TYLER, LEFFLER WIN AT COPPER WORLD CLASSIC Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers capture USAC races PHOENIX, Feb. 8, 1999 - Pep Boys Indy Racing League young guns Brian Tyler and Jason Leffler returned to their USAC roots to win the Coors ...
TYLER, LEFFLER WIN AT COPPER WORLD CLASSIC Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers capture USAC races
PHOENIX, Feb. 8, 1999 - Pep Boys Indy Racing League young guns Brian Tyler and Jason Leffler returned to their USAC roots to win the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series and MCI WorldCom Midget features, respectively, at the U.S. Tobacco Co. Copper World Classic on Feb. 7 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Two-time USAC sprint champion Tyler edged Ryan Newman in the Silver Bullet feature. The two drivers were glued together for nearly the entire 50-lap race, with Tyler prevailing for a two-car length victory at an average speed of 114.435 mph. Tyler and Newman swapped the lead four times before Tyler took the lead for good on Lap 43.
"It was wild," said Tyler, 31. "When you're running with drivers you trust, it's fun to race wheel-to-wheel. At first, the motor was missing. That actually helped in the corners because I couldn't bust the tires loose. But it also made it slow on the straights.
"This is a good start for us. Nothing is definite for the Phoenix IRL race yet, but there are a few maybes."
Tyler is seeking a ride for the MCI WorldCom 200, the second race of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League season, on March 28 on the 1-mile oval at PIR. He opened his second league season with a 14th-place finish in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 on Jan. 24 at Orlando, Fla., driving for Truscelli Team Racing. Rookie Greg Gorden, the team's regular driver, is scheduled to be in the cockpit at Phoenix.
Defending Silver Bullet Series national champion Leffler finished third behind Tyler and Newman in the feature. Fellow Pep Boys IRL driver Dave Steele finished fourth but took the lead in the point standings with 115. Other Pep Boys Indy Racing League veterans finishing the feature included Stevie Reeves (11th), J.J. Yeley (12th) and Jack Hewitt (14th).
Leffler prevailed over Newman in the MCI WorldCom Midget feature, which had a striking resemblance to the stirring Silver Bullet Series race. Leffler and Newman swapped the lead four times between Laps 13-24 of the 25-lap feature, with Leffler taking the lead for good on Lap 24.
But Newman nearly pulled even with Leffler on the same lap, but his charge ended when he tapped the rear of Leffler's car.
"I was the first loser two times in a row," said Newman, 21, who started his Indy Racing League driver's test in December.
Said Leffler, 23: "(Newman's) a smart driver. He wanted to finish, and I wanted to finish. He would have had to hit me pretty good to get me out of there, but it would have gotten him out of there, too."
Steele finished third. Other Pep Boys Indy Racing League veterans finishing the midget feature were Andy Michner (seventh) and Davey Hamilton (24th). Leffler took the series points lead in his quest for a third consecutive USAC national midget championship. He won the Silver Bullet and midget championships in 1998 and signed a testing contract with Treadway Racing. Leffler finished 28th in his Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut with Treadway last month at Orlando.
Hamilton started last in the WSMRA supermodified feature but worked his way up to third when the race was halted on Lap 16 due to an accident. But race officials sent Hamilton and Troy Regier to the back of the lead lap for the restart, ruling they entered the pits too early.
Hamilton climbed through the field to finish fifth. Regier rallied for his second consecutive Copper World Classic victory.