WM: Irwindale preview

Californians Steve Paden of Downey, Josh Wise of Riverside and Jerome Rodela of El Monte are gearing up for this weekend's USAC "tripleheader" at the Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. Each has his sights set on the 2003 USAC Western Midget...

Californians Steve Paden of Downey, Josh Wise of Riverside and Jerome Rodela of El Monte are gearing up for this weekend's USAC "tripleheader" at the Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. Each has his sights set on the 2003 USAC Western Midget championship, with only 59 points separating the trio and 72 available at Irwindale.

None of the three were among the top-six in the two 25-lap races at Irwindale in April, but Wise has a pair of Western wins at Bakersfield to his credit this year, in addition to his spectacular win in the "Belleville Midget Nationals" at Belleville, Kans. Ironically, Bakersfield was the site of Paden and Rodela's best finishes yet this season as well, seconds for both.

A 30-lap feature awaits the Western Midget Cars Saturday on Irwindale's 1/2-mile paved oval, while the Western Sprint Cars will compete on the 1/2 and the USAC California Ford Focus Midget Cars will race on the 1/3-mile.

Tracy Hines and Michael Lewis were the feature winners when the USAC Midgets competed at Irwindale in April.

None of the top three in Western Midget points have ever won the title. Paden was seventh in 2001, Wise was second in 2001 and Rodela was third last year.

Ironically, the point-leading trio are all former series "Most Improved Driver" award winners. Paden and Wise shared the award in 2001 and Rodela was last year's recipient.

USAC WESTERN MIDGET CAR SERIES STANDINGS
1. Steve Paden 438
2. Josh Wise 393
3. Jerome Rodela 379
4. J.J. Yeley 334
5. Bobby East 329
6. Johnny Rodriguez 296
7. A.J. Fike 285
8. Tracy Hines 274
9. Van Knill 270
10. Wally Pankratz 270

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Series USAC
Drivers Michael Lewis , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Johnny Rodriguez , Bobby East , A.J. Fike , Steve Paden , Josh Wise , Wally Pankratz