By Richie Murray
Springfield, Illinois (October 13, 2020)………The lineage of father/son duos who’ve competed in AAA/USAC Championship Dirt Car racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the past eight decades begins right there with the title of this Sunday afternoon’s race on October 18: the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear.
The family patriarch, 1951 AAA and 1958 USAC National Champion Tony Bettenhausen, won the pole twice at the Springfield Mile, both in 1950, and won three times in 10 starts in the years of 1947-50-51. Tony’s son Gary followed in a similar path, winning the race named for his father twice, in 1978 and 1983, in 19 starts at the one-mile dirt oval. Gary’s brother Merle made two starts as well, including his Champ Car debut in 1970, finishing 8th, followed by a 7th in 1971.
Racing is an endeavor with names and venues that connect the past to the current; not many places still in existence have as much overflowing history as does the Springfield Mile.
Greenfield, Indiana’s C.J. Leary is the lone son of a father who competed in a USAC Silver Crown car at Springfield. His father Chuck, the 1995 series Rookie of the Year, made three starts, finishing a best of 7th in 1999. C.J., a 2015 series Rookie of the Year himself, has a best finish of 6th in the first of his three career Springfield starts in 2015. They remain the only father/son to date to both win at least one Silver Crown main event.
After a glance at the history of AAA/USAC Champ Car racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, which dates back to 1934, we’ve found no less than 21 sons who’ve joined their fathers as Champ Car starters at Springfield.
Johnnie Parsons, the 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner, was impressive at Springfield where he finished in the top-five on four occasions, winning the 1949 100-miler en route to the AAA title. Son Johnny made 27 starts at Springfield in a Champ Car, second only to George Snider. While Johnny never won, he was a three-time pole starter in 1975-94-95 and finished in the runner-up position behind Tom Bigelow in 1976.
The Carter family is the only three consecutive generation family of racers at Springfield in a Champ Car. Duane Carter started six, finishing a best of 7th in 1949. Duane’s son Pancho made nine starts at Springfield, winning in his final appearance in 1980. Pancho’s brother Dana was 12th in 1982, tops among his three starts.
Pancho’s two sons, Dane and Cole Carter, each notched starts at Springfield. Dane made four with a 14th place result in 2003 while Cole started 3rd and finished 30th in his only appearance in 2005, his day ending following a hard crash early on.
Two-time Indianapolis winner Bill Vukovich started 6th and finished 15th in his one Springfield start in 1951. Son Billy Jr. was a more frequent visitor, carving out 14 starts and a 3rd place finish in 1969.
Chuck Weyant was an 11th place finisher in both of his Springfield starts in 1954-59. Chuck’s son Tony Weyant made a pair of starts, topping out with a 13th in 1980. Chuck is the great uncle of Springfield native Korey Weyant who finished 22nd in his lone Bettenhausen 100 start in 2017.
Eddie Sachs, a two-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner and the 1958 USAC Midwest Sprint Car champion, finished as the runner-up at Springfield in 1960, was 3rd in 1956 and 7th in 1959. Son Eddie Sachs, Jr., made a single appearance in 1991, finishing 35th in the Bettenhausen 100.
Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, won the pole at Springfield in 1961 and finished in the runner-up spot in 1962. Son Page’s career was tragically cut short due to injury, but he did make one start at Springfield in 1994, starting 19th and finishing 28th, bowing out with an oil tank issue just 16 laps into the 100-lap race.
Texan Jim McElreath made 18 Springfield starts between 1962 and 1992. He won the pole for the race in 1965 and finished inside the top-five on six occasions with a best of 2nd in 1978. Son James made just three starts, starting 6th and finishing 4th during his best performance less than two months before his death in a sprint car crash at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway. Jim and James remain the only father/son to compete in the same Champ Car race at Springfield, something they did twice in 1976-77.
In 11 Springfield starts, 1975 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Bill Puterbaugh finished in the top-five twice, 5th in 1972 followed up by a best of 3rd in 1973. Son Billy Puterbaugh Jr. was a top-five runner himself in 1998, finishing 5th, the best performance in his three starts.
Mike Mosely, a three-time Milwaukee Indy Car winner, started in the top-ten in both of his Springfield appearances with a best finish of 10th in 1970. His son, Mike Mosley Jr. took home a 27th place result in his first and only Bettenhausen 100 run in 1998.
Eastern superstar Dick “Toby” Tobias came west to Springfield twice in the early 1970s, finishing 12th in 1972. His son, Rich Tobias Jr., started the 100-miler seven times, finishing in the runner-up spot in 2004.
Arizonian Ron Shuman had three top-fives in his Springfield career, including a second-place result in 1983. Son Casey Shuman, the 2016 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year, has made two starts with a best result of 7th in 2015.
Shorty Templeman, who won the first three National Midget driving titles under the USAC banner in 1956-57-58, appeared twice at Springfield in a Champ Car, taking a 5th in 1961. Shorty’s son Clark Templeman crossed the stripe in 8th in 1978 for his best run at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
USAC Hall of Famer Bob East made a pair of starts during his driving career with a 15th in 1978 as his top result. Son Bobby East went on to become a USAC National Midget champ in 2004 and twice a Silver Crown titlist in 2012-13. In four Springfield Champ Car starts, Bobby was at his best in his final start there, a 3rd, in 2014.
An 8th was Illinoisan Jerry Russell’s best in eight Springfield starts, which came in his first try in 1984. Son Steven Russell took his shot at the Springfield Mile twice, earning a best result of 14th in 2014.
Indy Car, NASCAR and drag racing veteran John Andretti had a solid debut in his lone Springfield start in 1985, scoring a 7th place finish. Jarett Andretti joined his father as a Springfield starter in 2013, racing home to a 12th place result.
West Coast Sprint Car racing legend Brent Kaeding came to the Midwest to tackle the Springfield Mile on three different occasions, taking 7th in 1986. His son, Bud Kaeding, was excellent in the Crown cars during his career, winning the series title in 2007. The Californian’s best afternoon at Springfield came in the first of his nine starts, starting 4th and finishing 2nd in 2000.
Blake Hollingsworth made a pair of starts at Springfield, his 12th place start and 22nd place finish in 1993 was the better of the two. Son Shane Hollingsworth, the 2009 Hoosier Hundred victor, entered his name into the Bettenhausen 100 record book, winning the pole for the 2008 race and finishing 3rd.
Not often does the son make his debut at a racetrack before his father, but that’s just the case with three-time NASCAR champ and four-time USAC National titlist Tony Stewart. Tony made four Springfield Silver Crown starts with a finish of 10th serving as his best, which came during his 1995 Triple Crown season. Tony’s father Nelson Stewart dabbled in Silver Crown racing beginning in 2004, failing to qualify for the big show after missing the transfer in the qualifying race.
On Sunday, grandstand ticket sales will be limited to 20% capacity in order to promote a safe atmosphere and allow for proper social distancing. In addition, face coverings will be required, temperatures will be checked upon arrival, and multiple handwashing and sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the venue.
The Sunday, October 18 Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear will feature the USAC Silver Crown Series in the 57th 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.
FATHER AND SONS TO COMPETE IN A AAA/USAC CHAMP CAR EVENT AT THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIRGROUNDS:
John & Jarett Andretti
Tony & Gary/Merle Bettenhausen
Duane & Pancho/Dana Carter
Pancho Carter & Dane/Cole Carter
Bob & Bobby East
Blake & Shane Hollingsworth
Parnelli & Page Jones
Brent & Bud Kaeding
Chuck & C.J. Leary
Jim & James McElreath
Mike Sr. & Mike Mosley Jr.
Johnnie & Johnny Parsons
Bill Sr. & Billy Puterbaugh Jr.
Jerry & Steven Russell
Eddie & Eddie Sachs Jr.
Ron & Casey Shuman
Nelson & Tony Stewart
Shorty & Clark Templeman
Dick & Rich Tobias Jr.
Bill & Billy Vukovich
Chuck & Tony Weyant