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Within the realm of USAC racing, there are two separate categories in which a National championship season can be claimed: driver and owner.
In most cases, the champion driver corresponds with the champion owner, such as it is at the moment with driver Kody Swanson and his Nolen Racing No. 20 leading the way in both standings.
However, while Swanson holds a commanding 71-point lead on the driver side of things, lurking closely behind Nolen in the owner column just 24 behind is the Klatt Enterprises No. 6 coming into this Saturday’s 58th running of the Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
They’ve reached that level by virtue of a dual-threat lineup consisting of Brady Bacon at the wheel at all the dirt races and Kyle Hamilton in the seat for the pavement shows.
The level of success comes following a year of struggles in which the team was plagued by mechanical issues on both surfaces. Bacon topped out with an 8th in the finale at Eldora for his lone top-ten in five starts while Hamilton earned a 10th and a best of 5th at Salem a year ago, the best among his five appearances.
In 2019, it’s been a completely different story. Hamilton has been consistently excellent with five top-six finishes in four starts and earned his first career Silver Crown win in May at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind., Klatt’s first as a team since 2011.
Meanwhile, Bacon took 5th in May’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, then captured his first Silver Crown victory, and Klatt’s first ever on the dirt with the series, on a topsy-turvy final lap in which Bacon passed a reeling Chris Windom who’d had a right rear tire go flat.
The back-to-back wins at LOR and The Grove by Hamilton and Bacon, respectively, marked the fourth occasion in Silver Crown history in which the same team/car number won two consecutive races with two different drivers, following Rick Hood and Doug Wolfgang in the Bill King #75 in 1982; Tracy Hines and Bobby East as well as J.J. Yeley and East both during the 2007 season for A.J. Foyt Enterprises; and Tanner Swanson and Kody Swanson for Six-R Racing in 2010.
The Klatt team has turned the corner, and with four races to go, appear to be a prime threat to Nolen Racing’s quest of their own first owner title.
First up for Bacon and Klatt the Springfield Mile this Saturday where both have endured a mixed bag of results. Bacon has qualified well in each of his past visits. The Broken Arrow, Okla. driver made his first start at Springfield in 2014, starting 3rd and finishing 10th for McQuinn Racing. In 2015, he qualified 7th and ran 23rd for owner Paul Martens, dropping out with a fuel leak just before halfway.
After the 2016 rainout, Bacon was fast again during practice in 2017, but was a scratch after engine trouble sidelined the he and the Martens team prior to qualifying. In 2018, with Klatt, Bacon qualified 8th and finished with an 11th place result as the last car on the lead lap.
Entrant Klatt Enterprises had only one other Silver Crown appearance at Springfield prior to 2018, an 18th place start and 17th place finish by driver Damion Gardner. Interestingly, in Klatt’s USAC Midget appearances at Springfield, Dean Ward finished 10th at Springfield in 1990 while Dave Strickland, Jr. drove Klatt’s ride to 6th in 1996.
Meanwhile, USAC Hall of Fame car builder and Klatt team member Bob East has had substantial success at Springfield, with cars he constructed or turned the wrenches on, winning on numerous occasions in both the Midget and Silver Crown series.
Only five times in the USAC Silver Crown division’s 48-year history has a driver champion emerged from a team other than the owner championship team: 1981, 1982, 1999, 2012 and 2016. With the combination of Bacon/Hamilton/Klatt playing to their strength and clicking off top-flight runs, they will remain in the hunt down to the wire with Nolen Racing No. 20 as the prime target.
The Bettenhausen 100 in Springfield gets underway with pits opening and registration starting at 7am (Central), the ticket office and grandstands opening at 9am, the drivers meeting at 9:30am, Silver Crown practice from 10am to 11:10am, Fatheadz Silver Crown Qualifying at 11:30am, Sportsman hot laps at noon, the Silver Crown Qualifying Race at 12:30pm, Sportsman heats at 1pm, pre-race ceremonies at 1:30pm and the Bettenhausen 100-mile race at 2pm.
Tickets will be available on raceday or by calling the State Fair office at 217-782-1979. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200. Discount tickets for Sunday also available at Menards. Advance Tickets (Presale) are $25 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. On race day, tickets are $30 for adults 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 adults and $20 for children 11 and under. Infield parking is $5 for those parking in the infield with no infield or pit passes.
This Saturday’s Springfield race can be watched LIVE and on-demand on FloRacing, listened to via live audio on the USAC app as well as live timing and scoring on both the USAC app and the Race-Monitor app.