Dave Steele captures second straight Copper World Classic

Dave Steele captures second straight Copper World Classic

Phoenix, AZ, March 23, 2003 - Dave Steele won his second consecutive USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series Copper World Classic. Starting from the pole, he led 85 of the 100 laps. Despite leading the lion's share of the race, it was not a...

Phoenix, AZ, March 23, 2003 - Dave Steele won his second consecutive USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series Copper World Classic. Starting from the pole, he led 85 of the 100 laps. Despite leading the lion's share of the race, it was not a runaway. He rarely held a lead of more than a fraction of a second over outside pole sitter J.J. Yeley, third quick qualifier Tracy Hines, and Ed Carpenter, who started 13th but carved his way up to the leaders. Each of those three took turns plaguing Dave on his way to victory.

Dave Steele on victory lane.
Photo by Kenneth Plotkin.
"We had a great car," Steele said. "We were good from the get-go, but I thought that was all that we had. These guys made me run a hard as I could. My guy was on the radio saying that they were right there, and a couple of times I saw Tracy's nose there. At the beginning, Yeley and I were dicing it up really good, so I knew they were right there. Before Tracy showed his nose, I thought I had a cushion, but obviously I didn't, so I had to run a little harder."

Today's race was virtually a sprint for the whole distance. There was no wait-and-see period of conserving tires and adapting to the weight change as fuel burned off. "It seems like year after year the pace to stay up front gets a lot harder and harder," Dave noted. "There's not much holding back, trying to keep your car underneath you."

Steele's work began on the start, when Yeley outgunned him and led the first two laps. Steele squeezed by to retake the lead by the third lap. During the first third of the race, it was a Steele-Yeley show as they challenged each other either while running at speed, or trying to get the drop on restarts from three yellow flag periods. Steel and Yeley each led about half of the first third of the race.

After the early yellows were done, Steele led a three car freight train that pulled away from the rest of the field. For most of the 50 lap green flag run Steele, Hines and Ed Carpenter ran nose-to-tail, pulling away from a second pack led by Yeley and Darland. Ed Carpenter had capitalized on the early restarts - and his aggressive driving style - to join the lead pack. By Lap 73, he finally got past Hines for second place. The three cars could have been covered by a blanked most of the time.

A fourth - and final - yellow came on Lap 82, when P.J. Jones blew his engine on the front stretch. That moved the group led by Darland and Yeley onto the tail of the leading trio.

When the green waved on Lap 93, Ed Carpenter's tires finally succumbed to the stress of moving him up twelve places. One went flat, dropping him out of the picture and moving Hines back up to second place. Nobody flinched during the final dash, and Steele, Hines and Darland finished in that order.

J.J. Yeley.
Photo by Kenneth Plotkin.

Hines was pleased with the power plant that brought him second place. "The car was good. It was the first time we had the Mopar engine in there, and it ran extremely well. We're pretty happy with it. They built us a new one, and it's actually sitting in my spare car. I didn't like the car I used last year, so I brought my old car,which is a 1998 chassis."

While the engine carried him to the front, Hines said that being unable to stop kept him out of the lead. "I think my only fault was that I put my older brakes on the car. Even if I could get a run on David down the straightaway, there was no way I was going to get him in the corner. I couldn't stop, and I didn't want to crash it. Second is better than crashing and taking us both out. It's good for the Indiana Underground team, and hopefully we can go after our second championship this year."

USAC triple-crown winner Dave Darland had a good drive to third place, handling almost everyone along the way. "We had a good run. Bob Hoerner is the car owner, and a couple of guys on the crew did a great job for me today. We had a good start, starting in eighth place. I got up to fifth on the start, before the first lap was over with, and pretty much ran there for a while. I passed Jay Drake, and then Ed Carpenter went past me. He was the only one that passed me the entire time, and that was the only position I lost during the race. Right now the car that I am driving is sponsorless, and I plan on driving it for the entire year. We're looking for a sponsor. But I'm happy with our result so far, and hopefully we can keep it up all year."

Early leader J.J. Yeley finished his day in fourth place, behind Darland. He was followed by Chet Fillip and Jay Drake in fifth and sixth place. Fourteen cars - almost half the starting field - were on the lead lap at the end, with Stockbridge, Georgia's Jimmy Kite putting in a solid run for the full distance and finishing 14th. Ed Carpenter, who put on a great show moving up to the lead pack, was credited with 19th place when the flat tire ended his run at 93 laps.

The next Silver Crown Series race will be at Indianapolis Raceway Park on May 10th.

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