The Illinois State Fair dates back to 1853, and for over 100 years has been located in the state’s capital city of Springfield. With numerous agricultural and farming attractions, hundreds of food vendors, rides, the world-famous butter cow, and grandstand entertainment it is one of the most popular state fairs in the entire country.
The grandstand entertainment is what attracts thousands upon thousands of people to the fairgrounds. The fair opened with a free concert by country artist Montgomery Gentry followed in the proceeding days by acts including Vince Neil, Bad Company, Penatonix, Snoop Dogg, and headlined on Sunday night by the legendary Reba McIntyre.
Reba’s show is one of two events held in the grandstand on Sunday. The opening act of the day will be just as loud as Reba’s concert but considerably more dirty.
The ARCA Menards Series stock cars will compete in the annual Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil around the one-mile dirt track at the fairgrounds. The race, nationally televised on MAVTV starting at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT, is the 16th of 20 on the tour for 2019 and will feature several drivers and teams with ties to Illinois.
Venturini Motorsports drivers Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), the events defending winner, Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), the current series championship points leader, and Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota), the winner of ARCA’s other dirt track race at DuQuoin last year, don’t have any direct ties to Illinois but their team owners do. Bill and Cathy Venturini grew up in Chicago and raced throughout the Chicagoland area before making the move into ARCA competition in 1984. The Venturinis are members of the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame and their team has won an impressive 10 out of the 15 races to this point in the season.
Springfield’s Kelly Kovski (No. 16 Allgaier Motorsports Chevrolet) returns to action as he looks to claim his first ever ARCA win and do it at his home track. Kovski was injured while spectating at a sprint car race in 2017 and is still recovering from those injuries. But that hasn’t kept him out of the driver’s seat. In addition to running dirt modified races, Kovski competed in the ARCA dirt events last summer. He qualified tenth and finished ninth at Springfield last summer. While he’s looking for that first win on the track as a driver, he’s already visited victory lane as a crew chief. Kovski called the shots for Grant Enfinger’s win in 2017 while he was not able to drive due to injury. He’d like to turn those tables around this season.
“We went to DuQuoin last year and we weren’t as good as we wanted to be,” Kovski said. “We went to work on the car almost immediately. We rebuilt the front end geometry and worked on some things with the shocks and the springs. We’ve been working on this car since June to get it ready. There’s been a lot of preparation on it. We always put a lot of effort into these two dirt races. Springfield is always the one we look forward to with it being our hometown. We’ll have a lot of people there watching so we hope to put on a good show for them.”
Kovski expects to be a factor to win, and if he is, one of the drivers he will have to contend with is El Paso’s Ryan Unzicker (No. 24 RJR Transportation Toyota). A veteran of dirt super late model competition throughout the Midwest, Unzicker traditionally runs the two ARCA dirt races every year for long-time team owner Bill Hendren. He’s scored nine top-ten finishes in seventeen career starts dating back to 2003, including four top-five finishes. Unzicker finished third at Springfield in 2016 and a pair of top-ten runs in 2018 has him feeling like he could race for the win in 2019.
“I am hungry,” Unizicker said. “Seven or eight years ago, we were okay. But being okay isn’t good with me. I want to be up there fighting for a win. One of the biggest challenges for me is that these ARCA cars are so different than what I am used to. The tires, the weight, the attitude of the car. With the ARCA car, the fastest way is to keep the car pointed straight. I have to work on minimizing wheel spin. That’s one of the biggest challenges these young kids have is they come in and they see what we do in our late models and they throw their car around the same way and it burns the tires right off. You might see me make a lot of laps in practice just to get that muscle memory built back up again. I think we’ll have a great shot at going for our first ARCA win.”
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action with the first of two dirt track races with the Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday August 18 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Practice on the one-mile dirt oval will begin at 10 am ET/9 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 12 n ET/11 am CT, and the 100-mile feature event will go green at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit TrackEnterprises.com.