Christian Eckes (15) is one of the young guns looking for success in Springfield Sunday (Rich Corbett Photo)
Springfield, IL (August 12, 2019)-The winners list for the ARCA Menards Series Allen Crowe 100 on Sunday, Aug. 18 presented by Lucas Oil at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is looking like a high school graduation roll call in the last few seasons.
Prior to the 2006 Allen Crowe 100, no stock car driver under the age of 24 has posted a victory in the 100-mile dirt grind and the majority of the race winners were in excess of 37 years of age. In fact, the average age of the race winner was in excess of 40 years of age from 1950 through 1984. A changing of the guard began to occur in 2006 and since then three race winners have been under the age of 20, with two under the age of 18.
Springfield’s Justin Allgaier turned the fairgrounds upside down in 2006 when he made a late race pass and became the first hometown driver to post a major national race win on the Springfield Mile in the history of the old track. Allgaier also broke the record for the youngest race winner in Allen Crowe 100 history previously held by Bobby Bowsher who won at age 24 in 1991, Bowsher was also the youngest winner of any major race held on the mile.
Allgaier’s record didn’t last long. In 2009 Parker Kligerman became the youngest Crowe 100 winner in history at the age of 19 when he parked his Dodge in victory lane. Even though young drivers such as Patrick Sheltra (24), Brennan Poole (22) and Kevin Swindell (25) posted victories in the annual ARCA event no one could have predicted who would visit Springfield’s victory lane in two of the last three seasons.
Winimac, Indiana’s Justin Hayley still had his senior year in high school looming when he strapped into an ARCA car for the 2016 Allen Crowe 100. The Hoosier took the lead inside of ten laps to go and pulled off a stunning upset winning at 17 years, 3 months and 24 days. No one younger had ever won a major race on the Springfield Mile.
Thirty-two year old Grand Enfinger restored some pride for the “older” set when he won in 2017, but last year it was another teenager, New York’s Christian Eckes who won the Crowe 100 at age 17 and was just six months older than Hayley in winning the 2018 edition of the race.
This year Eckes returns at age 18 as the defending race winner but he isn’t the youngest entrant. Ty Gibbs, grandson of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, is a couple months shy of his 17th birthday as he tests the Springfield dirt. Michigan’s Carson Hocevar is also 16 and a couple months younger than Gibbs. Hocevar made his first NASCAR start on dirt at the Eldora Dirt Derby in July. Georgia’s Cory Heim is a veteran racer at age 17 who has run ARCA and Super Late Models. Nineteen year old Illinois native Tim Richmond is paired with one of the oldest drivers in ARCA, Wayne Peterson.
All of the ARCA “kids” have good rides and should be a factor come Sunday. We find out if the veterans can hold off the ARCA kids beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds with ARCA Menards Series practice, pole qualifying at 11 a.m. and the 100-mile race at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Sunday's event is part of a huge racing weekend in Central Illinois which begins on Friday night with POWRi Midgets. On Saturday afternoon, USAC Silver Crown Cars take center stage on Saturday afternoon at the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fair. Then Saturday night, makes the short trip east to Macon Speedway for the POWRi Midgets.
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