SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Two important milestones in the careers of one of the premiere announcers and premiere racing promoters will be reached during the final weekend of the 2013 Illinois State Fair.
Southern Illinois native Jim Childers celebrates his 30th anniversary as the voice of auto racing at the Springfield Mile, while promoter Bob Sargent and the Track Enterprises crew mark their 20th year of promotion of the auto racing events at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Childers began his career at Paducah Int’l Raceway in 1980 and by 1983 was the voice of the now defunct Midwest Auto Racing Ass’n (MARA) Midget Series. He was first introduced to Springfield race fans calling a MARA midget race on the mile in conjunction with the June 1983 American 100 USAC Stock Car race.
A chance meeting with the late William “Wild Bill” Oldani, then the Motorsports Director at the Illinois State Fair, led to Childers working the microphone on race weekends with USAC’s Gary Lee and eventually taking control of the Sunday Allen Crowe 100 after the ARCA series took over sanction of the event. When Lee relinquished duties over the USAC Tony Bettenhausen 100 after 25 years, Childers and veteran announcer Larry Limbach became the PA voices at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Jim has the longest tenure of anyone to hold the mike for the state fair auto races.
Childers, currently the voice of the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series, can count time behind the mike at places such as the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Terre Haute, DuQuoin, the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Memphis Motorsports Park and Gateway Int’l Raceway as some of the venues he has worked in a 34 year career.
“I’ve learned a lot from different people over the years, people like Bill Oldani, Bob Sargent, Gary Lee have all taught me a lot about my profession and the racing business,” said Childers. “I owe a great deal to a lot of people, most importantly my family for allowing me the time to do this, and the fans for listening.”
Sargent took over Macon Speedway from the Webb family in 1985, not that long after graduating college. By 1992 he was being recognized as an up and coming race promoter and in looking for other venues found one in the Springfield Mile. For the first time in nearly a decade a private promoter obtained the facility for a ‘still’ date and Sargent’s Illinois Fall Nationals became a staple of motorsports at the fairgrounds in October of 1992.