M: Series Ocala spotlight - Jones, Gardner

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JONES, GARDNER RENEW RIVALRY NEXT WEEK AS AMSOIL SPRINTS KICK OFF 2011 AT OCALA SPEEDWAY

Defending AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Champion Levi Jones of Olney, Ill. opens his quest for a record fifth series championship Feb. 17-19 at Ocala (Fla.) Speedway in the second annual "Bubba Army Sprint Nationals."

Jones, whose four series titles (2005, 2007, 2009-1010) matched Steve Butler's feat (1986-87-88-90), nosed out Damion Gardner of Concord, Calif. by 132 points for last year's National crown. Gardner, however, was the 2010 star of the "Bubba Army Sprint Nationals," winning both feature events at East Bay Raceway.

While Jones pilots a #20 Bass Pro Shops car entered by NASCAR and USAC veteran Tony Stewart, Gardner will compete in his familiar Pace Lighting #71. Last year Jones finished fifth and seventh in the two Florida openers, while Gardner led all 30 laps both nights.

The 2011 series will be contested entirely on dirt, as opposed to the dirt-pavement series conducted in 2010. On the dirt last year, Jones outpointed Gardner by 179. All eight of Jones' victories came on dirt and all five of Gardner's also came on the dirt.

Jones and Gardner will have to turn back challenges from some of the nation's top dirt-track pilots in the three nights of racing at the 3/8-mile dirt oval. Indiana Sprint Week Champion Jon Stanbrough, 2010 USAC National Drivers Champion Bryan Clauson and USAC Triple Crown Champion Jerry Coons Jr. are expected to be among drivers competing in the Feb. 17-19 races. Coons will be trying to extend the all-time career mark for USAC National Sprint car victories set by his team, Hoffman Auto Racing of Milford, Ohio. The Hoffman's have 76 wins to their credit, dating all the way back to 1961.

Race fans will be treated to a pre-race party on Wednesday night, Feb. 16, at Ker's Wing House in Ocala and Saturday night's entertainment package at Ocala Speedway includes a performance by the rock band Red Society.

-source: usac

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Series USAC