By Richie Murray
Springfield, Illinois (October 15, 2020)………The Illinois State Fairgrounds will stake its claim to a pair of firsts this Sunday afternoon, October 18 – the venerable one-mile dirt oval’s first time as the host of a USAC Silver Crown event in the month of October, and its first time hosting the championship deciding race, the 2020 season finale.
Sunday’s 57th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Fatheadz Eyewear honors the memory of the famed racing family from Tinley Park, Ill., and features an all-star cast of competitors set for 100 laps on a track that has hosted automobile racing for more than a century.
The cast includes the likes of past Bettenhausen 100 winners and Silver Crown champions Kody Swanson and Chris Windom, plus a 41-time race winner in 2020 named Kyle Larson, Knoxville Nationals winner David Gravel, six-time All Star champion Chad Kemenah, and even a tight championship race coming down to the wire, led by 2017 Bettenhausen winner Justin Grant, just to name a few.
Grant (Ione, Calif.) is in the driver’s seat with a 22-point lead entering Sunday as he pursues his first career USAC national championship. A veteran of three starts at Springfield, Grant won the Bettenhausen 100 in 2017 and is the lone driver to finish inside the top-three in each of the last two Bettenhausen 100 races, also recording a 3rd place result in 2018.
Another California-bred driver who’s a veteran of victory lane at Springfield is Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.), second in the series standings behind Grant. Swanson won the Bettenhausen 100 in 2014-15, and in nine starts, has also finished 2nd in 2017, 7th in 2013, 8th in 2011 and 9th in 2008. His 162 laps led at Springfield leads all active drivers and is 16th all-time. His Nolen Racing team captured the Bettenhausen 100 win with driver Chris Windom in 2018.
Kyle Robbins and Matt Goodnight each reside 32 points out of the lead, tied for 3rd in the standings. Robbins (New Castle, Ind.) finished a solid 6th in his Rookie appearance at Springfield in 2018. Meanwhile, Goodnight (Winchester, Ind.) made his Springfield Silver Crown debut in 2017, finishing 14th.
Teammate to Goodnight is Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), the most recent Bettenhausen 100 winner in 2018. Windom, the 2016 Silver Crown driving champion, is 5th in the standings, 33 points out of the lead. Windom has also finished in the runner-up at Springfield in 2013, 5th in 2014 and 10th in both 2011 and 2015.
Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) remains in championship contention, sixth in the points, 36 behind Grant, despite missing a race in this shortened, COVID-riddled 2020 campaign. The Selinsgrove, Pa. season opening winning driver has an impressive Springfield resume, tallying a 3rd in 2015, 5th in 2007, 6th in 2017 and 7th in 2018.
Seventh in the standings, 48 back, is Aaron Pierce (Muncie, Ind.), who enters Springfield with 99 career Silver Crown starts. Another start would put him in rarified air with only 18 others who’ve reached the century mark in series starts. Just four of those 99 starts have come at Springfield since 2004, but he’s had a pair of top-ten finishes, a 7th in both 2006 and 2017.
Mike Haggenbottom (Levittown, Pa.) is eight in the standings, 50 away from the number one spot. Haggenbottom finished 12th in his only previous Springfield experience in 2018. Bryan Gossel (Fort Collins, Colo.), meanwhile, is one of eight Bettenhausen 100 Rookies entered for Sunday. Gossel, a 4th place finisher in his series debut at Selinsgrove in August, is the only Rookie driver involved in the title fight, 63 points behind, in 10th.
Speaking of Bettenhausen 100 Rookies, this Sunday brings with it one of the most talented freshman classes to debut at Springfield. Along with Gossel is David Gravel (Watertown, Conn.), a top-three finisher in World of Outlaws Sprint Car points between 2016-2019 and his 57 career wins ranks 16th on WoO’s all-time list.
Race Rookie Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) finished 3rd in his first Silver Crown run on a dirt mile in August at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion’s mile dirt track experience has been exceptional at Springfield as well, albeit in ARCA Stock Car competition. In 2018, he started 3rd and finished 4th, and in 2019, he won the pole and finished 4th again at Springfield.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.), a three-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car winner in 2020, will make his first go of it on the Springfield Mile. Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.), the 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champ, likewise. Swanson finished 6th at the Indy Mile in August while Cummins took 9th.
Six-time Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions titlist Chad Kemenah (Alvada, Ohio) will make his Springfield debut this Sunday. On his side is crew chief and father-in-law Bob Hampshire, a four-time Bettenhausen 100 winning crew chief for Jack Hewitt in 1986-87 and Kody Swanson in 2014-15.
Ronnie Wuerdeman (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Jimmy Light (West Springfield, Pa.) will also make their first ventures to Springfield on Sunday while Dave Berkheimer (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) aims to make his first start after wall contact in practice in 2017 and missing the transfer in 2018 prevented him from cracking the starting field.
Kyle Larson (Elk Grove, Calif.), who’s been sensational on the dirt tracks this summer with 41 victories across various platforms, won the Hoosier Hundred in August after starting 22nd. Sunday marks Larson’s first Springfield Silver Crown appearance since a 4th place finish in 2011.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) led 42 laps at the 2018 Bettenhausen 100 before finishing 2nd. Recently crowned three-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion, Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.), finished 10th at Springfield in his debut run at the track in 2014.
Shane Cockrum, Chris Urish and Jacob Wilson have all won Silver Crown events on the Du Quoin Mile in southern Illinois but are still hunting for their first on the central Illinois dirt mile of Springfield. Cockrum (Benton, Ill.) won back-to-back at Du Quoin in 2014-15. His Springfield record includes a 5th in 2013 and an 8th in 2015.
Urish (Elkhart, Ill.) won at Du Quoin in 2013, and is the most experienced driver in the field with 11 previous Bettenhausen 100 starts dating back to 2005, earning a best finish of 10th at Springfield in 2012.
Wilson (Crawfordsville, Ind.) captured his Du Quoin score in 2019, the first win of his Silver Crown career. Wilson, a two-time Little 500 Sprint Car winner at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in 2013-14, grabbed a best finish of 4th at Springfield in 2018.
Casey Shuman (Tempe, Ariz.) returns for his first Springfield Silver Crown appearance since 2017. He finished 7th in 2015 and will drive Sunday for car owner Patty Bateman, widow of driver Randy Bateman, a nine-time Bettenhausen 100 starter. Casey is the son of Ron Shuman, a three-time top-five Silver Crown finisher at Springfield between 1982-83.
Shuman, along with Steven Russell (Springfield, Ill.), are among the two second-generation Bettenhausen 100 starters in Sunday’s lineup. Russell’s last Silver Crown start came in 2015, while his best Springfield finish came in 2014 with a 14th. Steven’s father Jerry Russell made seven Springfield starts, finishing a best of 6th in his 1984 debut.
Terry Babb of Decatur, Ill. has a Springfield Silver Crown resume that stretches further back than any other driver in Sunday’s field. Babb made his first Bettenhausen 100 start in 1998, but his first appearance came in 1989. His best finish among seven Springfield starts is a 13th in 2002. Meanwhile, 70-year-old Danny Long is the oldest driver in Sunday’s field. He finished 28th at Springfield back in 2015.
Among the Bettenhausen 100 veterans in the field are Du Quoin Modified winner Kyle Steffens of St. Louis, Mo. (13th in 2005); NASCAR Truck Series vet Patrick Lawson of Edwardsville, Ill., (12th in 2017); 1993 UMRA TQ Midget champion Travis Welpott of Pendleton, Ind. (17th in 2018); and 10-time series starter Terry James of St. Louis, Mo. (18th in 2015).
The event has been graced with the name of Bettenhausen since 1961, shortly after patriarch Tony Bettenhausen lost his life in a practice crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway three months prior. Tony was the 1951 AAA and 1958 USAC National Champion and won thrice in a champ car at Springfield between 1947-51.
Tony’s son, Gary Bettenhausen, twice a USAC Silver Crown champ in 1980 and 1983, won the event initially named in his father’s memory 1978 and 1983. Tony’s son, Merle Bettenhausen, twice finished inside the top-ten at Springfield in 1970-71 while Tony Bettenhausen Jr. made 103 IndyCar starts and 33 NASCAR Winston Cup starts in his career, including the Indianapolis 500 11 times.
Tickets are still available for fans wanting the opportunity to watch history in the making at an iconic venue. 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.
To ensure a ticket, fans are encouraged to order online at www.trackenterprises.com or by calling the office at 217-764-3200. Advance sale grandstand tickets are $25. Grandstand tickets bought on raceday are $30. Grandstand tickets for kids age 11 and under are $10. Pit passes are $35 for USAC members and $40 for non-members. Pit passes can be purchased on raceday or in advance at www.TracPass.com.
The Bettenhausen 100 can also be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-199, 2-Kody Swanson-177, 3-Kyle Robbins-167, 4-Matt Goodnight-167, 5-Chris Windom-166, 6-Shane Cottle-163, 7-Aaron Pierce-151, 8-Mike Haggenbottom-149, 9-C.J. Leary-143, 10-Bryan Gossel-136.
2020 BETTENHAUSEN 100 ENTRY LIST:
06 BRYAN GOSSEL/Fort Collins, CO (Bryan Gossel)
07 JACOB WILSON/Crawfordsville, IN (Wilson Brothers Racing)
08 KYLE STEFFENS/St. Louis, MO (Kyle Steffens)
2 PATRICK LAWSON/Edwardsville, IL (Patrick Lawson)
6 BRADY BACON/Broken Arrow, OK (Klatt Enterprises)
7 KYLE ROBBINS/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
9 KEVIN THOMAS JR./Cullman, AL (Chris Dyson Racing)
10 JAKE SWANSON/Anaheim, CA (DMW Motorsports)
14 STEVEN RUSSELL/Springfield, IL (Dennis & Dave McQuinn)
15 CHAD KEMENAH/Alvada, OH (Hampshire-Kemenah Racing)
17 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Goodnight Racing)
18 TRAVIS WELPOTT/Pendleton, IN (Welpott Racing)
19 KYLE LARSON/Elk Grove, CA (Sean Michael Motorsports)
20 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Nolen Racing)
21 DAVID GRAVEL/Watertown, CT (Mark Swanson Encore Team)
22 LOGAN SEAVEY/Sutter, CA (Prestige Worldwide Motorsports)
23 TERRY JAMES/St. Louis, MO (Todd Satterthwaite)
24 MIKE HAGGENBOTTOM/Levittown, PA (John Haggenbottom)
26 AARON PIERCE/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
31 DAVE BERKHEIMER/Mechanicsburg, PA (Berkheimer Racing)
33 RONNIE WUERDEMAN/Cincinnati, OH (Ronnie Wuerdeman)
39 MATT GOODNIGHT/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
44 DANNY LONG/Bonne Terre, MO (Danny Long)
53 SHANE COCKRUM/Benton, IL (Five Three Motorsports)
55 CASEY SHUMAN/Tempe, AZ (Patty Bateman)
69 KYLE CUMMINS/Princeton, IN (Pink 69 Racing)
77 CHRIS URISH/Elkhart, IL (Chris Urish)
81 SHANE COTTLE/Kansas, IL (Curtis Williams)
88 TERRY BABB/Decatur, IL (Terry Babb)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
123 JIMMY LIGHT/West Springfield, PA (Two-Three Motorsports)
AAA / USAC CHAMP CAR WINNERS AT THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIRGROUNDS:
1934: Billy Winn
1935: Billy Winn
1936: Wilbur Shaw
1937: Mauri Rose
1938: Tony Willman
1939: Emil Andres
1940: Rex Mays
1947: Tony Bettenhausen
1948: Ted Horn & Myron Fohr
1949: Mel Hansen & Johnnie Parsons
1950: Paul Russo & Tony Bettenhausen
1951: Tony Bettenhausen
1952: Bill Schindler
1953: Rodger Ward & Sam Hanks
1954: Jimmy Davies
1955: Jimmy Bryan
1956: Jimmy Bryan
1957: Rodger Ward
1958: Johnny Thomson
1959: Len Sutton
1960: Jim Packard
1961: Jim Hurtubise
1962: Jim Hurtubise
1963: Rodger Ward
1964: A.J. Foyt
1965: A.J. Foyt
1966: Don Branson
1967: A.J. Foyt
1968: Roger McCluskey
1969: Mario Andretti
1970: Al Unser
1971: A.J. Foyt
1972: Al Unser
1973: Mario Andretti
1974: Mario Andretti
1975: Al Unser
1976: Tom Bigelow
1977: Larry Rice
1978: Gary Bettenhausen
1979: Bobby Olivero
1980: Pancho Carter
1981: George Snider
1982: Larry Dickson & Bobby Olivero
1983: Gary Bettenhausen
1984: Chuck Gurney
1985: Chuck Gurney
1986: Jack Hewitt
1987: Jack Hewitt
1988: Steve Chassey
1989: Chuck Gurney
1990: Chuck Gurney
1991: Chuck Gurney
1992: Jimmy Sills
1993: Jack Hewitt
1994: Chuck Gurney
1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr.
1996: Chuck Gurney
1997: Dave Darland
1998: Russ Gamester
1999: Dave Darland
2000: Jack Hewitt
2001: Paul White
2002: J.J. Yeley
2003: Dave Darland
2004: Brian Tyler
2005: Brian Tyler
2006: Tracy Hines
2007: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2008: Brian Tyler
2009: Cole Whitt
2011: Brian Tyler
2012: A.J. Fike
2013: A.J. Fike
2014: Kody Swanson
2015: Kody Swanson
2017: Justin Grant
2018: Chris Windom