WM: J.J. Yeley wins at Phoenix

J.J. Yeley won the 27th Copper World Classic USAC National/Western Midget Car Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. He took the lead for good passing Dave Steele on the front stretch as the white flag flew. Bobby East finished third, ...

J.J. Yeley won the 27th Copper World Classic USAC National/Western Midget Car Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. He took the lead for good passing Dave Steele on the front stretch as the white flag flew. Bobby East finished third, having spent the 25 laps dogging the leading pair and trying to gain advantage.

"That last lap," J.J. recounted, "coming almost wide open all the way through 3 and 4 on the outside. I was so pumped up on that front straight I stuck my hand out and kind of waved to him as I was going by, hoping he wasn't going to come back by me at the end."

Steele enjoyed the close racing as well.

"It's a blast when you race that hard and you trust the guy you're racing against," Dave said after the race. "It's fun. It would be a lot more fun if we had finished first, but it was a good race. Hats off to both of these guys. As close as we were running - you can't run like that with everybody out here. Everybody was doing a little defensive driving at one time or another."

Third place finisher Bobby East was wheel to wheel with the pair ahead of him, but never got the advantage. Nor did he look behind.

"We were real good the first 15 laps before the red," Bobby said.  "I was
pretty much trying to get by Dave every lap.  After the red, we were still
pretty good, but I don't think we had enough for it."  Of fourth place Tracy
Hines, just as close on his tail,  "I didn't know he was back there."

The race began with Yeley besting pole sitter Steele into the lead on the start. The quartet of Yeley, Steele, East and Hines dominated the event, breaking away from the rest of the pack after a half a dozen laps. On every lap, each tested the others high and low, but never made it stick. Steele came close on the low side several times.

On the 15th lap, Steele got a run on Yeley entering Turn 3, and emerged onto the front stretch in front. Before they crossed the finish line, the yellow came out for a car slowing on the backstretch. A multi-car bunch-up after the yellow left several cars damaged and Teddy Beach on his side, bringing out the red flag. Once the track was clear, the event became a 10-lap shootout, J.J. again at the front.

On the restart, Steele came down the front stretch inside Yeley, but didn't make it stick. Behind them, two cars tangled in Turn 1, bringing the yellow and giving Steele another chance. That time the two cars ran side by side for almost a full lap, with Steele taking the lead as they came out of Turn 4.

Now it was Yeley's turn to chase. As they approached the white flag, he passed Steele around the outside and held on for the lead.

The red flag had actually played to Yeley's advantage.

"It was awesome," he said of his run after the red. "Before the red flag the car got just a little bit loose, and I was trying to take it easy on my tires. Dave was still pretty good and got by me. It's just a tribute to the team - they're always prepared. They changed the tire, and it made all the difference in the world. If I drove it easy like I had been, it got to pushing. That's how Dave got by me. I put my elbows up and just dirt tracked it a little bit. It was an awesome machine.

This is J.J.'s first win at Phoenix. "I've been coming to this place for far too long," he said. "It's just awesome to be on the back of the tee shirt next year."

His next stop? The Irwindale Twin 25s next week. "To do a little more midget racing, and have some more fun."

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About this article
Series USAC
Drivers J.J. Yeley , Dave Steele , Bobby East , Teddy Beach