Over 90 Years of Auto Racing at Illinois State Fair with 2001
AUTO RACING CONTINUES
IT’S GRAND HISTORY AT
ILLINOIS STATE FAIR IN 2001!
August 1, 2001-Pure American auto racing continues a rich historical tradition at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois when the "World’s Fastest One Mile Dirt Track" and the 149th Illinois State Fair present the annual "Corona-Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100" and the PAR-A-DICE-Allen Crowe Memorial 100" on the last weekend of the fair.
Auto racing has a rich history at the one-mile gumbo oval in Springfield, Illinois. At present, the Illinois State Fairgrounds is the third oldest race track in the United States to continually present national championship style racing, behind the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Illinois State Fair began in 1853, and in 1894 moved to its present location on the north side of the Illinois capitol. At the time, the one-mile track was intended for horse racing, and set in a northwest to southeast configuration, with turn four sitting near the present Food-O-Rama area. The first racetrack had a wooden grandstand, as well as an oak safety fence.
In the early 1900’s, the automobile was gaining considerable interest as a curiosity around the country, and manufacturers and daredevils were eager to show the public the viability of the "horseless carriage", as well as their own driving talents. Henry Ford’s victory in a 1901 match race helped launch the Ford Motor Company, and by 1905 Barney Oldfield, who became as household name through his exploits across the country, added Springfield to his list of barnstorming stops.
Automobile exhibitions became part of the attractions at the Illinois State Fair in the early part of the 20th century, Oldfield and others would take to the mile track in an attempt to break the world’s record for a one-mile circuit, or would challenge each other to short match "races", which in reality were nothing more than exhibitions. By 1910, Oldfield had circled the mile in 53 seconds. Springfield’s Art Bisch took home a trophy for victory in a match race that year, while LaRue Vredenburgh lost his life in a 20 mile event won by H. Hughes, an event that paid $500 in gold to the winner. A 550-acre parcel of land 3 hours east of Springfield, Illinois would go a long way to change the nature of Springfield’s place in auto racing history.
Carl Fisher’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built as an automobile test track in 1909. At the time, Indianapolis, Indiana was home to a great part of the young automotive industry, several car manufacturers were located in the Indiana capitol, including Fisher’s own Prest-O-Lite company. Fisher envisioned the track as a way for autos to be tested safely, and to be used as an opportunity to display to the public the durability and speed of the automobile. However, the original crushed stone and tar surface broke up badly, leaving Fisher with no alternative but to pave the track with a different material. He chose brick because of it’s durability, and by 1911 conceived the notion that a once a year event at the unheard of distance of 500 miles was the way to showcase the track and the automobile.
Later that year, Ray Harroun’s winning Marmon Wasp was sent by rail from Indianapolis to Springfield as part of a display for the 1911 Illinois State Fair. The Marmon drew huge crowds and newspaper publicity as well, fueling the desire of the fairgoers for local auto racing events. By the next year, they would get their wish.
In September of 1912, cars known as "Big Cars" took to the Illinois State Fair mile as part of a major competitive auto-racing program presented during the fair. Indianapolis 500 veteran Louis Disbrow set a one-lap track record of 51.20 seconds (70.313 MPH) that day, with eight races on tap. Scheduled were 5 heats of 5 miles each, one of two miles, one of three miles and a main event of 10 miles. Disbrow won 4 of the seven heat races, but it was Joe Nikrent in a big Stutz that took the 10-mile feature race, averaging nearly 60 miles per hour for the distance.
The early days of racing at the State Fair saw a diverse group of drivers, cars, and races and drew huge crowds to the State Capitol. Crowds estimated in excess of 40,000 jammed into the grounds and around the wood fence just to catch a glimpse of the speeding machines. Disbrow in a Case, Bob Burman in a Puegot, future Indy winner Tommy Milton and Eddie O’Donnell in a Duesenberg all won events on the Springfield mile. Races ranged from 3 miles to 25 miles, and women drivers became part of the picture in 1917!
By 1916, Minnesota’s Sid Haugdahl had become a crowd favorite, battling rival Fred Horey before thousands of fans. Horey won an event in 1916, with Haugdahl taking a 20-mile event in 1917. Oldfield became a Springfield winner in the famous "Golden Submarine" in 1918, a car he crashed after winning the main event while trying to set a world record! Future Indy winner Leon Duray also took a Springfield win in 1918.
The roaring twenties saw racing during the State Fair increase in popularity. Match races between cars and airplanes were added to the program, and George "Texas" Clark won two of the first three races in 1920, becoming Springfield’s first three-time and repeat winner. Fred Horey became a repeat winner in 1921, followed by Disbrow in 1922. However, Horey went on to become a 5-time Springfield winner, adding victories in 1923, ‘24 and ’25.
Les Allen’s Chrysler won a 35-mile race in 1925, as Springfield suffered its second racing fatality with 46-year-old Roy Humphrey of Keokuk, Iowa losing his life in the first heat race. Another future Indy winner won the 1926 35-mile race; Lou Schneider in Mike Boyle’s car took 26 and one-half minutes to complete the distance. Howdy Wilcox in a Fronty took the last event held on the old mile, also 35 miles to close out the fair in 1926. The mile and the old wooden grandstand were razed after the 1926 fair, and the present mile was built, as was a new grandstand. Clay from Kentucky was hauled in for the new surface.
On August 20, 1927 Wilson Pingrey in a Frontenac broke in the new track by setting fast time of nearly 80 miles an hour, but winning the 25-mile race as well in record time. Chuck Bane took the second 25-mile event of the fair, breaking Pingrey’s newly established record by nearly a minute!
Lou Schneider broke Pingrey’s one-lap standard in 1928, setting a mark of 86.538 miles an hour, while Johnny Sawyer (who would distinguish himself in 1934) took the 35 mile feature. Schneider became a repeat Springfield winner in the second 35-mile race of the ’28 fair, setting a one-lap record of 88.019 miles and hour and shaving a minute off the 35-mile record as well.
The next year nearly saw the destruction of auto racing at the State Fair. Howdy Wilcox won the 25-mile event, but Pingrey and Carl Marchese were badly hurt on the third lap of the main event. To further compound matters, a car driven by Les Wright later careened through the fence into a spectator area, killing 62-year old William Wayne of Cuba, Missouri and injuring several spectators. The last event of the ’29 fair went off without a hitch and was won by Dutch Bauman, as Carl Williams broke the one-lap track record. However, the ensuing lawsuits and bad publicity forced the Fair Board to cancel racing as part of the fair, and it appeared motor sports would be forever gone from the fairgrounds.
Resolution of the suits, the passage of time, and the Great Depression seemed to soften the stance of the board and the locals against auto racing by the early 1930’s. Once again, racing was seen as a way to draw crowds and their money onto the fairgrounds. By 1933, a racing program for the Fair was in the planning stages, but this program would be substantially different than any presented in the past.
The demise of the many board tracks constructed throughout the country led the sanctioning body for National Championship racing, the American Automobile Association (AAA) to look for other venues for the championship cars. At times during the early ‘30’s, only one race, the Indianapolis 500, appeared on the championship schedule. That would change in 1933, as the AAA Contest Board looked to fairground horse tracks for race dates. The mile at Milwaukee was added, as was the track at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.
Ralph Hankinson was a successful midwestern promoter, who envisioned massive crowds would be drawn by a national championship race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. With large crowds, he could pay the AAA required purse, draw the stars from Indianapolis, and rake in a tidy profit. Convincing the fair board that such a race was viable, Hankinson was given the go-ahead for an event on the last Saturday of the 1934 Illinois State Fair. To prepare, Hankinson and staff attended the 1933 race at Syracuse, New York, and came away determined to surpass the New York event in size and stature.
So on August 25, 1934, seventeen championship cars rolled into the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Indianapolis winner Bill Cummings was on hand, as were "500" veterans Frank Brisko, Mauri Rose and Johnny Sawyer who would lead the first 93 laps of the event but fail to win (a record he still holds). Billy Winn stole the show, taking the lead over the last seven laps to post a popular win. Winn repeated in 1935, but future 3 time Indy winner Wilbur Shaw broke the string in 1936 in a duel with Doc Mackenzie. Winn was killed during the 1937 event, won by future Indy winner Mauri Rose, while Chicago’s Emil Andres became the first Illinois driver to capture the 100-mile event in 1939 ( a race not held during the fair, but later after a dispute the morning of the fair race caused AAA it withdraw the sanction).
Sprint cars became a staple of racing at the fairgrounds in 1940 (but not during the fair) and continued for two years after the war, their races dominated by Jimmy Wilburn. But it was the championship machines that were the drawing crowd for the fair.
The post-war racing scene saw a new breed of drivers coming onto the scene. 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner Johnnie Parsons took the 1949 100-miler, while Tinley Park’s Tony Bettenhausen won the 1947 race. Jimmy Davies became the first man through the 100-mile an hour barrier at Springfield in 1949. The next decade would see some of the best racing ever at Springfield, and some changes in the racing that was conducted.
Bettenhausen jumped behind the wheel of the beautiful blue and gold "99" of Murrell Belanger for the 1950 season, and the team was nearly unbeatable on dirt. Tony would get two chances to prove it at Springfield in 1950; an October 100-mile championship race was added to the fair event. Bettenhausen’s good friend and Chicago native Paul Russo won the fair race, while Tony took the fall event. Bettenhausen would repeat in the fair race of 1951.
Stock car racing had become an extremely popular form of motor sports by 1950, displacing midget racing in the postwar racing boom. NASCAR was formed in the years after World War II, and by 1950 was conducting its first super speedway race at Darlington, South Carolina. AAA, wanting to cash in on the bonanza, set up it’s own stock car series in 1950. Needing venues, AAA set up races all on dirt miles at Milwaukee, Atlanta, DuQuoin and Springfield. Jay Frank won the 100-miler in a walk at Springfield in September of 1950, the first stock car race ever at Springfield. No other stock car event would be held again at Springfield for eleven years.
Championship racing continued however, with a spring race in 1953 won by future "500" winner Rodger Ward, and 1957 "500" winner Sam Hanks taking the fair race. 1958 Indy winner Jimmy Bryan took two trophies home in ’55 and ’56, while Ward repeated in ’57. Springfield continued its lightning fast reputation, by 1952 Mike Nazaruk took the one-lap record over 106 miles an hour, and Johnny Thomson set a 100-mile standard in 1958 that would last twenty-four years!
The 1960’s may have been the greatest decade in American auto racing, and the greatness of that decade was not lost on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile. Sadly, the joy of racing in the sixties would be combined with unspeakable tragedy. A youthful Jim Packard started things off by taking home a surprise victory in the 1960 championship race, but Packard would later lose his life in a midget race at Fairfield, Illinois. His death would be ominous of things to come.
Tony Bettenhausen, the Springfield favorite, came into 1961 as a 44-year-old veteran who had won the national title in 1958. Bettenhausen was teamed with Lindsey Hopkins, and had his best chance ever to win the Indianapolis 500. Tony was testing a car for friend Paul Russo when a bolt fell out of the steering, sending him into the Speedway’s front catch fence, barrel rolling several times. The veteran was killed instantly, and the word quickly spread in the racing community. State Fair promoter Jim Kidd and officials decided to honor the Illinois resident by naming the fair’s championship race in his honor, and the "Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100" was so christened. The first two races were won by Jim Hurtubise, with Ward taking the third event. A.J. Foyt won his first "Bettenhausen in ’64, a race in which Bill Horstmeyer was killed in one of the worst accidents in championship history. Foyt repeated in ’65 (and Jim McElreath set a one-lap record that stood for fifteen years) and ‘67, with Champaign’s Don Branson becoming the only central Illinois driver to win the Bettenhausen in ’66. That event was also marred by tragedy; photographer Dale Mueller of St. Louis fell to his death when grandstand scaffolding collapsed. Springfield played host to ABC and the first live national telecast of a championship race in August of 1968, won by Roger McCluskey, and Mario Andretti followed his 1969 Indy win with a win the rain delayed Bettenhausen.
The 1960’s saw the return of stock cars to Springfield as well, and another memorial event. The Seratoma club sponsored a United States Auto Club (USAC) event in September of 1961, won by 1959 championship race winner Len Sutton. Rodger Ward took the race the following year.
By 1963, Allen Crowe was a rising star on the USAC scene, gaining rides in midgets, sprints, and champ cars and taking a shot at the Indianapolis 500. Crowe was the pride of Springfield, Illinois, having competed on the local tracks for several years. Allen was looked upon as the successor to local stars Chuck Weyant and Rex Easton. Unfortunately, in June of 1963 those hopes were dashed when Allen lost his life in a sprint car accident at New Bremen, Ohio. Once again Jim Kidd and local officials turned a fairgrounds auto race into a memorial event. The first "Allen Crowe Memorial 100" was run in September of ’63 and won by NASCAR legend Curtis Turner. Champ car star Bobby Marshman won the following year (setting what appears to be a 100-mile record that has never been eclipsed, Marshman was killed later that year), and the Crowe was switched to the last Friday of the fair for 1965, with Bobby Isaac thrilling the large crowd.
Don White took the first of two Crowe wins in 1966, setting a 100-mile track record that stands until this day, and a one-lap record in 1967 that stood until 1980. Veteran Norm Nelson won the ’68 event, and a young Butch Hartman won a controversial event in 1969.
The 1970’s saw a continuation of the great competition at Springfield, and the most changes in the racing program since the elimination of events in 1929.
USAC decided in 1970 to drop the dirt tracks from the national championship in favor of a national Dirt Track Division, which would evolve into the Silver Crown and now the Silver Bullet series. Al Unser and the Johnny Lightning Special won the last national championship race held at Springfield in August of 1970, with Nelson taking the companion stock car event.
In 1971, twin-50’s for the USAC Midgets were added on Friday of the racing weekend, with the champ cars on Saturday and the stock cars slated for Sunday. Les Scott won the first 50-miler, while the late Jimmy Caruthers took the second race. Midget racing came back in 1972, then disappeared until the spring of 1983. The first "Rex Easton Memorial" was run in conjunction with the stock car race in August of 1983, and won by Arnie Knepper. Over the years, the Easton had winners such as Ken Schrader, Stan Fox, Kevin Olson and Johnny Parsons. Spectacular accidents were also part of the midget events; Mel Kenyon nearly left the track in turn 4 in the 80’s, while Steve Knepper did vault the turn one fence. Dan Drinan’s near fatal accident caused the Easton to be shelved until 1995, when the late Kenny Irwin set a 25-mile track record. It returned once more in 1996, but a vicious flip on the backstretch by Robby Flock convinced USAC and the promoter that perhaps the mile was a bit to fast for the midget cars.
The late Joe Shaheen, owner of "Little Springfield Speedway", also promoted events at the mile in the 70’s, mostly sprint car/supermodified races beginning with twin 50’s in the fall of 1971. Those races were won by Steve Cannon and Jerry Blundy, and later became known as Shaheen’s Super Weekend. Many of the great sprint car drivers of the time turned out for these events, Bill Utz won the 1973 and 1976 events, with the late Dick Gaines winning in 1972. Bubby Jones beat Jan Opperman in 1975, while Butch Wilkerson took the 1977 race. Unfortunately, the sprint car events also saw two fatal accidents; in 1973 Cliff Johns was killed during the main event, while Doc Dawson lost his life in practice for the 1976 race. USAC Sprints appeared once in 1972, with Rollie Beale taking the main.
However, it was still the champ cars and the stock cars during the fair that brought the fans out. A sellout crowd watched A.J. Foyt at the time become Springfield’s all-time winner when he won the ’71 Bettenhausen, and Jack Bowsher took the Crowe Memorial. In ’72, Al Unser began a string of 4 straight Bettenhausen wins for the Viceroy dirt car team, and then Unser became the only man to win the companion stock car event on the same weekend! 1972 witnessed an additional stock car event for the first time, as Don White won the Independence 100 on July 4.
Mario Andretti took the Bettenhausen crown in ’73 and ’74, the latter year marking the last time Andretti and Foyt would appear at Springfield in championship machinery. Unser came back to post the Ford engine’s last Springfield win in 1975, with a brakeless Tom Bigelow beating Jan Opperman in 1976. Little known Larry Rice secured his first dirt car win on the way to the 1977 USAC title, while the man he beat for the 1973 USAC Midget crown, Bobby Olivero rode the inside rail and a flat tire to victory in 1979.
The Crowe Memorial provided it’s share of excitement in the 1970’s also. Jack Bowsher became a two-time winner in 1973, while Roger McCluskey became the second winner of the Crowe and Bettenhausen by taking the ’74 Crowe Memorial.
The 1975 and ’76 races provided fans with controversy, and some of the best racing ever seen at Springfield.
Ramo Stott and Butch Hartman had become tremendous rivals on the racetrack, Hartman and Stott were the men to beat in the USAC Stock Car Division in the mid seventies, and Hartman had dominated the points chase since 1971. Stott looked to change that in 1975. Hartman and Stott dueled through most of the1975 race, until a power outage killed the scoring at the midway point, with Stott leading and Hartman mired in mid pack. After a lengthy and animated discussion on the stage in front of thousands, Hartman buckled back into his yellow Dodge for the restart. Passing cars high and low, an angry Hartman thundered to the front, caught Stott and motored on for his second Crowe win. The points weren’t enough, however as Stott took the 1975 USAC title. In ’76, Hartman wanted the title back, and the duel the two had kept fans talking for years to come. Stott held the lead in the closing laps on a narrow and slick track, and Hartman used every maneuver he could think of to try to get by. Stott held him off with the precision of a swordsman to take his first Springfield win. Ramo repeated in 1977, avoiding perhaps the largest crash in state fair history when twenty cars piled up in turn three. Controversy reared it’s head again in ’78, as Don White slid out of the groove to hand Chicago’s Sal Tovella an emotional victory.
1978 saw emotions run high during the Bettenhausen Memorial on Saturday. Gary Bettenhausen, Tony’s oldest son, was the leader of the star-crossed family. Brother Merle had been badly hurt at Michigan, little Tony was just starting his career, and Gary was just 4 years removed from a near fatal and crippling dirt car accident at Syracuse. He desperately wanted to win his father’s race. Driving for Grant King, Gary B. dueled with Jim McElreath and pulled off an unprecendented win, becoming the first son to follow his father into Springfield’s victory lane.
1979 may be the year most people talk about when it comes to bench racing in Springfield. First, Motorsports Director Bill Oldani convinced Governor Jim Thompson that auto racing was a vital part of the fair, so money was appropriated for needed improvements. Ten thousand tons of clay were returned to the track surface, and plans were in place for a new hub rail the following year. The new surface allowed for faster speeds, but broke up during the 1979 Bettenhausen Memorial. It was an omen of things to come the next day.
A.J. Foyt was gunning for his second USAC Stock Car title in 1979, having passed up Springfield on his way to the 1978 crown. Foyt was embroiled in a hot points race, and couldn’t afford to miss the dirt track events. So on Sunday morning, Foyt and the Gilmore transported rolled into the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the first time since 1974. Foyt set quick time on a dry and dusty track, beating out rookies Joe Ruttman and Rusty Wallace, and veterans White and Bay Darnell. Foyt led the first fifty-one circuits, before pitting and dropping back. Track conditions deteriorated so bad, that by lap 67 the race was stopped and the water truck sent out. What happened next is a Springfield legend. Foyt, in tenth, decided that the heavily watered cushion was the way to go. Riding the high side as he had done several times in a dirt car, the wily veteran began to make progress, but spun in turn four dropping him further back. Regaining his composure, Foyt stormed back to the front, slinging dirt high over the wall. In the last ten laps, it was vintage A.J. Foyt caught the leader White and second place Ruttman going into turn one, passed both of them and two lapped cars on the high side of turn two and motored away for a thrilling victory. It was A.J.’s final Springfield appearance.
In 1980, a spring and fall stock car race were added. Hartman returned to the USAC ranks, and he smashed the track record for the spring race by becoming the first stock car driver through the 100-mile and hour barrier. He and Stott staged a classic duel, with Stott winning by a door. Joe Ruttman beat Rust Wallace in the October event. Winged sprint cars also appeared in 1980, with Steve Kinser and Danny Smith winning the 25 mile events, and Kinser setting a world record of over 126 miles an hour!
Larry Rice finally broke McElreath’s 1965 dirt car track record, and Pancho Carter won the Bettenhausen on the last lap, after the race ws postponed twice by rain. Veteran Terry Ryan took home the stock car event.
1981 saw the dirt car record fall again, this time with Tom Bigelow, but it was veteran George Snider taking the Bettenhausen 100. Dean Roper followed his win in the spring stock car race by taking the Crowe Memorial as well. Sheldon Kinser broke the dirt car track record in 1982 as Bobby Olivero became a two-time Bettenhausen victor. The spring stock car race saw another Roper win, but an emotional Bay Darnell won the fair race after 20 years of trying.
The remainder of the 80’s saw Chuck Gurney post three wins in the dirt cars, with Jack Hewitt gaining two in a row (plus setting the 100-mile race record) and Gary Bettenhausen winning his second race on a 106 degree day in 1983. Roper dominated stock car racing at Springfield, winning seven of nine races in a 5 year span. The 80’s saw the demise of the USAC stock car division, and the Automobile Racing Club of America take over complete control of the Crowe Memorial in 1985. The spring stock car race was discontinued in 1983. In 1982, an additional dirt car event was held, called the dream event as a challenge between USAC and the World of Outlaws. Larry Dickson garnered the dirt car race, while Danny Smith took the winged sprint car event as Rick Ferkel set a track record that held for 15 years.
Sprint cars came back in 1997 and 1998, with Sammy Swindell and Andy Hillenburg taking the main events, the former setting a new world record in 1998 of over 145 miles an hour in qualifying!
The last decade of the 20th century witnessed broken records and more great racing at the Springfield mile. Chuck Gurney won the first three Bettenhausen races of the decade, breaking Foyt’s record of 4 wins. Chuck extended his total to 7 by taking the 1994 and 1996 events as well, the latter seeing the race postponed until September, and then having Robby Flock set a world record of over 120 miles an hour in qualifying! Jimmy Sills won in 1992, Hewitt took his third win in 1993, with the late Kenny Irwin coming from a record 28th starting slot to win the ’95 race. Dave Darland became a two time winner in the 90’s, while finding a new rival in Russ Gamester who captured the 1998 race.
The stock cars became increasingly popular through the 1990’s, mirroring the rise of the NASCAR Winston Cup series. Bobby Bowsher followed dad Jack twice into winner’s circle, while former USAC star Bob Brevak won the 1990 Crowe Memorial. Local driver Ken Rowley slipped and suffered heartbreak late in the 1993 event, handing a record trying 4th win (’87,’88,’89) to Michigan’s Bob Keselowski. Tim Steele won two in a row, the last coming on an October afternoon due to an August rainout, while Midwest favorite Ken Schrader captured an elusive Crowe win in 1998. Kentucky’s Bill Baird won the 1999 Crowe Memorial but just a nose.
Racing Director Bill Oldani passed away before the 1993 fair, and the reins of the fair’s motorsports program were passed to the capable Bob Sargent. Sargent continued the tradtions established by those before him, and added a few of his own. An event for street stocks was added to the Sunday stock car event, called the Sportsman nationals, and has been dominated by Springfield’s own Wes O’Dell. Sargent also added the Illinois Fall Nationals, a September event now in it’s 10th season for short track late model stock cars and modifieds. Winners of the events include Billy Moyer, John Mason, Scott Bloomquist, Jeff Leka and Ken Schrader.
The 2000 races held at the fairgrounds were just as exciting as those before. Jack Hewitt dueled with 20 year old Bud Kaeding before taking his 4th Bettenhausen win, and Frank Kimmel held off Bill Baird by a door to take the Crowe. Wes O’Dell in the Sportsman and Billy Moyer in the Fall Nationals were repeat winners, as Jerry Buck took home the Nationals modified crown.
Three hundred acres on the north side of the Illinois capitol lined with trees, grass and historic buildings. Exhibits of the best farm animals, products, food and entertainement the state has to offer. A covered grandstand made of concrete brick and steel. The smell of methanol and rubber mixed in with the smell of hot dogs, elephant ears and french fries. The sounds of racing engines combined with the buzz of carnival rides and the joyous laughter of children. A racetrack in the same configuration for the last seventy four years, and a beginning that pre-dates even the Indianapolis 500. A racing history and tradition as rich as the dirt slung by 700 horsepower rockets and the men who choose to operate them between the concrete walls. Nearly a century of breathtaking competition. Over 25 men who have won at Springfield appear in various racing hall of fames around the world. They account for over 25 national championships, nine Indianapolis 500 victories and numerous wins around the world. Some of their names are synonymous with America’s best racing drivers, Foyt, Bettenhausen, Horn, Unser, Andreti, Kinser, Opperman, Hewitt, White, Hartman, Roper, Steele, and Schrader. And that’s just the winners, there are a whole host of drivers who have never won a Springfield race who are just as famous.
All of these things make auto racing at Springfield very very special and a part of American racing history that will continue well into the next millenium, beginning with the 2001 edition of the racing weekend at the Illinois State Fair. The next chapter in American racing history kicks off with the 41st Annual Corona-Tony Bettenhausen 100 for the USAC Silver Bullet Series championship dirt cars on Saturday, August 18. The pace switches to the stock cars of the ARCA Re-Max series on Sunday, August 19 for the 39th annual PAR-A-DICE-Allen Crowe Memorial 100, plus the Wynn’s Sportsman Nationals. And, on September 16, the 10th annual Turbo-Blue Illinois Fall Nationals for UMP Late Models and Modifieds will be held.
More information on these events can be found at the USAC webiste, www.usacracing.com, and at the ARCA website, www.arcaracing.com. The promoter Track Enterprises can be located for additional information at www.trackenterprises.com, or at 217-764-3200.