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R.J. Johnson Strikes Late for another Freedom Tour Triumph!

Lonnie Wheatley, SAPULPA, Okla. (August 18, 2016) – R.J. Johnson picked off his second USAC Southwest Sprint Car "Freedom Tour" feature win in as many rounds of action with some late race heroics to take Thursday night's $2,500 winner's share at Creek County Speedway.

And in the process, Johnson shattered the hopes and dreams of the night for Dennis Gile, who was just three laps away from capturing his first career series triumph after setting the pace for 27 rounds in the 30-lapper.

"Dennis (Gile) did a great job, the restarts were my only real chance to even get back in the race," Johnson commented after his eighth overall USAC Southwest win of the year aboard Bill Michaels' Ford-powered Kodiak Products/Beal's Auto Body No. 77m Sherman-chassis.

After rallying from seventh to win his heat race, Johnson gridded the feature field in sixth as Gile gunned into the lead from the pole position ahead of fellow front row starter Josh Hodges.

And all that ensued simply set the stage for the frantic final laps that had the crowd on its feet.

With Gile out front aboard the Dennis Gile Quarterback Academy No. 13g, Johnson was only fifth when 2015 Creek County "Freedom Tour" winner Blake Hahn did a 360-degree spin in turn two to precipitate a caution after a dozen laps.

Johnson got his elbows up and worked past Koby Barksdale and Shon Deskins to climb to third by the time Andrew Deal spun four laps later and then slid past Hodges for second entering turn three on the lap 17 restart.

Following one final caution for another Hahn spin in turn four with 20 laps in the books, the battle was on with Johnson and Hodges turning up the heat on Gile for the point.

Johnson slid past Gile for the lead in turns three and four momentarily on lap 27, only to have Gile counter the move and recapture the lead exiting turn four.

The reigning USAC Southwest Sprint Car champion made the move stick the next time around and raced on to the stripe as Hodges and Gile traded sliders over the final pair of laps.  Hodges got the final advantage to land runner-up honors in the Jackson Compaction No. 74x with Gile settling for the show position.

In the thick of the battle throughout, Koby Barksdale landed a fourth-place finish with Deskins rounding out the top five.  Tye Mihocko was sixth with Charles Davis, Jr., Kyle Clark, Alex DeCamp and Anthony Nicholson completing the top ten.

Jordon Mallett, Barksdale, Johnson and Cameron Hagin topped heat race action for the 33 car field with Clark and Nicholson winning the "B" Main.

Casey Wills night ended early after a wild ride down the backstretch in the third heat.  Wills was uninjured.

The Fourth Annual USAC Southwest Sprint Cars "Freedom Tour" moves on to Wichita's 81 Speedway on Friday night before wrapping up at Dodge City Raceway Park on Saturday night.

USAC Southwest Freedom Tour Round Two Results – Creek County Speedway

"A" Feature (30 Laps):  1. 77m-R.J. Johnson (6), 2. 74x-Josh Hodges (2), 3. 13g-Dennis Gile (1), 4. 22-Koby Barksdale (9), 5. 20-Shon Deskins (3), 6. 5-Tye Mihocko (4), 7. 50-Charles Davis, Jr. (13), 8. 9$-Kyle Clark (15), 9. 84-Alex DeCamp (19), 10. 16x-Anthony Nicholson (16), 11. 14-Jordon Mallett (8), 12. 24L-Layne Himebaugh (18), 13. 11w-Wyatt Burks (14), 14. 53-Brett Wilson (17), 15. 7-Shannon McQueen (10), 16. 52-Blake Hahn (7), 17. 5h-Cameron Hagin (5), 18. 15d-Andrew Deal (20), 19. 92-Waylon Weaver (12), 20. 24c-Craig Carroll (11).

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THREE ILLINI AMONG THOSE LOOKING TO STOP SWANSON  AT SPRINGFIELD SATURDAY           

Kody Swanson enters Saturday's "Bettenhausen 100" on a history-making run in the 2016 USAC Silver Crown Series slate. One Illinois driver currently in the top 10 in the USAC Silver Crown title chase and one just outside the top 10 along with one past winner of the event from Illinois are among the drivers favored to de-rail the "Swanson Express."

California's Swanson enters the Bettenhausen with the past two USAC Silver Crown national championships in his pocket. He currently leads the point standings with a reasonable chance at three consecutive championships, something no driver has accomplished since the championship dirt cars split from the national trail in 1971. He won his third consecutive Hoosier Hundred in May joining Jimmy Bryan and Al Unser as the only men to win three in a row. Swanson can join the late Tony Bettenhausen and Chuck Gurney as the only drivers to win three consecutive championship races at Springfield should he win Saturday.

In 2014, he became just the 14th driver since 1953 to be able to claim he had won the Hoosier Hundred, Bettenhausen 100 and Ted Horn 100 at DuQuoin. Even fewer men (Jimmy Bryan, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Jack Hewitt) can claim they won all three in the same year.

Swanson has had that opportunity for the past two years with only DuQuoin eluding his grasp. He comes to Springfield with a chance at claiming all three again. However, the driver trailing him in the Silver Crown title chase along with the driver currently 11th in the point standings have an excellent chance at winning Saturday's classic.

Canton's Chris Windom won the event at Williams Grove and is currently second in points just 13 behind Swanson. All of Windom's series wins have come on half-mile tracks and the west-central Illinois driver would like nothing better than to capture one of the prestigious mile fairground events. Windom ran second for a portion of last year's race and led 17 laps before Swanson scooted by for the win. The driver who led the first 40 laps of the 2015 Bettenhausen can't be counted out either. Shane Cockrum of Benton is 11th in points running a limited schedule in 2016. He has three series victories, one at Terre Haute in the 2015 Sumar Classic and his 2014-2015 victories at DuQuoin mark as some of the most emotional and memorable in series history.

Two-time Bettenhausen (2012-13) victor A.J. Fike of Galesburg became an Illinois State Fair favorite when he became the first central Illinois driver since 1966 to claim the Bettenhausen 100. Not only does Fike enter his favorite track with a good chance to claim his third Bettenhausen win, he made history last year when he became just the fifth driver to post a dirt car and stock car win at Springfield by winning the Allen Crowe 100 on Sunday.

Other former winners expected for the Bettenhausen include Russ Gamester (1998) and Brian Tyler (2004-05-08-11) who returns driving for long time entrant Bob Galas. USAC regulars expected include last year's Bettenhausen 100 polesitter Justin Grant, two-time Hoosier Hundred winner Jerry Coons Jr., 2007 Ted Horn 100 winner Shane Cottle, second generation driver Casey Shuman, third generation drivers Joe Ligouri and Austin Nemire and past USAC Sprint Car champ Brady Bacon.

Entrants from Illinois include Springfield's Joey Moughan and J.C. Bland, Chris Urish from Elkhart, Terry Babb from Decatur, Patrick Lawson from Edwardsville and Tad Roach from Granite City. Zach Daum of Pocahontas also returns for Springfield car owner Dennis McQuinn.

The 55th Bettenhausen 100 is part of a two-day race program on the last weekend of the Illinois State Fair that features USAC Silver Crown championship dirt cars Saturday and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on Sunday. On Saturday, August 20 registration and pits will open at 7:00 AM, grandstands and ticket office at 9:00, Silver Crown practice at 10:00, qualifying at 11:30, UMP Sportsman hot laps at 12:00 noon, Silver Crown semi at 12:30, UMP Sportsman heats at 1:00, and the Bettenhausen 100 at 2:00.
 
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UPCOMING USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT INFO:

DATE: Saturday, August 20, 2016

SERIES: USAC Silver Crown Championship

TRACK: Illinois State Fairgrounds (Springfield, Illinois) - 1-mile dirt oval

EVENT: "Bettenhausen 100" featuring the USAC Silver Crown Championship and Sportsman

STARTING TIMES: 7:00 AM Pits & Registration, 9:00 AM Ticket Office & Grandstands, 9:30 AM Drivers Meetings, 10:00-11:10 AM Silver Crown Practice, 11:30 AM Silver Crown Qualifying, 12:00 PM Sportsman Hotlaps, 12:30 PM Silver Crown B-Main, 1:00 PM Sportsman Heats, 1:30 PM Pre-Race Ceremonies, 2:00 PM USAC Silver Crown 55th Annual "Bettenhausen 100"

TICKETS: RESERVED SEATING: Advance Tickets (Presale) - $25 Adults, $10 Children 11 & Under. Race Day (At Gate) - $30 Adults, $10 Children 11 & Under. INFIELD TICKETS - $20 Adults, $5 Children 11 & Under. PIT PASSES - $35 Adults, $20 Children 11 & Under

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55th Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield Changed to Honor Family

By Jay Hardin (August 10, 2016)-Race fans attending the 55th Bettenhausen 100 USAC Silver Crown Series event at the Illinois State Fair on August 20 will notice a slight change to the name of the event.  Instead of referring to the event as the "Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100" the event will now be referred to as the "Bettenhausen 100" in honor of one of the first families of American automobile racing.

The long running (since 1934) championship car race held on the last Saturday of the Illinois State Fair received its memorial designation in the summer of 1961, not long after the May Indianapolis Motor Speedway practice accident which claimed the life of Tony Bettenhausen.  Bettenhausen, a Tinley Park, Illinois native, was one of the most popular racing drivers in the country and perhaps the best known driver from Illinois.  His aggressive, bolt upright style won over a legion of fans including those in the capitol city who watched him become the first three-time championship race winner in Illinois State Fair history.  Naming the championship race in his honor was the tribute bestowed upon the "Tinley Park Express" by the Illinois State Fair board in 1961.

Sons Gary, Merle and Tony Jr. followed their famous father into auto racing.  Gary, like his father, gained numerous fans for his aggressive racing style winning two USAC Sprint Car titles in 1969 and 1970.  He nearly won the 1972 Indianapolis 500 for Roger Penske, leading 138 laps before mechanical gremlins forced his car out of the event.  He and Penske parted ways in 1974 when Gary flipped his championship dirt car out of the New York State Fairgrounds mile dirt oval seriously damaging an arm and putting his own career in jeopardy.  He came back with a slightly different style with the use of only one good arm and won two USAC Silver Crown championships in the process as well as setting fast time in qualifying for the 1991 Indianapolis 500.  Gary made 18 starts in his father's race at Springfield winning twice.  A very emotional win came in 1978 and an equally emotional and perhaps grittier win came in 1983 when he led all 100-miles in 100 degree heat.  Gary passed away in 2014 at the age of 72.

Brother Merle was an aspiring racer in his own right running up front in USAC Midget races and joining Gary on the championship trail in 1970.  In fact, his first national championship start was the 1970 Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.  Merle's budding career was cut short in an accident during his third championship race at Michigan International Speedway in June of 1972.  Merle's car hit the outside retaining wall and burst into flames, he sustained burns and the loss of his right arm.  Merle did return to racing briefly and ran midgets with the aid of a prosthetic device.  He later went into business and remained close to the sport.

Tony Jr. began his career in stock cars racing in both the USAC and NASCAR ranks.  He eventually turned his attention to Indianapolis making the 1981 race and nearly winning the Michigan 500 that same year in an old McLaren that had previously been driven by Tom Sneva.  Tony made 11 starts at Indy before turning his attention to ownership and becoming a successful owner in the Championship Auto Racing Teams ranks.  Sadly, Tony and his wife were among the victims in a February 2000 plane crash.

"This is a family that is known all over the world and has given so much to our sport", said Illinois State Fair race promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises.  "The fair board paid Tony Bettenhausen the ultimate tribute in 1961 when they named the champ car race in his honor."  "When USAC and I got together over the winter, we decided to take that tribute one step further and I know fans will agree this is a great way honor one of America's great racing families."  From this point we will be calling our USAC Silver Crown event, the Bettenhausen 100 in honor of the whole Bettenhausen family."  

The Saturday event is part of a two day race on the last weekend of the Illinois State Fair that features USAC Silver Crown Saturday and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on Sunday.

Saturday, August 20 registration and pits will open at 7:00 AM, grandstands and ticket office at 9:00, Silver Crown practice at 10:00, qualifying at 11:30, Sportsman hotlaps at 12:00 noon, Silver Crown semi at 12:30, Sportsman heats at 1:00, and the Bettenhausen 100 at 2:00.

Sunday, August 21st times are 5:30 AM for registration and pit gates, 8:30 for grandstands and ticket office, 9:00 for practice, ARCA qualifying at 11:15, Sportsman feature at 12:00 noon, an ARCA autograph session at 12:30, and the SuperChevyStores.com 100 presented by Jive Communications take the green at 1:35.

Advance reserved adult tickets can be purchased for either of the days for $25, a discount of $5.  Children 11 and under are $10.  Tickets may be purchased by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or by contacting either of the two fairgrounds ticket offices.  Discount tickets for Sunday's ARCA event can also be purchased at Central Illinois Menards stores.

The host hotel for the State Fair event is the Carpenter Street Hotel.  While the hotel is now totally booked for Saturday night, there are still some rooms available for Friday, August 19th, for those wanting to come in early for Saturday morning's festivities.

For more information, visit www.trackenterprises.com or call 217-764-3200.

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National Sprints
2016 points
July 17
1. Brady Bacon 1937
2. Robert Ballou 17710
3  Chase Stockon 1725
4. T. Meseraull 1695
5. Dave Darland 1575
6. Chad Boespflug 1540
7. C.J. Leary 1528
8. Chris Windom 1386
9. Max McGhee 1264
10. A. Farney 1089

 National Midgets
June 18
1. Spencer Bayston 515
2. Bryan Clauson 505
3. Brady Bacon 492
4. Tanner Thorson 455
5. Chad Boat  451
6. Shane Golobic 407
7. Carson Macedo 387
8. Zach Daum 349
9. Ryan Robinson 327
10. Gage Walker 286

Silver Crown
June 25
1. Chris Windom  320
2. K. Swanson  309
3. Justin Grant  272
4. Shane Cottle 245
5. David Byrne  239
6. Jerry Coons Jr. 236
7. Casey Shuman 221
8. Austin Nemire 212
9. Bryan Clauson 177
10. Shane Cockrum 154

USAC/CRA
July 2

1. R.Vander Weerd 481
2. Damion Gardner 462
3. Brody Roa 455
4. Jake Swanson 452
5. Mike Spencer  429
6. Austin Williams 386
7. Jeremy Ellertson 291
7. Max Adams    291
9. Chris Gansen    281
10. Cody Williams 279

 

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