Kaeding wins Tulsa, Yeley clinches championship

Kaeding wins Tulsa, Yeley clinches championship

While J.J. Yeley clinched his second consecutive series championship with a runner-up showing, California's Bud Kaeding stole the spotlight by scoring his first career USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series triumph in Sunday's shortened O'Reilly...

While J.J. Yeley clinched his second consecutive series championship with a runner-up showing, California's Bud Kaeding stole the spotlight by scoring his first career USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series triumph in Sunday's shortened O'Reilly Tulsa "100" at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Motorplex.

O'Reilly Tulsa 100 winner Bud Kaeding is flanked by runner-up J.J. Yeley (left) and Tyler Walker (right) after winning Sunday's USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown event.
Photo by Lonnie Wheatley.
Originally slated for 100 laps, USAC officials declared Sunday's event complete with 77 laps in the books due to track conditions. With driver safety in mind on the ?-mile dirt surface made rough by eleven inches of rain as the base was being laid over the past week, officials declared the race official 23 rounds short of the scheduled distance.

After kicking off the day by establishing a new track record of 24.921 seconds aboard the Ford-powered EMP Stewart Components Beast, Yeley led the O'Reilly Tulsa "100" field to the green flag with Tyler Walker alongside and Zarounian Motorsports teammates Kaeding and Aaron Fike in the second row.

Walker took command in the opening two corners as Yeley slid high, with Kaeding quickly moving into second. In what would become the theme of the race, Walker, Kaeding and Yeley began slipping away from the rest of the field just three rounds into the race.

The trio diced for position in the opening rounds, with Kaeding slipping past Walker for the lead on the eighth round as the pair battled through lapped traffic down the backstretch. The race's first caution would appear two rounds later when Donny Schatz spun exiting turn four.

When action resumed on lap 19, Kaeding held Walker off for the point, while tenth starter Teddy Beach entered the mix for the lead by racing past Yeley for third. Yeley would regain the position two rounds later, with Beach's strong run coming to an end soon after with a flat right rear tire on the 24th lap. Moments later, Jason McCord tagged the turn one wall, bringing out the caution.

Back underway on lap 31, Walker stalked Kaeding for several laps then pulled alongside in turn two on the 36th round. Kaeding successfully fended off the challenge then began to stretch his lead as heavy lapped traffic came into play on the 39th circuit.

As Kaeding masterfully worked through slower traffic, Yeley darted past Walker for the runner-up slot on the 41st round. Kaeding had just cleared a pack of cars on the 45th round, when the caution appeared for Dane Carter's stalled mount in turn two.

The red flag would fly eight laps later, with 53 rounds in the books, when ruts in turns two and four were deemed too dangerous. After a brief stoppage for track repairs, action resumed with Kaeding leading the way in front of Yeley, Walker, Fike, Paul White, Tracy Hines, Jay Drake and Russ Gamester.

Back under the green flag, Kaeding took off only to see the caution fly again three rounds later when Larry Neighbors slowed with a cut right rear tire.

On the ensuing restart, Walker raced past Yeley for second in turns one and two and set his sights on Kaeding. Walker shadowed Kaeding's every move with Yeley stalking the pair until heavy lapped traffic came into play once again on the 69th round.

Kaeding once again sliced through traffic perfectly, separating himself from Walker and Yeley, with Yeley regaining second on the 71st lap.

Kaeding held nearly a half straightaway advantage aboard the Wesmar-powered Kwik Change Stanton when race officials elected to throw the yellow after 75 laps. Officials declared the race complete two rounds later, giving Kaeding his first series triumph in front of a large Tulsa crowd.

With his second place finish, Yeley clinched the USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series championship by extending his point lead to 72 markers over Dave Darland. Walker matched his series best finish by snaring the show position aboard the Gaerte-powered RE Technologies Curb-Agajanian Drinan.

Fike ran strong throughout, posting a fourth place finish, with Hines rounding out the top five. 2001 series champion White settled for sixth after battling among the top five most of the day, with Drake taking the checkered flag in seventh. Matt Westfall claimed eighth, with 17th-starter Gamester and Darland completing the top ten.

Mike Hess, in his second USAC Silver Crown event, outdueled Roger Rager to top the 15-lap Qualifying Race. Hess then raced from 21st to claim 12th in the O'Reilly Tulsa "100".

Randy Bateman's day came to an early end after hard contact with the turn one wall in hot laps. While Bateman's mount suffered significant damage, Bateman was uninjured.

-Lonnie Wheatley

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