Legendary Jack Hewitt Weighs In On Attempts By Bacon And Tyler Courtney
By Greg Billing
ROSSBURG, Ohio (September 23, 2016) – Oklahoma has produced its share of auto racing talent, especially in Tulsa and its suburbs.
Names like Lance Blevins, Andy Hillenberg, Daryn Pittman, Stevie Smith and Shane Stewart all hail from northwestern Oklahoma. As does Brady Bacon. But none have tried what Bacon attempts Saturday at Eldora Speedway – sweeping the USAC 4-Crown Nationals.
Only one driver has ever won all four features in the same night on Eldora’s historic high-banked, half-mile clay oval. Bacon, who grew up in Broken Arrow and now lives in Winchester, Ind., figures if it’s going to happen again why not “Sooner” than later.
The 35th annual 4-Crown Nationals Weekend kicks off tonight (Friday, September 23) with the “BeFour The Crowns Showdown” featuring the winged World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars and Eldora Stocks. Saturday’s show features three USAC divisions with the national Silver Crown, Sprint Cars and Midget tours along with the wing sprint cars of the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions joining the slate for the first-time.
The 26-year-old Bacon plans to compete with the Outlaws on Friday and run all four divisions Saturday. Indiana’s Tyler Courtney also plans to run all four divisions Saturday in pursuit of additional 4-Crown cash. Any driver that sweeps all four divisions earns the extra $100,000 bonus posted by track owner Tony Stewart. Winning three of the four nets $25,000. USAC veterans Dave Darland and Jerry Coons, Jr. have registered to run all three USAC divisions.
And Bacon thinks he has the cars to do it.
He’ll drive Paul Martens-owned No. 48 Silver Crown car, the No. 69 Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics AMSOIL sprint car, the No. 76m Frank Manafort Racing midget and his own No. 99 winged sprint in with the ASCoC. Bacon will also drive the No. 99 with the Outlaws tonight (Friday, September 23).
“I’m excited about the Outlaws race. I think my engine program with my personal cars is a lot better than what I’ve been at Eldora in the past,” Bacon said. “That’s extremely important at Eldora. Friday night we’re looking to get the weekend going in a positive direction.
“Saturday is a little more stressful than it has been in the past because one of the cars is my own. I’m kind of the head of that so I’ll spend a little more time trying to make sure that’s right. Fortunately I have three other really, really good cars. Everything I have is capable of winning. We have a really good shot of winning every class. This is the first time I’ve been in that position, having a car in every class capable of winning.”
Running with the World of Outlaws tonight could help Bacon’s bid for the 4-Crown sweep Saturday. The winged and non-wing sprints carry more speed, especially at Eldora, so when he climbs into a midget or Silver Crown car Bacon said it feels like the action slows down.
Ohio’s Jack Hewitt is the only driver to sweep all four divisions, stunning the racing world in 1998 by winning all three USAC features and a modified feature. Hewitt, from nearby Troy, holds the record for most 4-Crown victories with 19.
Bacon enters with one. He won the sprint feature in 2014. If he adds another Saturday odds are good it’ll be in the sprints again – Bacon holds a dominating 219-point lead in the national standings. “We’ve always been fast in the No. 69 at Eldora,” he said.
He’s also third in the midget standings (66 points behind the leader) and 12th in Silver Crown.
“Our Silver Crown car has been super fast all year,” Bacon said. “The midget we’ve been working really hard. Our engine program has been a little behind like Keith Kunz’s Toyota-power. We’ve been getting closer and closer and they’ve made some changes to the motor. This will be the first race since we’ve made some pretty major changes and I think we’ve made some ground up. I’m looking forward to that…I’m thankful for all the car owners who have invested in me and given me the opportunity to go for this bonus this weekend. I’m really excited.”
And hopefully well rested. The physical requirements of racing four divisions in one day don’t match the mental demands. All three USAC cars will be crewed by different teams so that will help Bacon focus on wrenching his own winged sprint. But it’s the little things that make for a busy night of action in the pits. There’s making sure his helmets are ready including the tear-offs. All the radios need to be on the correct channels. And if all four haulers can’t park next to each other in Eldora’s pits – they’ll attempt to all drive in together – then logistics and communication becomes a bigger issue.
Bacon has run three divisions at the 4-Crown the past two years so has an idea of what to expect.
“It doesn’t start getting real busy until Saturday then it all happens at once,” Bacon said. “Then before you know it it’s over. And hopefully we’ve won a few at that point.”
Hewitt is the only driver to win all four features. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson joined Hewitt in 2011 as the only drivers to win all three USAC features.
“You know Brady is capable of winning, but you have to have all the stars align,” Hewitt said. “A flat tire, touching the wall hard, somebody spinning out in front of you. That’s the part that’s amazing for all that to line up in one evening. It’s actually beyond belief. The only thing we did wrong was we didn’t play the lottery. It was that kind of night.”
Bacon said he won’t seek out Hewitt for advice on handling the grind of racing four divisions in one night or dealing with the increasing pressure should he click off one, then two and maybe three feature wins.
“What he did is pretty legendary. He’s Jack Hewitt. You can’t tell someone how to be Jack Hewitt. You have to figure it out,” Bacon said.
Even though Bacon won’t get together with Hewitt before the race, he sure wouldn’t mind a meeting after to celebrate a 4-Crown sweep together.
“I’ll gladly stand beside him if he wins all four,” said Hewitt, adding he’ll do so at Bacon’s request so Bacon can celebrate history in the spotlight alone should it happen. “You gotta have a lot of luck to win it. Records are meant to be broken or tied. Yeah, put as many (drivers) there as they want. I have room for others to stand up there with me, that’s for sure.
“You gotta stay positive. You can’t get discouraged. Even if he ends up winning three that’s still a pretty amazing feat. The thing about it is he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain. If he wins one he’s on a pretty elite list. If he wins two, the list got a lot shorter. Three and it’s him and Kyle Larson. If he wins four it’s him and I. He’s got a little more pressure than me with $100,000. I guarantee if he wins the third one, on the fourth one they better watch out cause he’s coming. It’s katy bar the door then.”
Tickets for the 35th Four Crown Nationals Weekend events start at just $25 for Friday’s World of Outlaws “BeFour The Crown Showdown” event. Tickets to Saturday’s Four Crown Nationals start at just $30. Add $4 for reserved seating. Children (12 and younger) are admitted free to General Admission seating for all Four Crown Nationals Weekend events. Tickets can be purchased online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com, in person at the Speedway Box Office or by calling (937) 338-3815.
About Eldora Speedway:
Since carved from a cornfield in the natural amphitheater that existed between the Eldora Ballroom and the Wabash River by bandleader Earl Baltes in 1954, Eldora Speedway has grown to be a frontrunner in motorsports growth and stability. Baltes chose to sell the legendary high-banked clay oval to motorsports entrepreneur and NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC champion Tony Stewart in 2004. Celebrating its 63rd season in 2016, Eldora hosts the biggest events in short-track racing including the 22nd annual Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Mowers; the 33rd annual Kings Royal Weekend; the fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on dirt – the Eldora Dirt Derby; the 47th annual World 100 and the 35th Four Crown Nationals Weekend. The complete schedule for Eldora’s 63rd consecutive season, including ticket and campsite information, is available at www.EldoraSpeedway.com and can be requested by phone at (937) 338-3815. Fans can get behind-the-scenes access of Eldora Speedway by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, hitting ‘Like’ at www.facebook.com/
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