Dean Van Lines entered the 1953 national championship season somewhat in disarray with equipment that needed to be rebuilt and in search of a driver who could stand on the gas, as well as a top wrench to look after the equipment. After the 1953 Indianapolis 500, Al Dean hired a west coast mechanic named Clint Brawner to look after the team’s Eddie Kuzma built Offenhauser powered dirt car and find a pilot who could wring the most out of the machine. After Brawner assessed the equipment, he told Dean that the Offy engine was in need of a rebuild. Instead of resistance, Brawner found an owner willing to accommodate his request and Dean had the new parts shipped to Indianapolis. After rebuilding the Dean machine Brawner settled on an eager young driver named Bob Sweikert.
Sweikert won the pole at Syracuse in September and led a good chunk of that race before falling out due to an accident. He and Brawner were ready for Jo Quinn and Roger Wolcott’s first Hoosier Hundred on September 19, 1953 but the track wasn’t as rain postponed the rich dirt track event until the 26th. Sweikert qualified the Dean car in third, grabbed the lead on lap 6 and ran to the checkers under a blanket with three other machines in the closest Hoosier Hundred finish in history. The Dean Van Lines car returned in 1954 with Jimmy Bryan at the helm, and would pocket the lion’s share of the purse in 1955 and 1956 as well.
Vel’s-Parnelli Jones Racing was in its second year of existence in 1970 when they entered the 18th running of the fall classic at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Second year driver Al Unser was in his third season working with chief mechanic George Bignotti, the two having come from John Mecom’s stable after the 1968 season. VPJ debuted on of the first Ford DOHC powered dirt cars in 1969, a Grant King creation that Al won with at DuQuoin in late 1969. Now in navy blue with lightning bolts, the Johnny Lightning Special simply looked fast. Al slowly reeled in early race leader A.J. Foyt in September of 1970 and led most of the second half before an ABC Wide World of Sports audience on the way to his first Hoosier Hundred. He captured three more, one in Johnny Lightning livery, and two in the red and white Viceroy colors. In a twist of irony, historians think that the Dean Van Lines Kuzma and the VPJ King-Ford are the only two cars to win four consecutive Hoosier Hundred events.
RW Motorsports entered Beast chassis in 2010 for Coons and Shane Hmiel with Hmiel gaining an emotional 100-mile win two nights before the 2010 Indianapolis 500. Coons won in 2011, and last year dominated over the last 80 miles to put the RW Toyota powered Beast into victory lane. Both he and rookie Kevin Thomas, Jr. will have similar machines at their disposal on May 23.
The 2013 Hoosier Hundred gets a new look as promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises has moved the race to the former “Carb Day” for the Indianapolis 500, the new date is the Thursday night before the Indianapolis 500. “We felt that this was the right move for the event and gives fans one fantastic stretch of races in about a ten day period, with Indy 500 qualifying the weekend before, a USAC sprint race at Terre Haute on May 22, the Hoosier Hundred on Thursday and Carb Day at the Speedway on Friday”, said Sargent. “A lot of the participants over at the Speedway wanted to come out for the Hoosier Hundred but with the Carb Day festivities and their commitments, couldn’t fit Friday night in at the Fairgrounds.” “I expect that to change with the race now on Thursday and there is no telling who you might see out at the Fairgrounds May 23.”
Tickets for the Hoosier Hundred are now on sale at Ticketmaster or through Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200.