Leffler takes "Night Before the 500" win

The three team cars of USAC National Midget Series mogul Steve Lewis looked like they were headed to a 1-2-3 finish. Jason Leffler had other ideas. Leffler methodically picked off the Lewis-owned trio, bobbled, then did it again, and stormed to...

The three team cars of USAC National Midget Series mogul Steve Lewis looked like they were headed to a 1-2-3 finish. Jason Leffler had other ideas.

Leffler methodically picked off the Lewis-owned trio, bobbled, then did it again, and stormed to win the Night Before the 500 Classic at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Leffler, taking a break from his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule, won his second major USAC feature in as many nights, having also captured Friday night's Hoosier Hundred for Silver Crown cars at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Lewis, the California-based racing media entrepreneur, almost overshadows his own drivers. He likes to win USAC Midget races and spends big to do it. He had four nearly identical Beasts entered at IRP for Kasey Kahne, Bobby East, Dave Darland and J.J. Yeley, all stuffed with Ed Pink-built Ford power.

Three of them started: Yeley lost a motor in practice and switched to a borrowed ride for the 50-lap feature. By then, Leffler had muscled the Dino Tomassi-owned Beast with Gary Stanton Mopar power strongly enough to snatch quick time away from James Chesson.

Kahne jumped from the outside pole on the feature's green and outdragged polesitter Tracy Hines, leading until East dipped beneath him on lap four. Darland was third, and the Lewis stable led until Leffler, inverted to start sixth, began picking them off with power moves exiting turn two.

Leffler was out front by lap 22 but on a lap 30 restart, stumbled as the Lewis-own trail steamrollered by.

"Bobby (East) just got me on the restart," Leffler said. "I went to sleep, and then the ignition cut out but it came right back on."

Redemption came fast: Within six laps, Leffler was back on stride and had dispatched Darland, Kahne and East, in that order. At the finish, he led by a straightaway, trailed by Kahne, Chesson, East and Darland.

"This is one of the very few big Midget races I haven't won yet. I really wanted to win this," said Leffler, whose resume includes three USAC Midget and one Silver Crown championship, an Indianapolis 500 start and a NASCAR Winston Cup stint with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kahne, stymied in his bid for a third straight IRP Midget win, summed up the night with brevity.

"It's nice to come drive a car for Steve Lewis," he said. "Leffler was fast, real fast."

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Series USAC
Drivers Jason Leffler , Kasey Kahne , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , James Chesson , Tracy Hines , Bobby East
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing