52nd Bettenhausen 100 This Weekend
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Tracy Hines, the 2006 Tony Bettenhausen 100 winner, would like nothing better than to become a two-time winner of this national championship dirt track classic at the Illinois State Fair on Saturday.
Crossing the finish line first could extend his Traxxas USAC Silver Crown point lead and give Hines the boost he needs to secure his second USAC Silver Crown title. Hines was the 2000 USAC champion and he is in a dogfight with defending champion Bobby East for the 2013 crown. Just four points separate the two coming into Springfield and East may be at a disadvantage having never won one of the prestigious 100-mile national championship races.
Playing in East’s favor could be the fact that his Tony Stewart owned team holds the record for most USAC Silver Crown wins for any car owner since the series inception in 1971. The fact that his father Bob East drove in the Bettenhausen 100 and built cars which have won nine of the last 11 races on the Springfield Mile may not hurt either, except that Bobby doesn’t drive a car that his dad built.
Defending race winner A.J. Fike and a strong contingent of former winners may have something to say about who pulls into victory lane at Springfield on Saturday. Fike became the first central Illinois driver since Don Branson in 1966 and the first Illini native since Gary Bettenhausen in 1983 to finish the 100-mile national championship race at the fair in the first position.
Fike returns with the same car and team he won with in 2012, 1998 winner Russ Gamester of Peru, Ind., returns with his family operation and a car of a different design. Three-time (1997, 1999, 2003) winner Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., begins anew with a Springfield based team which has raced at the fairgrounds for more than 20 years. Dennis McQuinn has long been the chief wrench and owner for his own championship dirt cars having Jerry Russell and the now retired Donnie Beechler behind the wheel. Darland became available as Galen Fox has scaled his operation back and ran very well for McQuinn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May.