Series DuQuoin, Illinois
51st Running Ted Horn Memorial 100 Presented By Southern Illinoisan Newspaper
100-Mile Championship Dirt Car Race DuQuoin State Fairgrounds-Home of
the "Magic Mile"
Gamester, Darland, Elliot Favorites To Win
51st Southern Illinoisan- Ted Horn Memorial USAC Silver Bullet Race!
Four Former Winners Entered, Foyt Name Returns As Annual Championship
Dirt Track Event Begins DuQuoin State Fair Racing Weekend
Swap in Dates Moves Champ Cars to Sunday Afternoon
Four former winners, a good group of veterans, a hungry crop of young drivers and a young man named A.J. Foyt IV head the field for the 51st running of the Ted Horn Memorial 100 race for the championship dirt cars of the United States Auto Club Silver Bullet Series. A switch in dates with the Southern Illinois 100 moves the Horn Memorial from it’s traditional Labor Day slot to the last Sunday of the fair, September 2. The Southern Illinoisan newspaper has signed on again as title sponsor of the 100-mile classic.
The dirt champ cars got a taste of the re-vamped "Magic Mile" last year, as they were the second group to race on the track after new grandstands and a new retaining wall were put into place. This year, the lighting system and the power generators are complete and in place, putting the finishing touches on a badly needed improvement project.
The USAC Silver Bullet series is enjoying one of it’s finest seasons in history, with healthy car counts and a bevy of driver-car combinations capable of winning each time out, from veterans to up and coming rookies. That situation won’t change, as a field of over 40 strong is entered for the 51st Horn Memorial, the 12th of 14 scheduled races in 2001 and the 33rd Silver Bullet race at DuQuoin. The Horn Memorial is the second race to take place on a dirt mile in the 2001 season.
Heading the entry list is the man who currently sits atop the point standings, Paul White of Temple, Texas. White has two wins so far in the series, taking the Copper World Classic in Phoenix, and dominating the prestigious Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 at Springfield. Ironically, White’s win came on a day when A.J. Foyt returned to the Illinois mile to serve as Grand Marshall for the event, and on the thirtieth anniversary of the last Bettenhausen win by a driver from the state of Texas. The winner in 1971 was none other than A.J. Foyt himself! White took the points lead at Gateway in St. Louis on August 25th with a fourth place finish.
Another driver to watch is 1997 Horn Memorial winner Russ Gamester in the family owned Terre Haute 1st National Bank Beast. Gamester is a two-time winner on pavement this year, and is always fast on the big dirt tracks. Gamester’s sponsor is no stranger to victory lane, Terre Haute 1st National Bank was on the car’s driven to winner’s circle 5 times by Gary Bettenhausen, and once each with Jeff Swindell in 1990 and Gamester in’ 97. Russ started 5th and finished 4th in the 2000 Horn Memorial, and secured a third in the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial at Springfield on August 18.
Indy 500 veteran Jack Hewitt is among the favorites, and he is the current all-time winner in Silver Bullet series history. With 24 wins under his belt, the fifty-year old Hewitt of Troy, Ohio is one of the men to beat any time the champ dirt cars roll into town. Hewitt is a three time (1986,’ 87,’ 93) winner of the Horn Memorial and shows no signs of slowing down. Hewitt is among the all-time leaders in several statistical categories at DuQuoin, he is third on the all-time win list with three, seventh on the all-time laps led list, and 6th on the list regarding the number of champ car starts at the "Magic Mile". Hewitt pilots the Parker Machinery entry owned by long-time friend Bob Parker.
A third former winner has retired from all but Silver Bullet competition, but still has the desire to chauffeur one of the long-wheelbased machines on a warm Sunday afternoon. Fifty-six years young, Speedway, Indiana's Johnny Parsons continues to prove that he can still race with the young lions of USAC racing. Indy 500 veteran Parsons is a two-time Horn Memorial winner, gaining his first win in record time in 1992 in the late Glen Neibel’s V-6, and his second in 1995 at the wheel of the Hoffman racing machine. That win in 1995 made Parsons the oldest championship race winner in DuQuoin history at the age of 51! Parsons is expected to drive the black 43 owned by Benton, Illinois' Ricky Nix.
1999 Horn Memorial winner Tony Elliot is a good bet to become a two-time winner in 2001. The past USAC Sprint car champion has hit his stride in all of the USAC divisions in recent years, becoming a real threat to win in any kind of race car at any kind of race track. Elliot is a veteran of the dirt champ cars, and has a win at Terre Haute in addition to his DuQuoin victory. Elliot will be behind the wheel of Gene Nolen’s yellow number 20 on race day.
Unfortunately, three former winners that are crowd favorites probably won’t be among the entries come September 2. California natives Jimmy Sills and Chuck Gurney have curtailed racing activities for the time being, but neither has officially announced their retirement. Sills, the 1998 Horn winner, is devoting more time to his west coast racing school, while three-time winner Gurney is supervising his son’s budding career.
Another driver who may be on the sidelines is defending Horn memorial winner Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw, Washington. The 21-year old shoe became the first rookie race winner since Bubby Jones when he crossed the finish line first in the 50th running of the Horn, and became only the seventh man to lead all 100-miles of the event, and one of the few rookie pole sitters in "Magic Mile" history. It was Kahne’s dominating performance at DuQuoin in the Zarounian machine that led to Ford Motor Company’s interest in the young driver, he was signed to a contract and has been testing CART champ cars for 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal.
The name A.J. Foyt has always been a draw for the championship car fans that make the annual trip to the "Magic Mile", and DuQuoin holds a special place in Foyt’s heart. It was in the 1960 Ted Horn Memorial that A.J. captured his first national championship event, driving the Bowes Seal Fast Offy of legendary mechanic, George Bignotti. The victory was the first of an all-time record 67 national championship wins by "SuperTex", and the first of a record 26 championship car wins on the various dirt miles on the championship trail.
It should come as no surprise then that A.J. chose the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds as the site for the first laps to be taken in a championship dirt car by his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, a test conducted on August 16. Anthony, as he is known to family, came to DuQuoin with his grandfather to prepare a new Beast chassis for the event at Springfield. In what was to have been a "secret" test, nearly 100 race fans found their way on the grounds to watch young A.J. run 115 laps before the engine let go in the new car, and to secure a few autographs from his grandfather, the first four-time Indy 500 winner and a six time winner on the "Magic Mile".
Young Anthony's debut at Springfield was going well when he qualified 9th (at the time) and 16th overall with his first lap at Springfield, but a stuck throttle sent him flipping after contact with the third turn wall, and the car was done for the day. A.J. announced to the crowd that they would secure a new car from long-time Foyt associate George Snider, and Anthony would try to make his first USAC Silver Bullet start at DuQuoin.
Several additional drivers who will have a shot at the top prize include former USAC Silver Bullet champion Dave Darland of Kokomo, Indiana. Darland, the pilot of Galen Fox's Franklin Power Products Beast, is a two-time winner at Springfield and the current one-lap track record holder at DuQuoin. Brian Tyler of Parma, Michigan had been in the top ten in the points chase, driving the Hoffman Auto Racing entry, while defending Silver Bullet champ Tracy Hines of New Castle, Indiana brings the Indiana Underground Beast into town looking for his 1st win on a one-mile dirt track. Floridian Dave Steele won the event at Gateway in the Northside Propane machine, while Arizona driver Jerry Coons, Jr. had a great race at Springfield. Hot young driver Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis the 2000 USAC Rookie of the Year brings former USAC champ George Snider’s Beast chassis with him for the 2001 event, while the always exciting J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Arizona drives for the team that fielded cars for winner Kahne last year. Most of the top ten in the USAC Silver Bullet series point chase are expected to make the trek to the beautiful Southern Illinois mile.
A revamped "Magic Mile" greeted the USAC teams when they came through the gates last Labor Day. The DuQuoin race track was in the final stages of a 2.5 million dollar improvement project which began in 1998. Replaced earlier were the rickety north and south bleachers with new aluminum stands, and some of the seats in the grandstand were changed as well. But the biggest improvement met with smiles and approval all around, as the 53 year old boiler plate retaining fence had been replaced with a brand new concrete crash wall. The back stretch had also been widened, and new clay placed on the surface. The new lighting system was partially complete, and would be finished in the spring of 2001.
Last year's 100-mile grind was dominated by youth, rather than experience. Labor Day was cooler and less humid than for the Sunday stock car race, and the track crew worked diligently to prepare a heavy race track for the open wheel cars. A real cushion developed and fans anticipated fast speeds. Those speeds came in qualifying, as fourth qualifier and rookie Ed Carpenter set the early pace in the Snider-Foyt car, but in a minute was knocked off the pole by Russ Gamester. Tom Capie went out 13th and wowed the crowd with a 30.891 lap, but two positions later it was Tony Elliot claiming the provisional pole. Eighteenth qualifier Kasey Kahne became the first rookie pole sitter since Jimmy Sills in 1989 when he took the top slot with a 30.559 second circuit, over 117 miles an hour. Chuck Leary led all 15 miles of the last chance race to advance to the 100-mile event.
The 100-mile event got off to an auspicious beginning, three attempts were made at starts and one car driven by Murphysboro's Randy Bateman flipped in turn one. Five cars were eliminated before one lap was complete, and though several laps had already been completed under yellow, a decision was made during the red flag period to completely restart the event!
Kahne got the jump on the rest of the field and never looked back, though at times J.J. Yeley in the Snider-Foyt machine, and rookie Eddie Carpenter appeared as if they could make runs at the front. Kahne led all 100 miles to become the first rookie winner at DuQuoin since Bubby Jones turned the trick before a CBS national television audience in 1976.
Following Kahne to the checkered flag were Yeley, Darland, Gamester and Tracy Hines. Kasey averaged 103.151 miles an hour for the distance, the third fastest 100 miles in DuQuoin championship history. By leading all 100 miles, he became the first driver since Pancho Carter in 1978 to lead every lap and picked up over $9000 in the process before one of the largest DuQuoin champ car crowds in recent memory.
Ted Horn would have been proud of a rookie winning his memorial event. While the name Ted Horn may not be as well known to today’s generation of race fans as Foyt, Andretti, Unser or Gordon, his place in American auto racing history is undeniable.
Eylard "Ted" Horn was a three-time American Automobile Association National Champion, a renowned sprint car driver across the country, and a fine engineer in his own right. Horn constructed most of his own cars, including his sprint car (nicknamed "Baby") and his championship dirt car (known as "Beauty"). "Baby" currently resides, fully restored, in the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing.
Even if Ted Horn had not been a three-time national champion, his status as an American racing legend would be cemented on just his performances in the greatest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Horn came on the Indy scene as a rookie in 1935, securing a ride in one of the gorgeous front-drive Miller-Fords that were the idea of automaker Henry Ford and future automaker Preston Tucker. Unfortunately, the cars had a design flaw that caused the steering gear to lose oil and the steering to lock up. Horn nursed his along and was the last of the Miller-Fords to drop out. It was the only time he did not finish the 500. Horn’s record from 1936 to 1948 is unmatched by any other driver in 500 history for such a period of time, and the amazing statistic is that Horn never won the 500! Ted never finished lower than 4th in the 500 between 1936 and 1948, placing second once and 3rd three times. He also took the pole at Indianapolis in 1947. Ted won 5 national championship races in his career, and became the first champ car driver to win three national titles in succession (1946-47-48). Even today, he ranks 23rd on the all-time list of points earned in national championship races!
When Bill Hayes and family constructed the "Magic Mile" in 1947, it was his desire to attract drivers like Ted Horn to "Little Egypt". The first race on the new track was a sprint car event won by another famous sprint car driver of the day, Jimmy Wilburn. Once AAA officials had the chance to inspect the facility, they awarded not one but two championship races to DuQuoin.
The first race took place in September of 1948 during the State Fair, and before a capacity crowd of 20,000 future Indy 500 winner Lee Wallard took the checkered flag as Horn took third. By the time the cars and stars returned to DuQuoin for the October 100-mile event, Horn had enough points to lay claim to his third national title. Ted had been married seventeen days when he and his new bride pulled into DuQuoin that day, determined to win the race for his new bride. Horn started fourth in "Beauty", a car with the number 1 signifying a national championship painted on the tail. Superstitious by nature, Horn changed his pre-race routine that morning. His wife wore a green dress, a taboo color in racing at the time, and he shaved race morning.
Normally meticulous about safety and preparation, Horn failed to change the worn front spindles on the car. On lap four, the crowd gasped in horror as they witnessed "Beauty" flipping in turn four due to a broken left front spindle, striking a car driven by future NASCAR great Johnny Mantz. Horn was thrown to the ground, and later passed away at Marshall Browning Hospital in DuQuoin. When they removed his shoes, they found only one thin dime, rather than the dime and two pennies he normally carried for good luck. Horn received the national championship trophy for 1948 posthumously.
In order to honor the driver who was so popular with fans, kids, and fellow drivers, the Hayes family designated the DuQuoin State Fair championship race the "Ted Horn Memorial". The 2001 version will be the 58th scheduled national championship event, the 53rd scheduled Horn Memorial, and the 51st actual running of the event. The 1950 race and the 1962 event were cancelled due to rain.
Over the years, the Horn Memorial has seen a Hall of Fame full of drivers roll through the gates and into victory lane, including Tony Bettenhausen, Rodger Ward, Jimmy Bryan, Mario Andretti and Al Unser. When the United States Auto Club separated the dirt cars into their own division in 1971, George Snider got his first dirt track win in the Horn on his way to the title. Other Dirt Car/Silver Crown winners include the popular Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Stevie Reeves and five-time winner Gary Bettenhausen. Billy Vukovich added a national television victory in 1979, that coming on NBC.
But it’s the legendary A.J. Foyt that holds the record for Horn Memorial wins and the hearts of most DuQuoin fans. A four time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and seven time national champion, "SuperTex" won 26 times on the dirt miles in championship machinery, a record that may never be broken. Foyt won the first national championship race of his storied career at DuQuoin in 1960, driving for George Bignotti. He won again in 1961, 1963 and 1964, capturing four consecutive races. Don Branson broke the Foyt string in 1965, but A.J. secured a fifth Horn win on his way to the 1967 national championship. He broke an ankle and was burned during a dirt car race at DuQuoin in May of 1972, but came back to secure his final championship dirt car victory in the 1972 Horn Memorial in a rain shortened race. It was his record sixth Horn victory, and propelled him to the 1972 USAC Dirt Car championship. Foyt also holds the distinction of being one of two men (Jimmy Bryan the other) to win both the Southern Illinois 100 stock car event and the Horn Memorial. DuQuoin is the place where A.J. wrestled a lion on the infield, and got upside down for the only time in his career in a dirt car (1970).
Twenty National Champions used a win at the Ted Horn Memorial 100 to launch themselves to a crown, the last coming with Chuck Gurney in 1989. Eleven different drivers have posted more than one win on the "Magic Mile", while eleven more have posted their first National Championship or Silver Bullet win at DuQuoin. Eight drivers have posted back to back wins, led by Foyt. Four times the man who won the Indy 500 in May also took the Ted Horn 100 in September.
Thanks to the vision of Bill Hayes and his family, plus a host of drivers, crewmen, fans and officials, the eyes of the racing world return to the Southern Illinois clay oval carved out of a strip mine each year Labor Day weekend rolls around.
The 51st running of the Horn Memorial gets underway September 2 when practice begins for the USAC Silver Bullet cars at around 9:30 a.m., with qualifying slated for 11 a.m. Drivers taking qualifying runs will be trying to break Dave Darland’s four year old standard of 30.308 seconds (118.871 mph). A last chance race will begin at about 12:30 for those not in the top twenty in qualifying. The 100-mile Ted Horn Memorial rolls off at about 2 p.m., with 30 of the finest dirt track championship drivers in the world going for Johnny Parsons’ 1992 record for the fastest 100 miles on dirt, 56:03.00 (107.047 mph). The winner of the 51st Horn Memorial will receive over $9000 out of a purse exceeding $40,000, and a place among the legends who have won on the "Magic Mile".
Also on the card are the UMP Modifieds, they will run their heat races in preparation for the 20-mile Bill Oldani Memorial the next day.
Tickets are going fast and can be obtained at the DuQuoin State Fair Box Office, Ticketmaster locations, or by calling 217-764-3200. More information can be found on the internet at www.trackenterprises.com.