STEELE READY TO PUT PEDAL TO METAL IN USAC OPENER AT ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 18, 1999 -- Dave Steele is relaxed, confident and ready for the season-opening race of the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series on Jan. 23 at Walt...
STEELE READY TO PUT PEDAL TO METAL IN USAC OPENER AT ORLANDO
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 18, 1999 -- Dave Steele is relaxed, confident and ready for the season-opening race of the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series on Jan. 23 at Walt Disney World Speedway. He's ready to do his job on the track like any other race. But then again, Dave Steele is always ready. Never mind that Steele, a Tampa, Fla., native, is the local favorite. Forget about last year when he started fourth in this event only to be caught in an accident with teammate Kenny Irwin Jr. after only 15 laps. "We're coming into this race with the same attitude as last year," Steele said. "Because of the equipment Johnny Vance gives me I know we're more than capable of winning whenever we show up. I know a lot of my buddies will come over from Tampa, and I'd like to think I'm a hometown favorite, but I just plan to do my job. We're going there to win it." No pressure. Whether it's great equipment, a wealth of talent or plenty of both, there is good reason for Steele to have a positive attitude. As unpredictable as this series is, Steele always ranks as a race favorite on the pavement. And what a favorite he is. A graduate of the tough Florida sprint car circuit, he is comfortable with speed. In fact, he is the fastest driver in series history, an honor he holds after posting a record lap of 141.518 mph in qualifying at Gateway International Raceway in October 1998. He also scored two other poles last season, more than any other driver. Despite scoring a total of eight USAC sprint car wins before 1998, Steele was still chasing his first Silver Crown win when the series made its Disney debut last January. Despite his early bad luck, Steele doesn't let it bother him too much. "It was disappointing," Steele said. "We were just an innocent victim, and it was pretty bad that it took out my teammate also, but we can't worry about it." When it was finally time last year for Steele to fulfill his potential, he did it right. In June, he won the pole at Memphis Motorsports Park and went on to lead all 100 laps of the race. In typical low-key fashion, the experience didn't awe him too much. "It was good to get the first win," Steele said. "But we knew we were capable before that. We really had a shot to win two or three more races last year, but had some mechanical gremlins. The goal for this year is to be more consistent." And Walt Disney World Speedway is a challenging place to be consistent. The tricky one-mile tri-oval at Disney surprised more than a few drivers last year, and it promises to be tough again this year. "The track is quite a bit different than any of the tracks we're used to," Steele said. "There hasn't been any testing (for the USAC teams), so we'll just try to build on last year's race as far as our setup and focus on the job we have to do." Just 24, Steele is already one of the newest USAC racing stars, and he already ranks above the likes of Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti on the USAC sprint car win list. His head-turning performances during 1998 helped him secure a part-time ride in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League with Pennzoil Panther Racing team as a teammate to Scott Goodyear for the last two races of the season. Although he doesn't have a ride for the Indy Racing League's season opener the day after the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series race at Disney, Steele is still connected with Panther Racing and is typically positive about the situation. "I may spot for Scott Goodyear at Disney," Steele said. "As long as I'm a part of the team, that's all right for now." Whether or not he has a full-time Pep Boys Indy Racing League ride, don't expect Steele to sit around. The Disney race is just the beginning of a busy USAC racing season for him. As he did in 1998, he plans to run all the pavement races in the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series, the pavement events in sprint car and selected midget shows. It's a formula that worked in 1998. He was one of only three drivers to win in all three of USAC's national series last year, including the prestigious "Night Before the 500" midget race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He is also very happy with the recent USAC schedule expansion. The Coors Light Silver Bullet tour will include a record 15 events in 1999. The two added events are both on pavement, increasing the number of paved races to nine. "I'm very excited to see the schedule," Steele said. "Any pavement track they pick up makes me happy, and I feel like we can win every race." Until now, the title contenders didn't really need to worry about Steele too much. After all, he's just a pavement racer ...right? Well, Steele is playing with an idea that could very well put him on top at the end of the season, too. "I'd like to find a dirt ride so I could chase the points," Steele said. "I'd really like to go for the championship. I guess we'll see how things go after these first few races."