Home Race Track News Illinois Bettenhausen 100 Post-Race Notes

Bettenhausen 100 Post-Race Notes

Illinois State Fair(Springfield, IL August 24, 2015) By Jay Hardin


  • Although Mother Nature tried to throw a little rain toward the Illinois State Fairgrounds Saturday she wasn’t able to stop the 54th Bettenhausen 100 nor the continued hot streak of Kingsburg, California’s Kody Swanson who won his second consecutive race on the Illinois mile and 5 of the last 6 USAC Silver Crown races held on one-mile dirt tracks, the only one he failed to capture was last year’s Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin, the next stop on the schedule.


  • The championship dirt cars have been said to be going the way of the dinosaur many times in their history.  During the 50’s roadsters and the paving of fairground tracks at Milwaukee and Trenton led many to believe the dirt car was history.  In the 60’s, paving Langhorne and small car counts (18 at Springfield in 1965) once again brought predictions of their demise.  When the cars were removed from the National Championship in 1971 a number of insiders predicted their demise and again when there were only three races on the schedule.  Their future looked bleak after the new pavement car didn’t catch on and combined with a bad economy led many owners to leave the sport.  Amazingly, the car whose existence can be traced to the early days of automobile racing continues to endure.


  • Andy Hillenburg deserves a lot of credit, along with the teams, drivers, promoters and die hard fans for what could be a breakthrough day Saturday.  For the first time since 2007 a full field was on the grounds plus three.  The Silver Crown cars, unlike many other series across the country, appear to have momentum and growth on their side.  One can only hope that the positive direction continues and the series grows for 2016.


  • Thirty three cars did sign in, the 18 car of Kenny Gentry rumored to be on the way never arrived.  Surprisingly neither did the entry of hometown driver J.C. Bland.  Rich Tobias broke an engine part while doing a test and tune but should be at DuQuoin.  Another surprise no-show was the former Capie 153 of Tyler “Sunshine” Courtney.


  • Surprise entrants included the “Hurricane” Randy Hannagan in the Swanson 21, veteran Terry Babb putting together a car for the first time in years, and Casey Shuman keeping the seat warm for a still healing Randy Bateman.


  • Cloud cover early on kept the track moist and hot laps were an absolute blast.  Quick time in hot laps was still about .5 seconds off the track record but the cushion was eventually pushed out all the way to the wall in turns 3 and 4, something that hasn’t been seen in a long long time.  During practice Shane Cockrum and A.J. Fike put on a spectacular show each riding the cushion just a few feet apart and Fike trying to pass Cockrum numerous times.  During the hot lap session a few cars experienced problems including Shane Cottle who had an oil line come loose and Aaron Pierce who had an engine give way big time.  Pierce would be done for the day, a shame for the Muncie, Indiana driver who had a podium finish at the Indy fairgrounds and was blazing fast in Springfield practice.


  • Rain came during qualifications in the form of a light sprinkle and hit turn 4 pretty good as Rick Hood came to the green flag.  Rick’s veteran skill kept the car off the fence and qualifying was halted while promoter Bob Sargent brought the big orange trucks out and ran in the groove.  A decision was made to let the first three times stand, but everyone 4th through Hood requalified.


  • Justin Grant was the first to break the 31 second barrier in time trials with a 30.616 as the 12th scheduled qualifier.  Fike and Cockrum got close and just when it appeared Grant’s time was safe, Kody Swanson went out dead last and put a 30.532 on the board.  However, Swanson required a push start and the penalty is starting in the back half of the field which meant a 16th place start for the defending winner, something that was sure to make the 100 miler more interesting.


  • By the time the scheduled 2 p.m. start came the sun had broken through and it would not take long for the track to dry out.  The opening lap or two was spectacular with two distinct grooves, Cockrum shooting out to a lead using the cushion and Fike running right with him on the bottom.  However within 10 circuits the track took rubber


  • Fike began to experience problems after lap 10 (handling) and Windom took second with Swanson on the move.  Windom and Cockrum were putting on quite a battle with the two inches apart and Windom trying several times to get around the new Benton, Illinois fire chief.  On lap 41 Windom made the pass but 17 laps later Swanson took the lead and was never headed.


  • Kody once again joined legends in the Springfield history books.  Since 1934 there have been 8 back to back championship race winners at Springfield.  Billy Winn, Tony Bettenhausen, Jimmy Bryan, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jack Hewitt, Brian Tyler, A.J. Fike and now Swanson.  Kody becomes the 14th driver with more than one championship race win on the Springfield mile and the 11th with more than one Bettenhausen win.  Car number 63 goes to victory lane for the 4th time as does Bob Hampshire as a chief wrench.  Swanson moved to 17th on the all-time laps led list at Springfield.


  • Other milestones include starts 23 and 22 for Russ Gamester and Dave Darland respectively, while Darland added to his total as the all-time mileage leader at Springfield.


  • Tires were a big story at Springfield, the blistering pace took its toll on the right rears of Cockrum and Windom by halfway as well as Justin Grant.


  • Shane Cottle had a fine run to third as did Steve Buckwalter who was strong at Indianapolis as well.  Casey Shuman gave Bateman’s ride a great run to 7th and Rick Hood finished a solid 9th for Galen Fox.


  • History was written again on Sunday when Fike won the SuperChevyStores.com Allen Crowe 100 ARCA race joining Len Sutton, A.J. Foyt, AL Unser and Roger McCluskey as the only drivers to win a race at Springfield in both a dirt car and a stock car.


  • Kudos to Bob Sargent and the track crew for battling the changing conditions all day.


  • DuQuoin is up next on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
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