It’s “take two” for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship as the champ car division makes just its fourth October appearance at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Thirty-eight (38) brave souls are entered to compete this Saturday, October 15, during the 59th running of the Bettenhausen 100 Presented By Hunt Brothers Pizza, which will require a true test of skill, strategy, bravery, machismo and concentration for 100 miles and 100 laps.
A rain out on the traditional mid-August date pushed the date to October, a month in which champ car races at the Springfield Mile have come few and far between. Emil Andres scored a non-points special event in the Autumn of 1939, followed up with a victory by the race’s namesake, Tony Bettenhausen, in 1950, and the most recent October date was captured by NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson who made a triumphant return to the mile in 2020.
REVIEWING THE TAPE
In the most recent edition of the Bettenhausen 100, Kody Swanson knew he had a long row to hoe starting from the 23rd position during the 2021 100-miler. As it turned out, he didn’t even need the full 100-lap distance to make it to the lead.
Swanson’s 2021 Springfield victory put him back in winner’s circle on the dirt for the first time in three years, and this Saturday afternoon, he hopes to notch his first on the dirt since that moment in time.
The hard charging effort put forth by Swanson from the inside of the 12th row was the second furthest back any winner has started at Springfield in the USAC Silver Crown division, only trailing Kenny Irwin Jr.’s all-time series record run from 28th to 1st in 1995.
Swanson’s rain-shortened victory was also his third in the champ cars at Springfield after previously winning in 2014-15, making him one of 10 drivers to win in champ car competition at the track on three occasions, joining Chuck Gurney (7), A.J. Foyt (4), Jack Hewitt (4), Brian Tyler (4), Mario Andretti (3), Tony Bettenhausen (3), Dave Darland (3), Al Unser (3) and Rodger Ward (3) in that group.
Early on, Swanson got behind the eight ball despite laying down a blistering fast qualifying lap, but as it turned out, it was a blistering lap in more ways than one, a lap which necessitated a right rear tire change prior to the feature. Therefore, by rule, he relinquished his position on the pole, instead taking new rubber, a gamble that turned out to be well worth the risk.
THE TITLE RACE
Just like the 2021 Bettenhausen 100, which featured a tussle for the lead between Swanson and Logan Seavey, the same two are currently involved in a dogfight for the ages with both tied atop the overall Silver Crown standings entering Saturday’s penultimate round at Springfield.
Swanson is among four past Bettenhausen 100 winners in Saturday’s field. Aside from his three wins, the six-time series champion has also finished 2nd in 2017, 7th in 2013, 8th in 2011 and 9th in 2008. His 178 laps led at Springfield ranks tied for 13th all-time alongside Jim Hurtubise, who won the first two editions of the Bettenhausen 100 in 1961-62.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) has won each of the past three dirt USAC Silver Crown races this season at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds and Ohio’s Eldora Speedway. With one more victory on Saturday, he’d become the first driver since Jack Hewitt in 1986 to win four-in-a-row with the series on dirt.
Seavey has been exceptional in his dirt mile runs in a USAC Silver Crown car, finishing inside the top-two in each of his last three at Springfield and Du Quoin in 2021 and again with a win at Du Quoin this year. He led a race-high 32 laps in the 2021 Bettenhausen 100. The 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion has also been swell in ARCA Stock Car competition at Springfield, starting 3rd and finishing 4th in 2018 and winning the pole and finishing 4th in 2019.
BETTING THE HOUSE ON THEM
Swanson, Brian Tyler, Russ Gamester and Justin Grant make up the four past Bettenhausen 100 winners gunning for another this Saturday.
Four-time race winner Tyler (Parma, Mich.) has led 306 laps at the Bettenhausen 100, second all-time and far more than anybody else in Saturday’s field. His four wins rank second all-time in terms of Bettenhausen 100 success, trailing only Chuck Gurney’s seven. Tyler hasn’t raced at Springfield since 2018, but as recently as last year, he was a winner on an Illinois dirt mile, taking charge at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in September of 2021.
Gamester (Peru, Ind.) is the most experienced Bettenhausen 100 driver in Saturday’s field with 25 previous Bettenhausen 100 starts dating back to 1989. The 1989 USAC National Midget champ won back-to-back poles in 1997 and 1998, the latter of which he used to race to his lone Bettenhausen 100 win.
Grant (Ione, Calif.), the 2020 Silver Crown king, is a veteran of five starts at Springfield and a veteran of victory lane at the Bettenhausen 100 in 2017. He’s finished inside the top-three in three of the last four Springfield races, also recording 3rd place results in both 2018 and 2020, the latter of which he started from the pole.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS SOIL SUCCESS TO CENTRAL ILLINOIS STARDOM
Shane Cottle, Shane Cockrum and Chris Urish have all won Silver Crown events on the Du Quoin Mile in southern Illinois but are still hunting for their first on the central Illinois dirt mile of Springfield.
Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) has an impressive Springfield resume in eight starts, tallying a 3rd in 2015, 5th in 2007, 6th in 2017 and 7th in 2018. Cockrum (Benton, Ill.) charged from 25th to 3rd at Springfield in 2021, his best result in eight career starts, which also includes a 5th in 2013. Urish (Elkhart, Ill.) possesses 11 previous Bettenhausen 100 starts dating back to 2005, earning a best finish of 10th at Springfield in 2012.
Eric Gordon (Greenfield, Ind.) returns to the Bettenhausen 100 for the first time since 2003. He’s made 13 previous starts in the event, finishing as the runner-up in his first try back in 1990. The National Sprint Car Hall of Famer also tallied a 7th in 2001.
Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio), a veteran of five Springfield starts, was 5th in both 2002 and 2004 and 7th a year ago in 2021. St. Charles, Missouri’s Kyle Steffens made his fourth Springfield start his best, recording the top finish of his two-decades-long USAC Silver Crown career with a 5th in 2021. Three-time Springfield starter and a winner on the pavement at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway in June, C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) was 6th in 2015.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) led 28 laps in an outstanding 2021 Bettenhausen 100 performance which saw him finish 6th. Out of Kyle Robbins’ (New Castle, Ind.) three Springfield starts, he was most impressive in a 6th place run in 2018.
Casey Buckman (Chandler, Ariz.) turned in a fine, career-best 8th place effort at Springfield in 2021, and recently turned in his best career Silver Crown performance with a 5th at Du Quoin in September. Carmen Perigo (Stoystown, Pa.) was a showman in the 2021 race, battling for the lead late before falling back to 9th. Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) rode the high line to a 10th place result in 2021.
Seeking their first rides inside the top-ten are the Bettenhausen 100-experienced pack of Levittown, Pennsylvania’s Mike Haggenbottom (2 starts, 12th in 2018); Davenport, Iowa’s Davey Ray (2 starts, 13th in 2014) and Pendleton, Indiana’s Travis Welpott (3 starts, 14th in 2021).
Bonne Terre, Missouri native and Vietnam War veteran Danny Long (3 starts, 20th in 2020) owns the most life experience in Saturday’s field at 72 years old. He returns to the mile as will Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania’s Dave Berkheimer (2 starts, 23rd in 2020), Troy, Ohio’s Dallas Hewitt (1 start, 26th in 2022) and Clinton, Indiana’s Dave Peperak (1 start, 27th in 2021).
Nine Flying Illini racers are entered in the lineup return for a go at Springfield this Saturday, including Cockrum, Cottle and Urish, plus Edwardsville, Illinois’ Patrick Lawson (7 starts, 12th in 2017); Rochester, Illinois’ Steven Russell (3 starts, 14th in 2014) and Champaign, Illinois’ Patrick Bruns (3 starts, 15th in 2009), who recently scored his best career series finish with a 4th at the Du Quoin mile in September.
Springfield, Illinois’ Korey Weyant (2 starts, 19th in 2017) returns to the field while race Rookie Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) makes his first appearance. Cary Oliver (Buncombe, Ill.), meanwhile, is back in the saddle at Springfield after a vicious qualifying crash into the turn three wall at Springfield in 2021.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Steven Russell’s father, Jerry Russell, made seven Springfield starts, finishing a best of 6th in his 1984 debut. Korey Weyant’s great uncle Chuck Weyant made AAA and USAC National Championship starts in 1954 and 1959, finishing 11th on both occasions. Korey’s uncle, Tony Weyant, made two starts at Springfield in 1980 and 1983.
C.J. Leary’s father, Chuck Leary, recorded three Springfield starts, finishing 7th in 1999. Brian Tyler’s older brother, Bill Tyler, charged 24th to 5th in his lone Bettenhausen 100 start in 1980.
Dallas Hewitt’s uncle, Jack Hewitt, won the Bettenhausen 100 four times in 1986, 1987, 1993 and 2000. Logan Seavey’s car owner, Robbie Rice, has a deep connection as well. Robbie’s father, Larry, raced to the Bettenhausen win during his first USAC Dirt Car titles season of 1977.
THESE GO TO 11
No Bettenhausen 100 race Rookie has won the event in his first start since Cole Whitt in 2009. Eleven Bettenhausen 100 Rookies are seeking their first start in the event on Saturday.
The 11 consists of 2021 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) as well as 2022’s winningest sprint car driver, Anthony Macri (Dillsburg, Pa.) in one of two Chris Dyson Racing, Sean Michael-prepared machines, which have won each of the past two runnings of the Bettenhausen 100.
USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car top Rookie Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) is entered for his third career Silver Crown appearance along with 2022 Silver Crown Rookie point leader Gregg Cory (Shelbyville, Ind.), USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars’ ultimate ironman, Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) and longtime sprint car veteran and USAC winner, Dave Peperak (Clinton, Ind.).
Recent Gas City USAC Midget 2nd place finisher Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) makes her dirt mile debut this Saturday at Springfield as does POWRi WAR Sprint Car champion Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.). Eldora Speedway late model and modified champ Brian Ruhlman (Clarklake, Mich.) is in for his first Springfield Silver Crown run along with 2021 Auto Value Super Sprint titlist Tom Paterson (Argos, Ind.) and second-time entrant, Cary Oliver.
THE BETTENHAUSEN LEGACY
The event has been graced with the name of the Tinley Park, Illinois-based Bettenhausen family since 1961, shortly after patriarch Tony Bettenhausen lost his life in a practice crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway three months prior. Tony was the 1951 AAA and 1958 USAC National Champion and won thrice in a champ car at Springfield between 1947-51.
Tony’s son, Gary Bettenhausen, twice a USAC Silver Crown champ in 1980 and 1983, won the event initially named in his father’s memory in both 1978 and 1983. Tony’s son, Merle Bettenhausen, twice finished inside the top-ten at Springfield in 1970-71 while Tony Bettenhausen Jr. made 103 IndyCar starts and 33 NASCAR Winston Cup starts in his career, including the Indianapolis 500 11 times.
On Saturday in Springfield, pits and registration open at 8am Central with the infield spectator gates opening at 9am, the ticket office and grandstands opening at 10am, the drivers meeting at 10:30am, practice from 11am-12:10pm, Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying at 12:15pm, followed by the qualifying race, pre-race ceremonies and the 100-lap main event.
Tickets will be available on race day or by calling the State Fair office at 217-782-6661. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.
Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. At the gate on race day, adults are $30 and $10 for children 11 and under. Infield tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 11 and under. Pit passes are $35 for USAC members and $40 for non-members. Infield parking is $5 for those park in infield with no infield or pit passes.
Every lap of Saturday’s Bettenhausen 100 will be aired live on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3O5Fb2j