By Richie Murray
Two drivers have each thrown their hat into the ring and will put themselves to the mental and physical test involved with running all four legs of this Saturday’s 35th running of the “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon and Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney have both secured rides in the USAC Silver Crown, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car, USAC National Midget and Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions for Saturday’s spectacular.
Bacon will be behind the wheel of four machines that he is quite familiar with: the Paul Martens No. 48 Silver Crown car, the Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics No. 69 AMSOIL Sprint Car, the FMR Racing No. 76m Midget and his own No. 99 Wing Sprint Car in the All Star portion of the program.
In addition to his duties piloting the four machines on Saturday, Bacon is involved in two different USAC National points races. He has a commanding 219-point lead in the AMSOIL National Sprint Car standings and also sits third in National Midget points, just 66 markers out of the lead.
Courtney, on the other hand, has dabbled in several different series this season with the TOPP Motorsports No. 23c sprint car that he will wheel in both the USAC Sprint and All Star divisions. But this Saturday night, he will make his return to the Silver Crown and National Midget series with his debut in the RPM/Fred Gormly No. 99 champ car and the Kenny Irwin, Sr. No. 7K – a car in which made a handful of starts in during the 2015 season.
Bacon, who owns a victory in the USAC Sprint Car feature at the “4-Crown” in 2014, has run three classes in one night during the two previous years of the “4-Crown,” but 2016 will mark the first time he will do quadruple duty in one night, which he notes is actually more mentally taxing than it is physical.
“Mental fatigue and trying to think about all of the different cars and circumstances you are in is the most tiring part,” Bacon said. “Physical fatigue isn’t as big of an issue at Eldora as the mental aspect.”
Courtney, who will attempt “the quadruple” for the first time on Saturday, anticipates that he won’t have a problem with fatigue because, after all, it’s Eldora Speedway.
“I’ve never done all four classes before, so I’m not sure if the fatigue is going to play a factor,” Courtney wondered. “If I had to guess, though, your adrenaline is going to be pumping all night. It’s Eldora! If that place doesn’t pump your adrenaline, then I don’t know what will.”
All four cars running Saturday night are similar, yet have their own unique characteristics. Courtney notes that the advice he’s received from friend and current NASCAR star Kyle Larson tells him that more track time you get, the more it helps you throughout the night.
“From talking to Kyle Larson a few times, he says the more cars you run there, it doesn’t necessarily get easier throughout the night, but it does help you the more laps you run just figuring out the track and how to get around it.”
Bacon, on the other hand, says that things begin to slow down for you after stepping foot in a sprint car at “The Big E.”
“Running the wing and non-wing sprint car helps a lot with the other classes and slows things down for you because the sprint cars are so much faster at Eldora than the other divisions,” Bacon explained.
Bacon, the 2014 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National champion, relishes the opportunity to be in such good equipment night-in, night-out that has propelled him to become the only driver to occupy a spot in the top-12 in all three USAC National standings.
“I am extremely excited about having great car owners and equipment to have a legitimate shot at every division,” Bacon beamed. “I think the hardest part is having cars capable of winning in every class. It would be a huge accomplishment to put my name on the same list as Jack Hewitt winning all four or even Kyle Larson by winning three.”
Courtney has been an outlaw racer this year behind the wheel of a sprint car, running non-wing and wing races whenever and wherever he can without a single thought of points racing running through his mind.
“I think it does give me a slight advantage racing a little bit of everything this year,” Courtney believes. “Seat time in anything is always beneficial; I think the best example of that was Bryan Clauson. Bryan was always one of the best, but this year, he got to race over 100 times and really got to fine tune his craft and it truly showed. He kicked our butts even worse than before! I believe racing a little bit of everything this year has helped me get prepared for this weekend and I think myself and the teams I’m running for are ready to go.”
Courtney explains that you can’t tiptoe around Eldora and be fast. Who’s willing to put their right rear right up against the wall and stand on the gas will determine if you’re going to be running at the front or the back when the checkered flag falls on the night.
“Throughout the night, the biggest difference you notice is just the speed difference between all the cars,” Courtney noted. “At the end of the day, it’s Eldora and, if you aren’t up on the fence in every car that you’re in, you’re not going to be fast! You’re basically doing the same thing in every car, just at different speeds.”
With the return of “4-Crowns” to a single night for the first time since 2007, along comes a bonus that carries a large sum of money if Bacon or Courtney are able to persevere and match Jack Hewitt’s four wins or Kyle Larson’s three victories.
Scoring four wins in each of the four features Saturday night will net a driver a $100,000 bonus. A driver who grabs three out of four checkered flags will still receive a nice $25,000 bonus to go along with their winnings.
Believe it or not, in 15 of the 34 editions of the “4-Crown,” one driver has won multiple features. Only two drivers have won multiple features in a single night more than once. Dave Darland did it in 1999 and 2004 while the incomparable Jack Hewitt accomplished the feat on four occasions (1991, 1996, 1997 and the unforgettable night in 1998 when he became the first and only driver to sweep all four divisions.)
Kyle Larson was the last to sweep all three USAC divisions in one night during his first ever visit to the Eldora high banks back in 2011.
Other drivers to have won at least two of the four crowns in a single night include Steve Kinser (1981), Larry Rice (1985), Rich Vogler (1986), Tony Stewart (1995), J.J. Yeley (2001), Dave Darland (2004), Tracy Hines (2006), Chris Windom (2013) and Christopher Bell (2015).
Spectator gates for Saturday’s “4-Crown Nationals” open at noon, while hot laps are set to begin at 4:30pm with qualifications and racing to immediately follow.
About Eldora Speedway:
Since carved from a cornfield in the natural amphitheater that existed between the Eldora Ballroom and the Wabash River by bandleader Earl Baltes in 1954, Eldora Speedway has grown to be a frontrunner in motorsports growth and stability. Baltes chose to sell the legendary high-banked clay oval to motorsports entrepreneur and NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC champion Tony Stewart in 2004. Celebrating its 63rd season in 2016, Eldora hosts the biggest events in short-track racing including the $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Mowers; the $50,000-to-win Kings Royal Weekend; the Camping World Truck Series’ Aspen Dental Dirt Derby – NASCAR’s only race on dirt; the 46th annual World 100; and the legendary 4-Crown Nationals. The complete schedule for Eldora’s 63rd consecutive season, including ticket and campsite information, is available at www.EldoraSpeedway.com and can be requested by phone at (937) 338-3815. Fans can get behind-the-scenes access of Eldora Speedway by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, hitting ‘Like’ at www.facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and visiting www.youtube.com/EldoraSpeedway.