By Jay Hardin
Normal, Illinois’ Bill Hendren, current car owner of 2020 Atlas Allen Crowe 100 winner Ryan Unzicker, has decided to retire after this season. Bill is the longest known participant of the stock car events at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, having served in some capacity since 1974.
Bill’s journey began with fellow McLean County resident Ken Rowley and together they won the 1974 USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year award. The duo also finished 9th at Springfield behind winner Roger McCluskey. Over the next few seasons Ken and Bill enjoyed runs on the USAC Stock Car circuit, including usually making the dirt shows at Springfield and Du Quoin.
Bill stepped away from ownership for over a decade but remained involved in some form or another, at times helping financially or as a crew member. Bill returned to ownership several years ago, Ken Rowley set two track records at Du Quoin and nearly won the 1993 Allen Crowe 100 giving the team its best (3rd) Springfield finish. Unfortunately, Ken Rowley was forced to retire after the 1998 season. Hendren then turned to veteran Bob Strait who promptly set the team’s Chevrolet on the pole for the 1999 event. Strait ran sporadically for the Hendren outfit for the next few seasons, with the team helping Mark Littleton for a few years before Unzicker became the selected shoe for Hendren Motorsports.
Unzicker led laps at Du Quoin and equaled Rowley’s 3rd in 2016 but had yet to lead a lap at Springfield. All that changed in 2020, when he led a record 102 of 103 laps and gave Hendren a long sought-after Springfield victory. Earlier this year Hendren announced this year would be his last. To Bill Hendren we say so long, and it’s been a great ride.
The event is all part of a huge weekend of racing that begins Friday night, August 19 at Lincoln Speedway featuring MOWA Sprint Cars, Saturday afternoon, August 20 with USAC Silver Crown and Sportsman at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Saturday night at Macon Speedway with POWRi National Midgets, and Sunday afternoon, August 21 with ARCA and Sportsman at the Illinois State Fair.
Advance tickets for the Illinois State Fair races are available by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200, by calling the Illinois State Fair box office at 217-782-1979, or by stopping by the Illinois State Fair box office. Advance sale discounted tickets for the ARCA Menards Series event on Sunday, August 21 can be purchased in Central Illinois area Menards stores for a price of just $20.