The best news that open-wheel race fans have had in some time came from USAC’s Dick Jordan when he predicted that the entries for the Aug. 16 Tony Bettenhausen 100 would exceed the 30 cars needed to constitute a full field.
Tracks such as the one located at Illinois State Fairgrounds at Springfield have long made up the backbone of one of the most storied circuits in motorsports. Similar tracks are located at DuQuoin, Illinois, and at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
The cars racing in the USAC Silver Crown series are much like those raced in the Indianapolis 500 and other champ car races before the advent of the roadster.
Even then some champ car races were contested on the dirt in these cars. I can still recall drivers like A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford racing for gold and glory against our local heroes who were attempting to earn a reputation.
Since IndyCar racing has been taken over by rear-engined cars, we have lost the opportunity to cheer for our favorites in the Hoosier Hundred.
But, the “on-track” action remains worth the price of the ticket.
When the series moves to the Springfield fairgrounds on Sept. 16, Kody Swanson will unload with a 45-point lead over Tracy Hines. Bobby East in the Tony Stewart Racing car is third in the points, followed by Chris Windom, Jacob Wilson, Jerry Coons Jr., Tanner Swanson, Bobby Santos, Caleb Armstrong and David Byrne.
Keith Kunz, Pete Willoughby and their three drivers, Christopher Bell, Rico Abreu and Tanner Thorson, have just returned from their annual trek to Kansas to compete in the Belleville Nationals.
In Belleville on July 31, Zach Daum won the preliminary feature followed by Abreu, Dave Darland, Hines and Chris Windom.
In the championship feature Aug. 2, Daum took the initial lead and held it for the first 13 circuits before Abreu took the lead and held it to the checkered flag. Daum came home second trailed by Hines, Bell and Windom.
Both Abreu and Bell are ready for bigger things.
Memorial race postponed
Salem Speedway has just announced that the Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial, which was scheduled to be run this evening, will take place Oct. 4.
The race is being postponed in order to give the asphalt applied from entrance to Turn 3 to the exit of Turn 4 time to cure.
In making the announcement, track owner Owen Thompson said, “After consulting with officials from the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Series and the paving contractors we have decided to postpone the race and give the new asphalt additional time to cure. We want to insure a great show for our fans and a safe racetrack for the competitors, so we feel it is in the best interest of everyone involved to reschedule this event.”
Repaving a high-banked race track is always a tricky proposition, and Thompson has done well to give the track some more time.
Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.