Phoenix: Season opener preview

Steele Back To Begin New Streak at Copper World Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla. returns to the Jan. 29-30 "Copper World Classic" as not only the reigning USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Driving Champion, but also as the reigning Copper...

Steele Back To Begin New Streak at Copper World

Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla. returns to the Jan. 29-30 "Copper World Classic" as not only the reigning USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Driving Champion, but also as the reigning Copper World Champion, having won last year's 100-mile Silver Crown race at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway.

Steele kicked off his title season in 2004 by leading the first 290 laps of competition, which included a wire-to-wire victory at PIR. That established an all-time series record, breaking the former record of Mario Andretti, who led 252 consecutive Silver Crown laps in 1974.

Steele also holds the two key PIR Silver Crown speed records, winning last year's pole position at 142.197 mph and last year's 100-mile race at an average speed of 105.760. To date, Steele has won 16 Silver Crown poles, which ranks second to Jimmy Sills' 21 on the all-time Silver Crown list, including six of the last seven at PIR.

This weekend's 28th Annual "Copper World Classic" features not only the "Fast Signs Southwest 100" Weld Racing Silver Crown feature, but the "Fast Signs Southwest 25" USAC National/Western Midget Car 25-mile feature and two NASCAR stock car races, all on Sunday, following prelims on Saturday at the Desert Mile.

Saturday's timetable includes USAC practice between 8:30 and 11:30 am and USAC qualifying starting at 3:05 pm. A 15-mile Weld Racing Silver Crown "qualifying race" is the final track activity Saturday. On Sunday, the USAC warm-up sessions begin at 9:30 am. The USAC "Fast Signs Southwest 25" National/Western Midget race gets the green flag at noon, followed by a 75-lap NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race, the "Fast Signs Southwest 100" USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown race and finally the NASCAR Grand National Division, West 100-miler.

Steele has won the past three "Copper World" Silver Crown races in a row. He will face not only the challenges of established series regulars like former champions Paul White of Temple, Texas, Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. and Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., but newcomers like Kraig Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., the 2004 World of Outlaws "Rookie of the Year," plus seasoned veterans Jimmy Kite, Chet Fillip, P.J. Jones and Tyler Walker, who strung together three consecutive victories late in the 2004 Silver Crown campaign.

Silver Crown "Rookie of the Year" Aaron Pierce of Muncie, Ind. and Most Improved Driver Bud Kaeding of Campbell, Calif. are also expected to be among top challengers, along with USAC Triple Crown Champion Champion J.J. Yeley and 2004 USAC National Champions Bobby East (Midgets) and Jay Drake (Sprint Cars).

Eric Crocker of Wilbraham, Mass., who became the first lady driver to win a World of Outlaws preliminary feature in 2004, is also entered.

--USAC--

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Series USAC
Drivers Jimmy Kite , Mario Andretti , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Bud Kaeding , P.J. Jones , Bobby East , Chet Fillip , Paul White , Aaron Pierce , Kraig Kinser , Jimmy Sills