WM: Phoenix season opener preview

MIDGETS OPEN 2006 CALENDAR AT PHOENIX The 2006 USAC National and Western Midget Car Series debut this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway as part of the track's 29th "Copper World Classic." The event also features the USAC ...

MIDGETS OPEN 2006 CALENDAR AT PHOENIX

The 2006 USAC National and Western Midget Car Series debut this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway as part of the track's 29th "Copper World Classic." The event also features the USAC Silver Crown Championship Series, plus NASCAR Autolite Elite Division SW Series and NASCAR Grand National Division West Series competition.

The "FastSigns 25" kicks off both the National and Western USAC Midget campaigns and offers 25 miles of racing on PIR's fast 1-mile paved oval. Qualifications are slated for Saturday between 3:05 and 4:30 pm following morning practice. Sunday's 25-mile Midget feature gets the green flag at noon, the first of four feature events. A Sunday morning warmup is also on tap between 9:30 and 10:30 am.

Arizona's J.J. Yeley won last year's "Copper World" Midget 25-miler but Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla. holds the 1-lap track qualifying record of 138.201 mph, established during qualifications for the 2004 "Copper World" event. Dan Drinan of Indianapolis, Ind. is the holder of the 25-mile track record of 111.379 mph, set in 1995.

Steele and Dave Darland will team as drivers for Nine Racing, Inc., who captured last year's "Copper World Classic" feature with Yeley at the wheel. Steele has won the last four USAC Silver Crown races at Phoenix and in 2002 won the Midget race. Despite having won most of America's premier Midget events, USAC Triple Crown Champion Darland continues to search for his initial "Copper World" triumph. Nine Racing, Inc. will campaign this season with Toyota powerplants.

Former "Copper World" Champion Michael Lewis (2002) is also entered at Phoenix, along with defending USAC National Midget Champion Josh Wise, 2005 USAC Regional Midget Champion Brad Kuhn, former USAC Midget Champions Bobby East (National) and Johnny Rodriguez (Western), plus 2005 USAC National Sprint Car king Levi Jones and National Sprint and Midget "Rookie of the Year" Darren Hagen.

Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., the 2005 Belleville Midget National Champion, is also entered, as is former USAC Silver Crown and Sprint Car Champion Tracy Hines.

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Series USAC
Drivers Michael Lewis , Brad Kuhn , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Johnny Rodriguez , Bobby East , Dan Drinan , Levi Jones , Josh Wise , Darren Hagen , Jerry Coons Jr.