Stan Kalwasinski photo
By: Eric Huenefeld
This weekend marks the 39th running of the Spring Classic and the 37th consecutive year it has been hosted at Rockford Speedway. For the 12th consecutive year, the Big 8 Late Model Series opens its season at Rockford’s high-banked quarter mile. With the “Midwest’s Traditional First Big Race” on the horizon, let’s look at some of the unique facts and figures that relate to this weekend’s race and the event’s glorious history.
1 – Only one driver has won multiple Big 8 Spring Classic races and that driver is Mike Beyer, who won the first two back in 2005 and 2006. Beyer also holds the distinction of winning the first ever Big 8 Late Model Series points race at the 2005 Spring Classic.
3- The number of tracks which have hosted Spring Classic through the years. The tradition began on April 30 1978 at Grundy County Speedway (Morris, IL) with Dick Trickle capturing the 100 lap feature event, besting Indiana racer Dennis Nyari. Then, on April 8 1979, it was Tom Reffner outlasting Trickle for the win at Madison International Speedway (Oregon, WI). The race at Madison was 50 laps in distance. Spring Classic moved to Rockford Speedway for good in April of 1980.
4- The number of former Big 8 Late Model Series champions entered for this weekend’s Spring Classic. Leading the list is Jeremy Miller, a four-time Series champion, who is looking to win his first Spring Classic Sunday. Casey Johnson, a two-time Big 8 Series champion, reigning Series champion Michael Bilderback and 2005 Big 8 Series champion Jon Reynolds Jr are also entered for the 39th edition of Spring Classic.
5- The number of former Spring Classic champions in this year’s field. Reynolds is the most recent event winner entered Sunday, having won in 2012. Cambridge Wisconsin’s Dale Nottestad returns to Rockford and looks to repeat his 2011 Spring Classic victory. Casey Johnson won his only Spring Classic back in 2010, while Michael Bilderback became the youngest Spring Classic winner ever in 2008 at the age of 16. Western Wisconsin racer Mike Ehde captured his only Big 8 Series win at Spring Classic in 2007.
6- The number of Spring Classics won by Steve Carlson, the most of any driver. Not only is Carlson considered ‘King of the Short Tracks,’ but for a while it seemed he was at least a partial owner of Rockford Speedway! Carlson won his six Spring Classic’s over a span of seven years (1998-2004) and is also an 8-time winner of the National Short Track Championship at Rockford Speedway.
8- The number of drivers who have won Spring Classic multiple times. As mentioned above, Steve Carlson has won more Spring Classics than anyone else. And, as is usually the case, any list with Steve Carlson also tends to involve Joe Shear and Dick Trickle. Both Trickle and Shear won four Spring Classics. In fact, from 1981-1989, Trickle and Shear won seven of nine Spring Classics (Al Schill won the other two Spring Classics in that time frame; 1982 & 1985). Scott Hansen, Kevin Cywinski, Steve Rubeck and Mike Beyer have all won two Spring Classics.
40- The number of Big 8 Series wins represented in this year’s Spring Classic field, an all-time series high for any single event. To put it in a different perspective, the Series has run 90 races since September of 2004. This means that the drivers entered in Sunday’s Spring Classic have won 44% of all Big 8 Series events. Four of the five winningest Big 8 Series drivers will be at Spring Classic: Jon Reynolds Jr (11 wins, all-time Series leader), Jeremy Miller (10 wins), Casey Johnson (8 wins) and Dale Nottestad (6 wins). Reigning Series champion Michael Bilderback is a four-time Series winner while Mike Ehde won his only Big 8 Series race by holding off Jeremy Miller at the 2007 Spring Classic.
45- The number of Track and Series championships represented in this year’s Spring Classic field. The following drivers have won Season Championships at either their home track or with a Series (or in some cases, they’ve won both): Michael Bilderback, Casey Johnson, Jeremy Miller, Jon Reynolds Jr, Mike Ehde, Lyle Nowak, Jake Gille, Dale Nottestad, Rich Schumann Jr, J Herbst and Wayne Freimund.
88- Number of laps which will be run in Sunday’s main event for the Big 8 Late Model Series. Sunday marks the third time a Spring Classic feature will go 88 laps. From 1980-1990, Spring Classic feature distances matched the number of the year they were contested, meaning the 1980 race was 80 laps, 1981 was 81 laps and so on.
150- In thirty-six previous seasons, the event has run at a distance of 150 laps eleven times. A 150-lap Spring Classic was contested from 1991-1998 and from 2005-2007. The race has also run at distances of 250 laps (2001-2004), 200 laps (1999-2000), 108 laps (2008, 2010-2013), 88 laps (1988, 2015, 2016) 58 laps (2005-2007) and 80-89 laps in the years of 1980 through 1989.
1980- The first year Spring Classic was held at Rockford Speedway, on Sunday afternoon April 13. The late, great Wisconsin racer Larry Detjens captured that 80 lapper, topping Joe Shear and Dick Trickle for the honors. 33 men attempted to qualify for the 20-car feature that day, including Mark Martin, Bill Venturini, Bobby Dotter, Dave Weltmeyer and Tom Reffner.
The 39th Annual Spring Classic is set for this Sunday afternoon April 17 at Rockford Speedway (9572 Forest Hills Road, Loves Park IL). Spectator Gates open at 11 AM, with Qualifications set to begin at 11:30 and the first green flag at 1 PM. The afternoon racing card includes the Big 8 Late Model Series, the Quest Industrial Mid American Stock Car Series and the American Ethanol Super Trucks. Adult admission is $20, Students (with a valid Student ID) are $10, while Children ages 6-11 are $5 and Kids 5 & under are FREE!
For more information, please visit rockfordspeedway.com, big8series.com or please call 815-633-1500.