By Richie Murray
Springfield, Illinois (October 12, 2020)………David Gravel, the 2019 Knoxville Nationals winner and a veteran of 57 wins and 601 starts with the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, will make his USAC Silver Crown debut this Sunday afternoon, October 18, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the 57th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear.
Gravel (Watertown, Conn.) will compete in his first Silver Crown event this Sunday aboard the Swanson Encore Team No. 21, which has been a fixture on the Silver Crown dirt tracks over the past half-decade with Jeff Swindell as the driver.
For Gravel, this day was a long way coming, but the schedule worked out in his favor to allow him to jump at the chance to compete in the 100-mile dirt race.
“The team called me up one day and asked if I was interested,” Gravel recalled. “I told them I had to think about it and see what my plans were. They asked me to do a race earlier in the season and I couldn’t do it. I felt like toward the end of the year was a good time to give it a try. I know they have good equipment, and since I’m not committed to World of Outlaws points this year, it was a good opportunity to give it a try.”
What makes his entry for Sunday even more enticing is the fact that Gravel has yet to even sit in the seat of a Silver Crown car. His Silver Crown experience is confined to an appearance as a fan at the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. But, from his standpoint, he has an impression of the cars and the style of racing that he will carry with him when he first hits the racetrack this Sunday.
“I know all the weight and fuel behind me is going to be a big thing, and having patience in that long of a race, managing your tires and all those things,” Gravel anticipates. “I’ll be curious to see how that all feels. Racing on a mile-long dirt track is going to be a little bit different too. I think I should be fine on the patience side and, obviously, just the feel with that big fuel load, it’s going to be interesting for sure.”
The stats are impressive. Gravel finished in the top-three of the World of Outlaws points in four consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2019. He’s won six times with the series in 2020, with 28 top-fives and 41 top-tens in 47 starts, and his 57 career wins ranks 16th on WoO’s all-time list. But his previous experience has not seen a ton of seat time in long-distance races of the 100-mile or more sort.
With that said, in limited opportunities, Gravel has been impressive in 200-mile paved races. He finished 12th in his ARCA Stock Car debut in February at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway. In his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start at Michigan International Speedway in August, he finished 10th. Once again, he’ll be making his second career truck start this Saturday, October 17, at Kansas Speedway before jumping into a Silver Crown car on Sunday.
Gravel feels the long-distance race experience will only serve to aid him as he takes on a new challenge with the Silver Crown car, and at this point in time, he feels his maturity as a driver and his experience has him game for the Silver Crown challenge.
“I would think so, a little bit,” Gravel estimated when asked if his previous experience applies to Silver Crown racing. “I think 40 or 50 laps in a sprint car is pretty long, so it’s just going to be a little bit longer than that. I think I have the right mentality for it. At my age now, I’m definitely going to be a little bit smarter of a racer than I would’ve been in my early 20s.”
Gravel actually does have dirt track experience without the wing. He made two appearances in Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway’s weekly program in his own car during the 2009 season, and has also made annual appearances at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. His goals for Springfield are simple and straight to the point.
“I’d like to compete, but definitely want to finish the race first,” Gravel said. “Realistically, a top-ten would be good. Hopefully, we’ll be in the hunt for the win. Obviously, there are guys that are really good in a Silver Crown car. I’m just going to see how it all plays out, but I want to be in the mix. That’s what I’m looking for.”
The Sunday, October 18 Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear will feature the USAC Silver Crown Series in the 59th edition of the event. Grandstand capacity is set at 20% and tickets are available online at www.trackenterprises.com or by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200. The advance sale tickets will also save fans a couple of bucks compared to purchasing them at the event.
Pit gates will open at 8am Central, grandstands and ticket office at 11am, practice at Noon, qualifying at 1:15pm, the last chance race at 2:15pm and the 57th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear will take the green at 3pm. All times listed are central.
For more information or to order tickets, visit www.trackenterprises.com or call 217-764-3200.
The Bettenhausen 100 can also be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.