By Jay Hardin
Du Quoin, Il (August 25, 2021)-After a 2020 motorsports calendar re-arranged and disrupted by COVID, including the cancelation of all events at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, fairgoers, race fans participants and officials are all excited to get back to the beautiful Southern Illinois Magic Mile for the traditional Labor Day weekend of auto racing. On Saturday night, September 4, the big cars of the USAC Silver Crown Series return for the Ted Horn 100 along with heat races for the DIRTcar Modifieds. On Sunday night, September 5, the ARCA Menards Series comes to Du Quoin for the Southern Illinois 100 presented by Lucas Oil, along with the 20-mile main for the Modifieds.
Auto racing as part of the entertainment lineup goes back to the very first Du Quoin State Fair held in 1923. Racing was held on the half mile track that still exists near the main entrance of the fairgrounds just off Route 51. Fair owner Bill Hayes envisioned a larger venue which could host concerts, cars and horses and plans were made just before World War II to build a one-mile track east of the half mile. Much like the 2020 Du Quoin State Fair, those plans were placed on hold by a worldwide crisis event, World War II. When materials again became available, construction continued the current Magic Mile and the track was finished in 1946.
Big Cars Continue Resurgence
Championship dirt car racing came to the small, southern Illinois coal town in September of 1948 for the first of two scheduled American Automobile Association (AAA) championship trail events. Lee Wallard won the 100-mile race in September and Johnnie Parsons won the October race. The race in October was marred by the loss of national champion Ted Horn in an early race accident at the north end of the track. Shortly after the 100-mile national championship race was christened the “Ted Horn Memorial 100”.
When the uprights were separated from the national championship trail in 1971 George Snider won the first ever USAC Silver Crown race held on the Magic Mile. This year two-time Ted Horn 100 winner (2010, 2017) Kody Swanson leads a large contingent of teams and drivers into the tenth race on the 2021 USAC Silver Crown schedule. Swanson wasn’t scheduled to compete for an unprecedented sixth national championship but wins and top finishes in the pavement races plus a win in the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield give Swanson a 61-marker lead over rookie Logan Seavey and a 100-point lead over 2017 series champ Justin Grant.
Seavey and fellow rookie Jake Swanson let the early part of the rain shortened Bettenhausen before Swanson took over on lap 61. They are expected to compete at Du Quoin as is two-time Horn 100 winner Chris Windom (2016 & 18) and local favorite Shane Cockrum. Cockrum was third at Springfield and is also a two-time winner (2014 & 15) of the Ted Horn 100. Thirty-eight cars made the trek to Springfield on August 21 for the first mile dirt race of the season.
Southern Illinois 100 Features Teenagers v. Veterans
It’s doubtful anyone would believe that the contenders for the ARCA Menards Series championship heading to Du Quoin would be an 18-year-old grandson of an NFL Hall of Fame football coach and a 19 year old Georgian who hardly ran in the 2020 ARCA Series. However, that is exactly the case as the ARCA series prepares for the Southern Illinois 100 at the Du Quoin State Fair. Corey Heim of Marietta, Georgia won his first ever ARCA dirt race at Springfield and closed the gap on point leader Ty Gibbs to just one prior to the Sprecher 150 on August 29 at Milwaukee. Gibbs, the grandson of former Washington coach turned NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, had eight wins going into Springfield and finished second to Heim who dominated the Allen Crowe 100. The win at Springfield was Heim’s sixth on the season and at press time the two teenagers had won all but one race on the ARCA Menards schedule.
New York’s Christian Eckes wheeled a Venturini Motorsports Toyota to Du Quoin’s victory lane in 2019, leading 91 laps in the process. He also set a record as the youngest stock car winner in Du Quoin history at just a few months past his 18th birthday. It’s a record that could be tested on Sunday September 5.
Schrader’s Dominance of Oldani Could Continue
Fenton, Missouri’s Ken Schrader made his big-time auto racing debut in August of 1979 at the mile closest to his home. Ken qualified third for the 1979 USAC Stock Car event before bowing out with mechanical problems. It took another 27 years before he was able to conquer the Magic Mile landing in victory lane after the 2006 ARCA event and winning a CARS late model event that day as well. Since then, he has become the all-time leader in main event wins at Du Quoin with eleven, coming in three different types of racing machines.
Schrader has been dominant in the Bill Oldani Memorial UMP Modified race winning seven times between 2011 and 2019 and he may have captured another event had the 2012 race not been lost to rain. Schrader returns for a try at win number 8.
The action begins Saturday night, September 4, with practice for the USAC Silver Crown cars at 5 p.m. and the Ted Horn 100 taking the green at approximately 8:15. Practice for the ARCA Menards 100 gets underway at 4:15 p.m. Sunday September 5 with the green flag coming down at around 8:05. Heat races for the Oldani Memorial take place Saturday night with the 20-mile UMP Modified main on Sunday prior to the ARCA event.
Tickets will be available on raceday or by calling the Du Quoin Fair office at 618-542-1535. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.