2022 USAC Bettenhausen 100 at Illinois State Fairgrounds

USAC Silver Crown Set For Rare Pavement/Dirt Weekend

USAC Silver Crown Set For Rare Pavement/Dirt Weekend

Two hundred miles lie ahead for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, with a rarity for the series: races on consecutive days on pavement and dirt.

Aug 16, 2022 by FloRacing Staff
USAC Silver Crown Set For Rare Pavement/Dirt Weekend

Two hundred miles lie ahead for the USAC Silver Crown National Championship during a weekend that presents quite a rarity for the series: races on consecutive days on both pavement and dirt.

The excellent adventure begins at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, on Friday night, followed by a jaunt to the capital of the Land of Lincoln, the Springfield Mile, as the series jumps onto the dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Saturday. 

The latter venue has played a significant role in the history of the sport and takes part in its first pavement/dirt champ car weekend since Al Unser's dominant 1970 campaign.

Only five previous times in the USAC Silver Crown division's 52-year history has this occurred, and among those doing the whirlwind pavement/dirt tour on back-to-back nights are Kody Swanson, Justin Grant, Logan Seavey, C.J. Leary, Brian Tyler, Eric Gordon, Kyle Robbins, Travis Welpott, Gregg Cory, Bryan Gossel, Patrick Lawson, Dave Berkheimer and Tom Paterson.

The first such instance of a consecutive Silver Crown races on consecutive days on different surfaces arrived with a bang as J.J. Yeley's remarkable 2003 USAC Triple Crown campaign was highlighted by many incredible performances. 

Among the earliest was a May double dip for the Bob East/Tony Stewart-owned team, first on the Indianapolis Raceway Park pavement with a last-lap pass of Dave Steele. 

Yeley followed it up with a 100-lap cruise the next night, leading all 100 laps to pick up a $50,000 bonus for winning both, which brought his two-night prize total to a sweet $70,900.

In 2008, Dave Darland held off repeated challenges from runner-up Jerry Coons Jr. to score the Sumar Classic in his Foxco Engineering No. 56 on the dirt half-mile at the Terre Haute (Indiana) Action Track. Meanwhile, Bobby East dominated IRP's pavement for all 100 laps one night later at the J.D. Byrider 100 for the Klatt Enterprises team.

Eight years later, in 2016, it was a match of brotherly love in the win column as Kody Swanson wheeled his DePalma Motorsports No. 63 to another Hoosier Hundred triumph on the dirt at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, while 24 hours later, younger brother Tanner Swanson and his Bowman Racing #02 were the forces at IRP, leading the final 20 laps. He even had to fend off Kody in the waning laps following a late caution.

It was all Kody Swanson in 2018, as he became the first driver since Yeley 15 years earlier to go back-to-back on dirt and pavement on a weekend with the Silver Crown series, leading the latter half of the Hoosier Hundred, then controlling all but the first lap to win the weekend capper at IRP, both in dueling DePalma Motorsports dirt and pavement rides.

The most recent Silver Crown twin-bill came in 2019, when Tyler Courtney powered his way to the front eight laps from the finish line to win the penultimate Hoosier Hundred in the seat of Hans Lein's No. 97. 

The next night, a first-time series winner emerged, as Kyle Hamilton lost the lead to Bobby Santos late, then regained with a smooth pass a lap later to win at IRP.

Dating back onto the USAC National Championship trail, Lloyd Ruby won his first championship race at Milwaukee in 1961. The competitors then loaded up and headed south toward the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the inaugural Bettenhausen 100, where an accounting error ended the race a lap early at 99 miles. Jim Hurtubise locked up the win.

The Springfield/Milwaukee weekend was a mainstay throughout the remainder of the 1960s and into 1970. 

Hurtubise repeated at Springfield in 1962, while Rodger Ward took the Milwaukee Mile en route to his USAC championship season. Ward captured the dirt portion of the weekend at Springfield in 1963. 

A day later, Jimmy Clark and his Lotus Powered By Ford turned the racing world on its collective ear at Milwaukee when they ushered in the rear engine revolution by breaking the track record in qualifying and leading all 200 circuits to lap all but second place.

The two most recent Indianapolis winners, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, shared weekend honors in 1964, with Foyt winning at Springfield and Jones at Milwaukee. 

In 1965, it was Foyt, for all intents and purposes, who stole the headlines for the weekend by bringing his Springfield-winning dirt car to the asphalt of Milwaukee and proceeding to put it on the pole and finish as the runner-up to first-time series winner Gordon Johncock.

Foyt and Mario Andretti defined the era and defined the Springfield/Milwaukee weekend in 1967 with respective victories. 

Roger McCluskey (Springfield) and Ruby (Milwaukee) traded triumphs in 1968. 

Unser returned to form in 1969 at Milwaukee, picking up his first win since breaking his leg in a motorcycle incident in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield in May, while Andretti hit paydirt the next day at Springfield.

Unser dominated pretty much everything in 1970 aboard the Johnny Lightning Special, winning 10 times in 18 starts on the USAC National Championship trail. 

He swept the Springfield/Milwaukee weekend, then proceeded to do just the same late in the season on the Trenton pavement in New Jersey and, amazingly, the very next day on the other side of the country at the California State Fairgrounds, the final event on dirt for "IndyCar racing." 

Sandwiched between the two Unser sweeps was Jim McElreath's mastery of the new Ontario Motor Speedway in California. Unser answered by winning the second end of the double with a winning performance on the magic mile dirt oval at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois.

Race Details (All Times Central)

This Friday night, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, the OutFront 100 will feature the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, INDYCAR Practice/Qualifying and Indy Lights Practice/Qualifying. 

Front gates will open at 8 a.m., with Silver Crown practice at 10 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

Silver Crown Fatheadz qualifying will begin at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, with driver introductions at 8 p.m. and the 80-lap, 100-mile main event at 8:30 p.m.

On Saturday night, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois, the 59th running of the Bettenhausen 100 presented by Hunt Brothers Pizza will bring the USAC Silver Crown National Championship, plus the 29th Annual Illinois Sportsman Nationals DIRTcar Sportsman Prelims. 

Pits and registration will open at 7 a.m. Central, front gates will open at 9 a.m., practice will take place from 10-11:10 a.m., Fatheadz qualifying will happen at 11:30 a.m., the qualifying race will begin at 12:30 p.m. and the 100-mile main event will get underway at 2 p.m.