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Fike on Verge of History after Bettenhausen 100 win at Illinois State Fair

Illinois State Fairby Jay Hardin of Track Enterprises
(August 18, 2012 Springfield, IL)-Galesburg’s A.J. Fike added to the auto racing history of the Springfield Mile as he became the first central Illinois driver in 46 years (and the first from the home state on 29) to win the USAC Traxxas Tony Bettenhausen 100 championship race at the Illinois State Fair. The victory over defending winner sets up the potential for a history making weekend for Fike in tomorrow’s ARCA Allen Crowe 100.

Starting third in the field Fike kept the leaders in check and was able to assume control on lap 36 and then manage traffic while holding off defending and four-time Bettenhausen 100 winner Brian Tyler in the process. It was an emotional A.J. in victory lane who called the win “a big one for me and my family.” “We’ve been coming here a long time.”

Tyler set quick time in qualifying but started fourth due an inversion procedure. Point leader Kody Swanson led at the start but had issues around the 20 mile mark handing the lead to defending USAC Silver Crown champion Levi Jones of Olney, Illinois. Fike was able to wrestle the lead from Jones after a restart and by lap 60 was clicking off laps faster than Tyler’s time earned in qualifying. Lapped traffic allowed Tyler to close but he was never able to take the lead during the event.

Tanner Swanson capped off strong afternoon by finishing third after starting 17th.

Don Branson (Champaign) was the last driver from the central part of the state of take the Bettenhausen 100 and he did so three months before his fatal accident at Ascot Park in California. Gary Bettenhausen (Tinley Park) is the last Illinois native to score a championship victory at Springfield, that coming in his father’s race in 1983.

Fike however can make history on Sunday. He can join Al Unser as the only other driver in the history of the Illinois State Fair to win the championship and stock car race in the same weekend. Unser turned that trick in 1972.

Illinois drivers has a mixed afternoon. Olney’s Levi Jones was fourth, Elkhart’s Chris Urish tenth, Cooks Mills rookie Steve Adams twelfth, Murphysboro’s Randy Bateman sixteenth, Benton’s Shane Cockrum sixteenth and Springfield’s Joey Moughan twentieth.

FEATURE: (100 laps) 1. A.J. Fike, 2. Brian Tyler, 3. Tanner Swanson, 4. Levi Jones, 5. Bryan Clauson, 6. Jerry Coons Jr, 7. Bud Kaeding, 8. Bobby East, 9. Rich Tobias Jr., 10. Chris Urish, 11. Bobby Santos, 12. Steve Adams, 13. Tracy Hines, 14. Russ Gamester, 15. Kody Swanson, 16. Randy Bateman, 17. Shane Hollingsworth, 18. Shane Cottle, 19. Shane Cockrum, 20. Joey Moughan. NT

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