Since the turn of the 20th century, Springfield, Illinois has had a love affair with fast racing cars.
When the original Illinois State Fair mile was constructed, it was originally intended for horses, but soon after 1900, cars and motorcycles became part of the grandstand lineup. In the 100 plus years since Barney Oldfield circled the fairgrounds mile, the Illinois State Fairgrounds has played host to and helped develop some of the most famous racing drivers in the United States and around the globe and will again this Saturday, August 17, in the 58th running of the Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Don’t let some of the promotional hype lead you astray, the big dirt mile on 336 acres in north Springfield is hardly a “minor” league venue. Since 1934, the Springfield Mile has been a host to a prestigious 100-mile national championship dirt track event, a race now known as the Bettenhausen 100. Since the two-man Indianapolis machines appeared in August of 1934, 563 drivers have started a 100-mile national championship race in the capitol city. Of those 563, 185 made at least one Indianapolis 500 start with 23 drivers actually winning the 500-mile race.
The Illinois State Fairgrounds has been host to 73 national championship race winners, 21 national champions, 76 USAC Silver Crown race winners, 32 Silver Crown champions and 39 USAC/AAA Sprint Car champions, 20 USAC/AAA Midget champions and even 5 USAC Stock Car champs have started at least one Springfield championship event.
Stock cars made their first appearance in 1950 under the AAA banner with USAC and ARCA sanction to follow in later years. There were only two events during the 1950’s before stock cars made the Illinois State Fairgrounds a permanent home in 1961. Since 1950, 4 AAA, 13 USAC and 21 ARCA drivers who were or would be champions of their respective series made at least one stock car start on the Springfield Mile. Six AAA stock car race winners, 45 USAC and 118 ARCA main event winners were also in a stock car lineup at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Add 5 champs of the various NASCAR series and 24 NASCAR race winners including three who would count a Daytona 500 trophy among their collection.
Fans probably know the names of many of the championship and stock car drivers by heart. However, it may not be well known that before and after the first World War Hall of Famers such as Lewis Strang, Louis Chevrolet, Tommy Milton and Fred Horey ran their big cars on the Springfield Mile. During the 1920’s Lou Schneider and Bill Cummings thrilled Illinois State Fair crowds before they won the Indianapolis 500.
Sprint cars ran during the late 1930’s, 1940’s and again in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s bringing Gus Schrader, Joie Chitwood, Jimmy Wilburn, Dick Gaines, Bill Utz, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Doug Wolfgang among others who were greats in the sprint car world. Midget standouts Mel Kenyon, Arnie Knepper, Danny and Jimmy Caruthers, Kevin Olson and even Jeff Gordon wheeled one of the little cars on the big track. Late model stock car titans from Scott Bloomquist to Billy Moyer moved Springfield dirt, as have Modified and Sportsman standouts Jeff Leka, Scott Orr, Jim Shereck, Brian Shirley, Wes O’Dell, Dennis Vandermeersch and Steve Sheppard Jr.
Who will be the next legend who visits or is created by a run on the Springfield Mile? We find out this Saturday, August 17, when the action begins!
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.
2019 BETTENHAUSEN 100 ENTRY LIST (37 Drivers)
# / DRIVER / HOMETOWN / TEAM
07 JACOB WILSON/Crawfordsville, IN (Wilson Brothers Racing)
08 KYLE STEFFENS/St. Louis, MO (Kyle Steffens)
2 PATRICK LAWSON/Edwardsville, IL (Patrick Lawson)
6 BRADY BACON/Broken Arrow, OK (Klatt Enterprises)
7 KYLE ROBBINS/New Castle, IN (KR Racing)
9 ®CHRIS DYSON/Pleasant Valley, NY (Chris Dyson Racing)
10 C.J. LEARY/Greenfield, IN (DMW Motorsports)
12 BRIAN TYLER/Mt. Pleasant, NC (Galas Motorsports)
14 A.J. FIKE/Galesburg, IL (Dennis & Dave McQuinn)
15 CHAD KEMENAH/Arvada, OH (Hampshire/Kemenah Racing)
16 AUSTIN NEMIRE/Sylvania, OH (Nemire-Lesko Racing)
17 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Goodnight-Byrd Racing)
20 KODY SWANSON/Kingsburg, CA (Gene Nolen Racing)
21 JEFF SWINDELL/Germantown, TN (Mark Swanson Encore Team)
24 MIKE HAGGENBOTTOM/Levittown, PA (John Haggenbottom)
26 AARON PIERCE/Muncie, IN (Sam Pierce)
29 JOEY MOUGHAN/Springfield, IL (Joey Moughan)
31 ®DAVE BERKHEIMER/Mechanicsburg, PA (Berkheimer Racing)
33 ®RONNIE WUERDEMAN/Cincinnati, OH (Ronnie Wuerdeman)
34 TERRY BABB/Decatur, IL (Ken Morford)
39 MATT GOODNIGHT/Winchester, IN (Goodnight Racing)
40 DAVID BYRNE/Shullsburg, WI (Byrne Racing)
43 JOHN HEYDENREICH/Bloomsburg, PA (A.J. Felker)
44 DANNY LONG/Bonne Terre, MO (Danny Long)
47 ®AUSTIN MUNDIE/Dallas, TX (Patty Butler)
51 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)
53 STEVE BUCKWALTER/Royersford, PA (Five Three Motorsports)
56 KEVIN THOMAS, JR./Cullman, AL (Foxco Racing)
57 ®DALLAS HEWITT/Troy, OH (Dallas Hewitt)
71 SHANE COCKRUM/Benton, IL (Hardy Boys Motorsports)
77 CHRIS URISH/Elkhart, IL (Chris Urish)
78 ERIC GORDON/Fortville, IN (Armstrong/Slinkard Racing)
81 SHANE COTTLE/Kansas, IL (Curtis Williams)
91 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (Hemelgarn Racing)
97 TYLER COURTNEY/Indianapolis, IN (Hans Lein)
99 ®KOREY WEYANT/Springfield, IL (Scott Weyant)
123 ®JIMMY LIGHT/West Springfield, PA (Two-Three Motorsports)
® = USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year contender