(SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - August 18, 2012) - As the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards entry list continues to build momentum for Sunday's 50th Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, so too does the interest from the locals.
Nine drivers from Illinois are shaking off the dust on their ARCA cars, because apparently, the lure of racing with ARCA's finest ful-ltime competitors and the tradition of this historic race in their home state is just too much to avoid.
El Paso, Ill.'s Ryan Unzicker leads the charge. Unzicker, driving for fellow Illinoisan Bill Hendren, is the 2011 UMP Late Model national champion and has a strong contingent of fans that follow his career. In two career ARCA starts at Springfield, Unzicker finished a career-best sixth in 2003. This year, he expects to make 85 starts across UMP, World of Outlaws, and ARCA, among others. He has seven wins in 63 events so far this year and currently ranks fourth in UMP's national standings. This month alone, he will compete in 12 different races.
Centralia's Joe Cooksey, who has the most ARCA experience, finished a career-best second at Springfield in 2004, and has six top-five finishes there. With more than 140 career ARCA starts spread out since 1996, Cooksey typically competes just twice each season, at Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, which is even closer to home.
"As long as I have two nickels to rub together, I'm going to race at Springfield and DuQuoin," Cooksey said. "We still have this crazy idea that we can win there."
Local Springfield favorite Kelly Kovski, driving for Allgaier Motorsports, is another strong candidate for Victory Lane. In seven previous starts at Springfield, Kovski has never finished lower than 14th, and more often, he's been closer to the front. Kovski finished sixth three times, in 2007, 2010 and 2011. Kovski also spent a full season on the ARCA tour in 2011, serving as Grant Enfinger's crew chief. Enfinger is returning the favor this Sunday in Springfield and will serve Kovski as his crew chief.
Justin Allgaier is still the only Springfield native to ever win a championship-level race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in more than 70 years of sanctioned championship auto racing. Allgaier won the Allen Crowe 100 in 2006, passing fellow Illinoisan Bob Strait on the final lap.
Galesburg, Ill. driver A.J. Fike has been close to victory at Springfield, with finishes of fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2010. He also earned the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell in 2004.
The other Illinois drivers in the field include Mark Littleton (Arenzville), Rodney Melvin (Benton), Joseph Hughs (Springfield), Mike Affarano (Shorewood), and newcomer Shane Cockrum (Benton).
Practice for the Allen Crowe 100 will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday and last for one hour, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell starting at 11. The 100-lap, 100-mile race will take place at 1 p.m. All times are Central. ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage throughout the day, and ARCA Racing Network hosts Charlie Krall and Tim Clagg will deliver a live audio call for the race on the site.