News Racing

Illinois Farmer Creates Vintage IndyCar-Shaped Corn Maze

The Number 99 Belanger Special race car was carefully sculpted into 6.5 acres of corn.

Derrill Kregel is a career farmer living in the community of Lowell, Illinois. Every autumn, he also runs a local attraction called Kregel’s Pumpkin Patch. The patch’s centerpiece this year, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is a giant 6.5 acre corn maze based on a 1940’s IndyCar racer known as the Number 99 Belanger Special.

The 99 was owned by Illinois native Murell Belanger, and had a career through the late ’40s racing in the Indy series. The car gained fame after after winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1951 with driver Lee Wallard behind the wheel. Wallard was also the first to complete the 500-mile event in under four hours. During its racing years, the Belanger Special was stored and maintained in Lowell. After retirement, the car was donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum, where it still resides.

Belanger Special, pictured with driver Tony Bettenhausen in 1947, Getty

“Murell Belanger and his ’99’ are local legends. In fact, Murell owned a farm within view of our farm and he called it ‘The Mighty 80.’ I had this Idea to put it all together, and I contacted surviving family members John Belanger, and Donna Belanger Haniford. They both thought is was a great idea. We have been overwhelmed with the responses which include shouts out from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Bettenhausen family,” Kregel told The Drive in an e-mail.

Kregel also gave the Chicago Tribune some insight into how he carved the 99’s image into a field of cornstalks. Although corn mazes have been around for a long time, modern technology has allowed crop artists to create more complex pieces. The maze was initially designed using AutoCad software, then the corn seeds were planted in spring. The planters cross-referenced the maze’s design with GPS coordinates to ensure that the final product would be the exact image that Kregel was looking for.

For those interested in checking out the maze for themselves, Kregel’s Pumpkin Patch will officially open on Sept. 29, and runs through Halloween night. In addition to the corn maze, it features your typical fall festivities, like petting zoos and hay rides.