Bettenhausen 100 Up Next For USAC Silver Crown

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Brian Tyler (12) races under Jason Bland during the Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield in 2017. (Mark Funderburk Photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A field of 40-plus USAC Silver Crown Series drivers are expected to compete in this Saturday’s Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

From top-to-bottom, the list includes seven Silver Crown championships, 13 Bettenhausen 100 victories and 97 total Silver Crown wins, with 15 states represented.

One of those past race winners includes defending Bettenhausen 100 winner Justin Grant. The Ione, Calif., native led 79 laps and staved off a hard-charge by Kody Swanson in the final laps, including a green-white-checkered finish, to capture his first career Silver Crown victory. In the process, he became the first driver to get his first series win at the Springfield Mile since fellow Californian Cole Whitt in 2009.

Two-time Bettenhausen 100 winner Kody Swanson arrives as the white-hot talent, one who’s been undefeated in Silver Crown competition since the beginning of May, earning a Silver Crown record five consecutive victories over that span. Along the way, the Kingsburg, Calif., driver has constructed a 126-point lead over Grant in the standings. His victory on the paved high banks of Indiana’s Salem Speedway last Saturday was the 24thof his Silver Crown career, breaking Jack Hewitt’s 30-year old record as the winningest Silver Crown driver of all-time.

Brian Tyler owns four Bettenhausen 100 wins. In last year’s race, the Pleasant Garden, N.C., driver shot to the front in a hurry and led 21 laps through the middle portion of the race before a gear issue halted his spectacular ride. In the last mile dirt race at the Hoosier Hundred on the Indy Mile, Tyler led 27 laps, and was leading, before a massive accident in turn one ended their night.

Dave Darland, a three-time winner on the Springfield Mile, has teamed up with Illinois car owner Gene Kazmark to compete in the Bettenhausen 100. Darland leads all drivers in series history with 198 career starts entering the event and has made five starts in 2018 with a best finish of ninth in May’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds after charging from the 28th starting spot.

Russ Gamester, the 1998 victor, aims to make his 25th Bettenhausen 100 start. The 1989 USAC National Midget champ owns victories in all three USAC national divisions throughout his decorated racing career as he guns for Springfield win
number two in the familiar red No. 51.

A.J. Fike is a familiar face in Illinois State Fairgrounds’ victory lane, earning back-to-back Silver Crown victories in 2012 and 2013 as well as an ARCA Stock Car triumph in 2015. The Galesburg, Ill., driver makes his return to Springfield behind the wheel of Dave and Dennis McQuinn’s No. 41 alongside teammate and 1982 Silver Crown champ Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo., who’s among five past Silver Crown titlists in the field, including Dave Darland (1997), 2017 pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. (2008), Swanson (2014-15-17) and Chris Windom (2016). Two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion Brady Bacon is looking for Silver Crown victory number one.

Drivers who’ve broken into victory lane in year’s past, but are seeking to get their first triumph at Springfield include C.J. Leary, who will debut Mickey Meyer’s new hand-lettered No. 10. Jeff Swindell charged from 28th to third last year at Springfield will be joined by David Byrne, Shane Cottle and Tyler Courtney.

Windom and Fike are among the nine Illini entered to run along with two-time DuQuoin Silver Crown winner Shane Cockrum, one-time DuQuoin winner Shane Cottle, Patrick Lawson, J.C. Bland, Joey Moughan, Terry Babb, Chris Urish and Korey Weyant.

Weyant is one of 11 series Rookies entered, along with leading series rookie Travis Welpott, Kevin Thomas Jr., Neil Shepherd, Kyle Robbins, Johnny Petrozelle, Chris Dyson, Keith Burch, Dave Berkheimer, Austin Mundie and Mike Haggenbottom.

The Rookie crop is complemented by a competitive group of veterans racing into Springfield such as Jacob Wilson, Joe Liguori, Austin Nemire, Jackie Burke, Matt Goodnight, Steve Buckwalter, Casey Shuman, Bill Rose, Chris Fetter and Danny Long.