By Richie Murray
Springfield, Illinois (October 10, 2022)………Anthony Macri finds himself as the winningest sprint car driver in the country thus far in 2022, amassing 23 victories during his outstanding campaign.
All the wins and adulation for Macri this season have come in winged sprint car competition, including a two-night sweep of the Nittany Showdown this past weekend at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars.
This weekend presents a different animal for the Dillsburg, Pa. native to tame as he attempts to continue his winning prowess, this time in the seat of a USAC Silver Crown for the first time in his career.
The 23-year-old will strap into a second car for Chris Dyson Racing for his USAC Silver Crown debut in this Saturday’s 59th running of the Bettenhausen 100 Presented By Hunt Brothers Pizza on October 15 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds’ Springfield Mile.
His intention to run brings to mind a similar Bettenhausen 100 performance from the recent past by a winged sprint car standout who made a splash in his first Silver Crown outing.
Just two months after his 2020 Knoxville Nationals victory, David Gravel charged from his 26th starting position to finish 2nd at the Springfield one-mile dirt oval, a rousing performance which instantly became one of the best debuts in Silver Crown history.
While 100 laps on a dirt mile is a task unlike most other disciplines in auto racing, there is a winning precedent, however, for Silver Crown first timers.
It should be noted that Macri finds himself in high-quality hands as the chosen wheelman for the Dyson owned, Sean Michael-wrenched machine which has won each of the past two runnings of the Bettenhausen 100 in 2020 with Kyle Larson and Kody Swanson in 2021.
This season has already witnessed its share of memorable Silver Crown debuts with Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) scoring a 5th at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in May. Meanwhile, in that same race, Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) nearly earned the victory in his first Silver Crown try, leading 28 laps before a mechanical issue sent him into the wall and upside down with 14 laps remaining.
Since the Silver Crown series’ inception in 1971, only 39 previous drivers have finished inside the top-five in their first series start, including the likes of USAC national champions A.J. Foyt, Rick Hood, Ken Schrader, Brady Bacon, Pancho Carter, Gary Bettenhausen, Jimmy Caruthers and Jeff Gordon.
Of those 39, seven drivers have won in their first career USAC Silver Crown start. Jim McElreath in 1971 at Nazareth (Pa.) National Motor Speedway and A.J. Foyt in 1971 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds both accrued significant experience in the dirt champ cars during the previous decade leading up to their initial win, but under the history of the “Silver Crown” banner, they achieved success right off the bat.
Danny Smith became the next first-time starter, first-time Silver Crown winner in 1982 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, then was followed by Rick Hood in 1982 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Jimmy Horton in 1983 at Nazareth, Herb Copeland in 1983 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds and Marvin Carman in 1984 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, who remains the most recent to achieve the feat nearly four decades ago.
Thirty-eight years later, Macri would sure love to add the Bettenhausen 100 to his lengthy list of success stories in 2022. Despite the lack of big car, long-distance racing experience, don’t count him out.
Whether Macri starts up front or deep in the pack, Silver Crown races have routinely been proven to be unpredictable of late. Anything can happen, for a first-timer or an old-timer, and all eyes are fixed to see how the “Concrete Kid” performs during his first time on the Silver Crown stage.
On Saturday in Springfield, pits and registration open at 8am Central with the infield spectator gates opening at 9am, the ticket office and grandstands opening at 10am, the drivers meeting at 10:30am, practice from 11am-12:10pm, Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying at 12:15pm, followed by the qualifying race, pre-race ceremonies and the 100-lap main event.
Tickets will be available on race day or by calling the State Fair office at 217-782-6661. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200.
Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. At the gate on race day, adults are $30 and $10 for children 11 and under. Infield tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 11 and under. Pit passes are $35 for USAC members and $40 for non-members. Infield parking is $5 for those park in infield with no infield or pit passes.
Every lap of Saturday’s Bettenhausen 100 will be aired live on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3OivVbj.
TOP USAC SILVER CROWN DEBUT PERFORMANCES (1971-2022)
Jim McElreath (June 20, 1971 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 9th)
A.J. Foyt (Aug 22, 1971 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds – started 10th)
Danny Smith (Apr 25, 1982 at Eldora Speedway – started 8th)
Rick Hood (May 8, 1982 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds – started 4th)
Jimmy Horton (July 3, 1983 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 5th)
Herb Copeland (Jul 24, 1983 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds – started 6th)
Marvin Carman (Aug 24, 1984 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds – started 4th)
Arnie Knepper (June 20, 1971 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 14th)
Barry Camp (July 5, 1981 at Williams Grove Speedway – started 5th)
Jac Haudenschild (May 24, 1985 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds – started 6th)
P.J. Jones (Aug 4, 1994 at Indianapolis Raceway Park – started 1st)
David Gravel (Oct 18, 2020 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds – started 26th)
Tyler Roahrig (Aug 14, 2021 at Lucas Oil Raceway – started 7th)
Don Hawley (Jun 20, 1971 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 16th)
Jigger Sirois (Sept 4, 1972 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – started 2nd)
Ken Schrader (Nov 2, 1980 at the Terre Haute Action Track – started 1st)
Bruce Jennings (Jul 24, 1983 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds – started 18th)
Terry Shepherd (Sep 22, 1991 at Eldora Speedway – started 7th)
Steve Kent (Oct 8, 1994 at the Cal Expo State Fairgrounds – started 3rd)
Aaron Fike (Nov 14, 2000 at Irwindale Speedway – started 8th)
Cameron Dodson (Mar 23, 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – started 3rd)
Brady Bacon (Aug 31, 2014 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – started 12th)
Billy Vukovich (Jun 20, 1971 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 8th)
Pancho Carter (May 28, 1972 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – started 15th)
Wally Dallenbach (Aug 17, 1974 at the Missouri State Fairgrounds – started 16th)
Randy Tolsma (Aug 1, 1993 at the Milwaukee Mile – started 5th)
Ryan Moore (Mar 23, 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – started 15th)
Robert Stout (May 27, 2016 at Lucas Oil Raceway – started 5th)
Jason McDougal (Sep 22, 2018 at Eldora Speedway – started 7th)
Bryan Gossel (Aug 9, 2020 at Selinsgrove Speedway – started 19th)
Gary Bettenhausen (Jun 20, 1971 at Nazareth National Motor Speedway – started 6th)
Jimmy Caruthers (Aug 22, 1971 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds – started 20th)
Mel Cornett (Aug 19, 1973 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds – started 7th)
Rich Leavell (Aug 24, 1980 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – started 9th)
Jeff Forshee (July 22, 1984 at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds – started 2nd)
Jeff Gordon (Feb 4, 1990 at Phoenix International Raceway – started 4th)
Stewart Friesen (Oct 11, 2014 at the New York State Fairgrounds – started 7th)
Joey Schmidt (Mar 23, 2019 at Memphis International Raceway – started 14th)
Carmen Perigo (Aug 9, 2020 at Selinsgrove Speedway – started 5th)
Emerson Axsom (May 1, 2022 at the Terre Haute Action Track – started 13th)