SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Past USAC Silver Crown champion Dave Darland and USAC Midget champion Russ Gamester are well known for their exploits in open wheel competition.
Both veterans are also becoming known for their support of and longevity in the USAC Silver Crown Series, including participation in the prestigious one mile dirt track events like the upcoming Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Should either or both of the veteran drivers appear at Springfield they will increase their record of accomplishments in the 80-plus years of championship racing on the Springfield Mile.
Gamester, the 1989 USAC Midget champion, won the 1998 running of the Tony Bettenhausen 100 driving his family-owned dirt car. In fact, he made his series debut and the first of over 190 series starts on the dirt of the Springfield mile in August of 1989, driving for the famed Mataka Brothers.
He also made the starting field as a rookie at DuQuoin and the Hoosier Hundred for the same team that fielded midgets for Mario Andretti. In the approximately 30 years that Gamester has participated in USAC’s top tier series, most of his starts and wins have come behind the wheel of his family-owned operation.
In 2016, Gamester crashed hard at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May and the accident took the team out of competition for the remainder of the season. He returned with a new machine for the 2017 season and started 22nd in the Bettenhausen, finishing 33rd when the engine expired after seven miles. The start was Gamester’s 24th in the Bettenhausen 100, third on the all-time list behind George Snider’s 29 and Johnny Parsons 27.
Meanwhile, 1997 USAC Silver Crown champ Darland is a three-time Bettenhausen 100 winner (1997, 1999, 2003). He made his Silver Crown debut in 1990 driving for Frank Faroute and made his first Bettenhausen 100 in August of 1993.
Darland shook things up in the series when he swept both races at the Indiana State Fairgrounds driving for legendary owner Galen Fox, whose car he drove to all three victories at Springfield.
After holding the Fox ride for around 17 seasons in the Silver Crown ranks, Darland’s talents have been spread among several car owners, including Springfield’s own Dennis McQuinn, Jim Dutcher, Steve and Carla Phillips and most recently as a teammate to Bill Rose.
Darland passed leader Brian Tyler as the driver with the most series starts at Toledo earlier this year and should he make the field at Salem on Aug. 11, will be looking for series start number 199 in his storied career at Springfield.
He tied A.J. Foyt’s run of 18 consecutive Bettenhausen starts in 2009, however his participation at Springfield has been sporadic since then, due to a number of circumstances. Last year marked the 23rd start in the Bettenhausen for the all-time feature win leader in the USAC Sprint Car series.
While Darland is fourth behind Snider in championship starts at Springfield, he is moving up the statistical ladder in other areas as well. His three Springfield wins are tied for third with Rodger Ward, Al Unser, Mario Andretti and the late Tony Bettenhausen. Darland is the all-time mileage leader at Springfield with 1,951 miles completed, holds the record for most times running at the finish (15), is tied for most times completing the 100-mile distance (13) and is also tied for the most top-10 finishes (13).
Darland is fourth on the all-time money won list and seventh on the lap leader list at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.