Rice Using Different Path to Follow Father’s Footsteps All Set For Bettenhausen 100 October 15

(Mark Funderburk photo)

By Jay Hardin
Robbie Rice’s dad, the late Larry Rice, was the first two-time Silver Crown champion, won the Bettenhausen 100 and the Hoosier Hundred, and won the Four Crown 50 at Eldora. Larry Rice had an affinity for the big cars that he passed on to his son, however Robbie’s driving career didn’t have the same success as his dad, the 1978 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and the 1973 USAC Midget champion. So Robbie followed a different path taking on ownership responsibilities. Robbie’s small team won the Silver Crown owner’s title in 2021 and is on the verge of a second crown in 2022.

Rice chose an up and coming driver named Logan Seavey for 2020, and the combination clicked, as Seavey displayed some of the same qualities behind the wheel as Larry Rice had. The team was slated to run only the dirt and contested three events in 2020 displaying an ability to start and run up front. For 2021 Rice/Seavey planned to run only the dirt but a pavement car came into the picture allowing a full schedule run. Seavey won twice on half mile tracks including Eldora, and finished second on both dirt miles bringing the owner’s championship to Rice’s team.

This season Seavey and Rice have been a threat to win at nearly every event. Top finishes and a win at Port Royal kept Seavey in the title hunt even when six-time champ Kody Swanson got on a roll, winning three straight point races. The Ted Horn 100 run by Seavey would have made the late Larry Rice very proud, as others ran full bore on the Magic Mile Seavey ran his own pace watching as contender after contender dropped out with fuel or mechanical issues. When the 100 miles were over it was Seavey in victory lane, the first 1-mile 100 mile triumph for the team.

Swanson had a substantial point lead headed to Eldora for the Four Crown, but an opening lap shunt opened the door for a stirring title fight. Seavey walked through the door winning the 50 lapper and tying Swanson for the driver’s championship, while Rice and Doran-Dyson now tied for the owner’s title as well.

The Bettenhausen 100 is the next stage for this heavyweight title fight, on Saturday October 15. It is the next to last event on the schedule, the next to last opportunity for a title contender to position themselves for the USAC Silver Crown. Kody Swanson has three wins at Springfield, with 11 of his record 37 series wins coming on the mile dirt tracks. Seavey has two mile dirt track wins, one in an ARCA stock car and the 2022 Ted Horn 100 in the dirt car. Seavey also has Robbie Rice in his corner, who watched as his dad stayed with the line that worked for his Dave LeFevre machine and motored to his lone Bettenhausen win in August of 1977. While everyone else, including Sheldon Kinser, grasped for bite around Springfield’s thin cushion, Rice refused to move off the rail despite being signaled to move up. He said later “I’d been blowing them away for 80 laps down there and I wasn’t going to change.”

It was a young Robbie Rice who watched his dad start on the pole and fend off a hard charging Rich Vogler and three-wheeling Gary Bettenhausen to win the 1981 Hoosier Hundred. It was yet another example of the philosophy, to finish first you first must finish. It was a quality Seavey displayed at DuQuoin.

Two drivers, two teams tied for a championship. One driver, a six time champ with 37 wins, the other a third year driver hungry for his first championship. Plus for owner Robbie Rice, the chance to tie his father with two Silver Crown championships and the first for a driver of his machine. Someone once said that 100-mile championship racing was akin to playing chess. Two of the best chess players in the series face off at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on October 15. The Bettenhausen 100 presented by Hunt Brothers Pizza on October 15 is likely to be a barnburner of a chess match.

The first leg of the championship battle starts with Pro Source qualifying at 12:15 on October 15, followed by a last chance race (if necessary) and then the Bettenhausen 100. Tickets are available through Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or can be purchased at the Illinois State Fair box office on race day. Infield tickets and pit passes will also be available on race day.

For detailed information, visit www.trackenterprises.com.