By Dick Jordan
Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz. and Tanner Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. enter this Saturday’s “Tony Bettenhausen 100” at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield in a tie for the points lead in USAC’s Traxxas Silver Crown Championship.
Coons is a former series champion (2008) and also has titles in USAC’s National Sprint Car (2008) and National Midget series (2006-2007), making him one of only five drivers to own USAC’s “Triple Crown.” Swanson owns two Western Sprint Car titles (2008-2009) and a 2007 USAC Western Ford Focus crown.
Saturday’s 100-mile race continues a tradition of racing at the Springfield mile which debuted with Billy Winn’s victory in 1934. Former winners of this event have included Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Jimmy Bryan, Sam Hanks, Johnnie Parsons, Mauri Rose and Wilbur Shaw. Recent winners include Brian Tyler, Tracy Hines, Dave Darland and Russ Gamester, all of whom are expected to be in Saturday’s field.
Last year’s event rained out but Coons began the 2011 season with a victory in the “Hoosier Hundred” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile dirt oval and he is considered among favorites Saturday. Swanson was eighth at Indianapolis and has added a pair of thirds and a fourth since.
With 66 points available Saturday (60 for the win, three for fast qualifying time and three for the most laps led), nine drivers are mathematically in the title chase. In addition to Coons and Swanson, defending series champ Levi Jones trails by just six and Bobby East is 17 back. Former three-time champion Bud Kaeding is 30 out of the lead, while Bobby Santos III is 45 back, Tracy Hines trails by 49, Tyler is 59 back and rookie phenom Kyle Larson is 61 behind.
The closest title chases in history were in 1995, when Tony Stewart beat Dave Darland by just two points, and in 1993 when Mike Bliss outpointed Ron Shuman by two.
Hines established the 1-lap track qualifying record of 122.846 mph. in 2006 and Jack Hewitt’s 100-mile race record of 106.920 mph from 1987 still stands.
USAC TRAXXAS SILVER CROWN POINT STANDINGS
1-Jerry Coons Jr.-201; 2-Tanner Swanson-201; 3-Levi Jones-195; 4-Bobby East-184; 5-Bud Kaeding-171; 6-Bobby Santos III-156; 7-Tracy Hines-152; 8-Brian Tyler-142; 9-Kyle Larson-140; 10-Jacob Wilson-107.