2016 USAC Silver Crown champ Chris Windom faces a busy Memorial Day weekend with dirt track events and an Indy Lights Freedom 100 ride on his schedule.
The Canton, Illinois native has the an opportunity he may never get again in his career, the chance to join a very short list of race drivers who have won the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield, the Ted Horn 100 at Du Quoin and the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds during their career. With the remodel of the Indy mile this could be the last opportunity for Windom and others to capture the Silver Crown “Triple Crown”.
Windom won at Du Quoin in 2016 on his way to the USAC title and added a second Ted Horn 100 last year. Driving for Gene Nolen he made it an Illinois sweep as he won the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield as well, becoming just the third central Illinois native to capture a dirt car win on the Springfield mile. A new team backed by Indiana native Matt Goodnight and Byrd Racing of Indy fame is the anticipated entry for Windom at the Indy fairgrounds on May 23. Windom is currently 9th in points behind leader Kody Swanson after two events on the schedule.
Two other active drivers have wins on both Illinois miles and are potential entrants for what may be the final Hoosier Hundred on the Indiana State Fair mile. Veteran Russ Gamester of Peru, Indiana won the 1989 USAC midget crown and nearly ten years later won his first 100-mile dirt track event at Du Quoin. One year later and Gamester found victory lane in the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield. The Indiana driver has 25 Hoosier Hundred starts, third behind Johnny Parsons and George Snider and is fifth in miles completed with 1549. Gamester won the pole for the pole for the 2013 race and led 58 laps before dropping out after 88 miles. His best finish is second to winner Jimmy Sills in May of 1999.
Michigan’s Brian Tyler is a past USAC Sprint Car champ who moved to North Carolina several years ago. He began capturing mile dirt track events at Springfield in the 2004 Bettenhausen 100 and followed with three more wins on the Springfield mile. A lone win in the 2008 Ted Horn 100 gave Tyler two of the three Triple Crown events and the gentleman farmer who began naming cattle after his Silver Crown wins has five from the dirt miles. Unfortunately, none of them are named Indianapolis. Tyler has 17 starts in the Hoosier Hundred dating back to 1990.
However, Tyler’s best efforts may have come in his last two races. After his primary car gave up during practice in 2015, he took over the machine of Randy Bateman and started 27th and brought the machine up to 3rd completing all 100 miles. Reuniting in late 2016 with car owner Bob Galas, Tyler came back to Indianapolis last year with a vengeance. He started 5th and grabbed the lead on lap 29 from Kody Swanson. He was pulling away from the field when a brake rotor exploded on lap 56 in front of the grandstand and sent the orange and white machine into the first turn concrete.
Since 1953, just 14 drivers have been able to win championship dirt car races on all three of the dirt mile tracks in the Midwest. Rodger Ward, Mario Andretti, Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, George Snider, Gary Bettenhausen, Chuck Gurney, J.J. Yeley, Jimmy Sills and Kody Swanson won on all three tracks but in different years. Jimmy Bryan (1955 & 56), A.J. Foyt (1964), Al Unser (1970) and Jack Hewitt (1986) are the only drivers to win the 100-mile events at Springfield, Du Quoin and Indianapolis in the same year.
Tyler, Gamester or Windom could become number 15 and are among the anticipated entries for what may be the final Hoosier Hundred on the Indiana State Fair mile. The Hoosier Hundred is part of the “Week of Indy” which consists of the Hulman Classic at Terre Haute on May 22, the May 23 Hoosier Hundred, and the May 24 Dave Steele Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
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