Illinois Driver Looking To Defend ARCA Win At Springfield IL Mile

(Rich Corbett Photo)

If central Illinois didn’t need enough reasons to attend the Sunday stock car extravaganza at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, a really good reason comes in the form of the entry for the defending race winner.  Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Illinois is slated to make his 12th start on the Springfield Mile on August 22.  The difference between 2021 and each previous start is that Unzicker is the defending winner of the annual Menard’s ARCA Racing Series Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil.

Unzicker is a popular central Illinois driver and a past UMP national driving champion.  He’s been paired with equally popular car owner Bill Hendren who has been part of a stock car entry in every Allen Crowe 100 since 1974.  Ken Rowley, Bob Strait and even Ken Schrader have all been behind the wheel of a Hendren backed car at one point in time.  While Hendren drivers had been able to capture pole positions and lead laps in stock car competition on the Illinois dirt, none were able to find victory lane.

Hendren was contemplating retirement but went ahead and put together a new car for a driver who first ran Springfield in 2003 and finished 6th after starting 20th.  Unzicker and Hendren always seemed to be on the cusp of a win and four top 10 finishes from 2015-2019 at Springfield backed the possibility of victory.

In the 2020 pandemic altered ARCA season the Allen Crowe 100 was moved to an early October date and Du Quoin lost.  It meant the central Illinois team would have only one shot at victory in front of the home fans and they made the most of the chance.  Unzicker was strong in practice, qualified for the pole position and led a record 102 laps (of 103) beating rookie Hallie Deegan to the finish line after a wild overtime restart. 

The victory celebration was wilder than the overtime restart.  A partisan crowd (reduced by COVID restrictions) could still be heard cheering over the engines in the last two laps and the Hendren crew and army of fans celebrated wildly when the checkered flag fell over the blue and yellow machine.  Unzicker pulled off the feat of doing a burnout on dirt in front of the south end of the grandstand which drew even more cheers.  Unzicker became just the second driver from central Illinois to capture a Crowe 100 trophy, the first being hometown here Justin Allgaier in 2006.  It was the first ever ARCA Racing Series for Unzicker and Hendren as well.

Ryan Unzicker will return to the Illinois State Fairgrounds with owner Bill Hendren and an army of fans for the traditional stock car race held on the last Sunday of the Illinois State Fair.  Practice begins at 10 a.m. on August 22 for the ARCA Menard’s Series, General Tire Pole Qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and the Allen Crowe 100 at 1:30.  The August 22 race will be televised by MAVTV and streamed via TrackPass.  Tickets are available by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or at the Illinois State Fair Box Office. Fans can also save big money at Menards by purchasing their Sunday tickets in store.

The event is all part of a huge racing weekend in Central Illinois featuring Lincoln Speedway with MOWA Sprint Cars on Friday night, Silver Crown Saturday at the Springfield Mile, Jack Hewitt Night featuring POWRi Midgets at Macon Speedway Saturday night, and the ARCA Menards Series Sunday afternoon at the Springfield Mile.

Track Enterprises PR