Hard-Chargers Have Diced it Up at the Bettenhausen 100

By RICHIE MURRAY

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Over the course of 100 miles, there’s seemingly ample time for a driver to make a charge to the front even if he didn’t quite qualify where he necessarily wanted to, especially at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, host of this Sunday afternoon’s Bettenhausen 100 on September 22.

However, starting in front of the field gives that driver a theoretical head start on those in the thick of the pack – those who are trying to meet the pace instead of setting the pace themselves.

That scenario makes it a strain on driver, crew and equipment alike. Having to be in a constant chase mode requires running a race that is not wholly dictated by yourself compared to being the front runner. Many a Silver Crown driver will play it conservatively, only turning up the wick in the last 30 laps or so to make it a spring race.

Nonetheless, even at a conservative pace, tires can be used up throughout the course of 100 miles under the daylight if you’re not careful.




One year ago at the Bettenhausen 100, Chris Windom feathered the limits of aggressiveness and restraint by working his way from the 13th starting spot in the 31-car field to win on the Springfield Mile, making the winning pass with just nine laps remaining.

It marked the tenth time in the 57 runnings of the Bettenhausen that a winning driver started outside the top-ten – 1964: A.J. Foyt (16), 1979: Bobby Olivero (13), 1987: Jack Hewitt (16), 1988: Steve Chassey (20), 1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. (28), 2004: Brian Tyler (21), 2005: Brian Tyler (16), 2011: Brian Tyler (14) and 2015: Kody Swanson (16).

Irwin’s impressive charge from 28th to 1st is the furthest back any winning driver has started in the 49-year history of the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series.

That means only one less winning driver has started outside the top-ten (10) than has a driver starting from the pole (11) in the history of the Bettenhausen 100 – a pole winner hasn’t won at Springfield since Kody Swanson in 2014. Swanson won again in 2015 after setting fast qualifying time but was forced to start from 16th due to missing his place in the qualifying line.

It took until the sixth running of the Bettenhausen 100 before a driver won from the pole at Springfield – Don Branson in 1966, followed by 1976: Tom Bigelow, 1989: Chuck Gurney, 1990: Chuck Gurney, 1992: Jimmy Sills, 1998: Russ Gamester, 2002: J.J. Yeley, 2003: Dave Darland, 2006: Tracy Hines, 2013: A.J. Fike and 2014: Kody Swanson.

Hines was untouchable in 2006, setting the still-standing track record mark of 29.305 sec. around the mile, which translates to a 122.846 mph average lap. He proceeded to lead all 100 laps that afternoon according to the record books, notching the victory following a failed post-race technical inspection of Dave Steele’s car after he led the final 36 laps.

Is it better to start from the pole or to play the role of the chaser? It depends on the situation and the comfort level of the driver. On the dirt, Silver Crown winners this year have started 3rd (Tyler Courtney at the Indy Mile), 3rd (Brady Bacon at Williams Grove) and 6th (Jacob Wilson at Du Quoin). In fact, on dirt, a driver hasn’t won from the pole since Swanson at the May 2018 Hoosier Hundred.

In that span, pole sitters have finished 5th (Jerry Coons, Jr. at Springfield 2018), 17th (Jacob Wilson at Du Quoin 2018), 3rd (Shane Cottle at Eldora 2018), 2nd (Kevin Thomas, Jr. at the Indy Mile 2019), 3rd (Justin Grant at Williams Grove 2019) and 3rd (Tyler Courtney at Du Quoin 2019).

Being on the pole is great and all with a nice clean start waiting for you without any traffic stacked in your path. But even, say starting from 28th, doesn’t necessarily put you out of the game. That’s what makes it entertaining, as the Springfield Mile has been resurgent in the last several years, producing unpredictability and a allotment of hard-chargers storming their way to the front to dice it up.

That unpredictability is what keeps us coming back and it’s something you can predict come this Sunday.

Sunday’s Bettenhausen 100 in Springfield gets underway with pits opening and registration starting at 7am (Central), the ticket office and grandstands opening at 9am, the drivers meeting at 9:30am, Silver Crown practice from 10am to 11:10am, DIRTcar Modified hot laps at 11:15am, Fatheadz Silver Crown Qualifying at 11:35am, Silver Crown Qualifying Race at 12:30pm, Modified feature at 1pm, pre-race ceremonies at 1:30pm and the Bettenhausen 100-mile race at 2pm.

Tickets will be available on raceday or by calling the State Fair office at 217-782-1979. Info and tickets can also be obtained by calling the Track Enterprises office at 217-764-3200. Advance Tickets (Presale) are $25 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. On race day, tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under. Infield tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 11 and under. Pit passes are $35 for adults and $20 for children 11 and under.

This Sunday’s Springfield race can be watched LIVE and on-demand on FloRacing, listened to via live audio on the USAC app as well as live timing and scoring on both the USAC app and the Race-Monitor app.

BETTENHAUSEN 100 FAST QUALIFIERS:
1961: Parnelli Jones – 34.17
1962: Roger McCluskey – 36.53
1963: A.J. Foyt – 33.75
1964: Rodger Ward – 33.82
1965: Jim McElreath – 32.89
1966: Don Branson – 33.04
1967: Larry Dickson – 33.82
1968: Al Unser – 34.96
1969: Greg Weld – 34.11
1971: Greg Weld – 34.86
1972: Lee Kunzman – 33.91
1973: Al Unser – 33.31
1974: Greg Weld – 34.20
1975: Johnny Parsons – 33.324
1976: Tom Bigelow – 34.798
1977: Thad Dosher – 34.847
1978: Bubby Jones – 35.570
1979: Steve Chassey – 33.773
1980: Larry Rice – 32.828
1981: Tom Bigelow – 32.660
1982: Sheldon Kinser – 32.449
1983: Steve Chassey – 31.932
1985: Joe Saldana – 31.144
1986: George Snider – 31.894
1987: Jeff Swindell – 30.919
1988: George Snider – 32.044
1989: Chuck Gurney – 31.711
1990: Chuck Gurney – 32.457
1991: Stan Fox – 31.559
1992: Jimmy Sills – 31.523
1993: Larry Dickson – 30.767
1995: Johnny Parsons – 31.936
1996: Robby Flock – 29.988
1997: Russ Gamester – 31.287
1998: Russ Gamester – 112.757
1999: Bill Rose – 31.768
2000: Tony Elliot – 30.221
2001: J.J. Yeley – 31.363
2002: J.J. Yeley – 30.534
2003: Dave Darland – 30.240
2004: Jerry Coons, Jr. – 30.362
2005: Josh Wise – 29.776
2006: Tracy Hines – 29.305
2007: Levi Jones – 30.316 (A)
2008: Shane Hollingsworth – 30.286
2009: A.J. Fike – 29.618 (B)
2011: Tracy Hines – 31.373
2012: Brian Tyler – 30.948 (C)
2013: A.J. Fike – 32.125
2014: Kody Swanson – 31.999
2015: Kody Swanson – 30.532 (D)
2017: Jerry Coons, Jr. – 29.988
2018: Jerry Coons, Jr. – 30.875

(A) Time set during practice, field lined up from practice times due to rain.

(B) A.J. Fike set fast time, but due to an invert procedure, Cole Whitt started in the first position.

(C) Brian Tyler set fast time, but due to an invert procedure, Kody Swanson started in the first position.

(D) Kody Swanson set fast time, but due to penalty, started 16th.

BETTENHAUSEN 100 WINNERS (Starting Position in Parentheses)
1961: Jim Hurtubise (4)
1962: Jim Hurtubise (2)
1963: Rodger Ward (4)
1964: A.J. Foyt (16)
1965: A.J. Foyt (5)
1966: Don Branson (1)
1967: A.J. Foyt (2)
1968: Roger McCluskey (4)
1969: Mario Andretti (2)
1970: Al Unser (6)
1971: A.J. Foyt (10)
1972: Al Unser (7)
1973: Mario Andretti (4)
1974: Mario Andretti (2)
1975: Al Unser (6)
1976: Tom Bigelow (1)
1977: Larry Rice (7)
1978: Gary Bettenhausen (5)
1979: Bobby Olivero (13)
1980: Pancho Carter (4)
1981: George Snider (9)
1982: Bobby Olivero (12)
1983: Gary Bettenhausen (2)
1984: Chuck Gurney (1)
1985: Chuck Gurney (3)
1986: Jack Hewitt (10)
1987: Jack Hewitt (16)
1988: Steve Chassey (20)
1989: Chuck Gurney (1)
1990: Chuck Gurney (1)
1991: Chuck Gurney (3)
1992: Jimmy Sills (1)
1993: Jack Hewitt (7)
1994: Chuck Gurney (7)
1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. (28)
1996: Chuck Gurney (3)
1997: Dave Darland (3)
1998: Russ Gamester (1)
1999: Dave Darland (3)
2000: Jack Hewitt (8)
2001: Paul White (2)
2002: J.J. Yeley (1)
2003: Dave Darland (1)
2004: Brian Tyler (21)
2005: Brian Tyler (16)
2006: Tracy Hines (1)
2007: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3)
2008: Brian Tyler (2)
2009: Cole Whitt (1)
2011: Brian Tyler (14)
2012: A.J. Fike (5)
2013: A.J. Fike (1)
2014: Kody Swanson (1)
2015: Kody Swanson (16)
2017: Justin Grant (2)
2018: Chris Windom (13)

BETTENHAUSEN 100 WINNERS BY STARTING POSITION:

1ST: (11 Times) 1966: Don Branson, 1976: Tom Bigelow, 1984: Chuck Gurney, 1989: Chuck Gurney, 1990: Chuck Gurney, 1992: Jimmy Sills, 1998: Russ Gamester, 2002: J.J. Yeley, 2003: Dave Darland, 2006: Tracy Hines, 2009: Cole Whitt, 2013: A.J. Fike & 2014: Kody Swanson.

2ND: (8 Times) 1962: Jim Hurtubise, 1967: A.J. Foyt, 1969: Mario Andretti, 1974: Mario Andretti, 1983: Gary Bettenhausen, 2001: Paul White, 2008: Brian Tyler & 2017: Justin Grant

3RD: (6 Times) 1985: Chuck Gurney, 1991: Chuck Gurney, 1996: Chuck Gurney, 1997: Dave Darland, 1999: Dave Darland & 2007: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

4TH: (5 Times) 1961: Jim Hurtubise, 1963: Rodger Ward, 1968: Roger McCluskey, 1973: Mario Andretti & 1980: Pancho Carter

5TH: (3 Times) 1965: A.J. Foyt, 1978: Gary Bettenhausen & 2012: A.J. Fike

6TH: (6 Times) 1970: Al Unser & 1975: Al Unser

7TH: (4 Times) 1972: Al Unser, 1977: Larry Rice, 1993: Jack Hewitt & 1994: Chuck Gurney

8TH: (1 Time) 2000: Jack Hewitt

9TH: (1 Time) 1981: George Snider

10TH: (2 Times) 1971: A.J. Foyt & 1986: Jack Hewitt

12TH: (1 Time) 1982: Bobby Olivero

13TH: (2 Times) 1979: Bobby Olivero & 2018: Chris Windom

14TH: (1 Time) 2011: Brian Tyler

16TH: (4 Times) 1964: A.J. Foyt, 1987: Jack Hewitt, 2005: Brian Tyler & 2015: Kody Swanson

20TH (1 Time) 1988: Steve Chassey

21ST: (1 Time) 2004: Brian Tyler

28TH: (1 Time) 1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr.