By Dick Jordan
Tony Bettenhausen was among inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame this year. This Saturday’s TRAXXAS USAC Silver Crown race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds continues his legacy, one which resulted in numerous major racing triumphs and titles, including the 1951 AAA and 1958 USAC National Driving Championship.
Tony won at Springfield in 1947, 1950 and 1951 and his son Gary was the 1978 and 1983 winner.
This year, four-time race winner Brian Tyler will try to become only the second driver to win five “Tony Bettenhausen 100” classics. Chuck Gurney won seven between 1994 and 1996. A.J. Foyt and Jack Hewitt each won four times, while Dave Darland, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Rodger Ward and the aforementioned Tony Bettenhausen himself each recorded three wins in the race which dates all the way back to 1934.
Tracy Hines, who won at Springfield in 2006, will lead the series to the 100-miler, holding a tenuous four-point lead over Bobby East in the latest standings. Hines won the most recent race, August 2 at Belleville, Kans.
Kody Swanson and Jerry Coons Jr., each like East seeking a Springfield first, stand just eight and 12 points behind Hines with 66 points on the line in Saturday’s race.
A.J. Fike, the defending race winner, and Russ Gamester, the 1998 race winner, complete the quintet of former “Bettenhausen” champions in Saturday’s field.
Last year, Fike became the first Illinios driver to win the “Tony Bettenhausen 100” since Gary Bettenhausen’s 1983 victory.
2013 TRAXXAS USAC Silver Crown Point Standings: 1-Tracy Hines-247, 2-Bobby East-243, 3-Kody Swanson-239, 4-Jerry Coons Jr.-235, 5-Chris Windom-213, 6-Brian Tyler-204, 7-Shane Hollingsworth-182, 8-A. J. Fike-155, 9-David Byrne-127, 10-Bobby Santos-108.