2002 season review, Phoenix first race

The opening race in the 2002 Weld Racing USAC Silver Crown Series will be the 250th event in a 32-year history of championship racing which continues to showcase the foundation of major American motorsports. Featuring cars of the same basic...

The opening race in the 2002 Weld Racing USAC Silver Crown Series will be the 250th event in a 32-year history of championship racing which continues to showcase the foundation of major American motorsports.

Featuring cars of the same basic design as those which formed the foundation of National Championship racing from day one, the Weld Racing USAC Silver Crown Series opens as part of Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway's 25th Annual "Copper World Indy 200" weekend March 14-17. The Sunday 100-mile race climaxes Silver Crown activities, which begin with practice on Thursday and Friday and continue with qualifications on Saturday. Sharing the "Copper World" spotlight are the Indy Racing League, USAC National/Western Midget Cars and SRL Supermodifieds.

The Phoenix opener offered a record series purse of $110,840 last year and served as a springboard for Texan Paul White's initial USAC driving title as he beat Dave Steele and Dane Carter to claim the $22,701 winner's share.

This year's event, the "Little Trees" 100, offers a number of interesting story lines, from an assault on the series' ultimate qualifying record to attempts to begin the ultimate USAC challenge - a possible "triple crown" driving championship.

A number of drivers appear poised to threaten Tony Stewart's sole claim to the single-season "triple crown" - winning the USAC Silver Crown, Sprint Car and National Midget titles. Stewart, last year's NASCAR Winston Cup runner-up and a former "Copper World" Silver Crown and Midget Champion, won all three USAC National titles in 1995. Only Pancho Carter and Dave Darland can also claim all three USAC titles during a career!

Darland nearly won two of the three in 2001, winning the Midget crown but losing the Sprint title due to a late-season injury. J.J. Yeley, who out-pointed all other USAC National drivers in 2001 feature events, is also a strong candidate for the "triple crown," along with former USAC Silver Crown Champion Tracy Hines.

Drivers will not only be aiming at Jason Leffler's PIR track qualifying mark of 140.806 mph., but Dave Steele's series mark of 143.967 mph set last year at Madison, Ill.

Other Silver Crown record holders since the series' inception in 1971 include Jack Hewitt (23 wins and 161 starts), Jimmy Sills (1,510 laps led and 21 poles), Chevrolet (222 victories for an engine manufacturer) and Beast (80 wins as a chassis manufacturer).

Phoenix International Raceway has hosted 95 USAC events since its debut in 1964, including 15 for Silver Crown cars and 19 for Midgets. A.J. Foyt remains the winningest USAC driver at the 1-mile oval, with five victories.

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Dane Carter , Paul White , Pancho Carter , Jimmy Sills , A.J. Foyt