CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2003) - Heading into the Oct. 8 Charlotte Dirt Doubleheader Nationals at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway, J.J. Yeley has won a record 22 races this season in United States Auto Club-sanctioned sprint car, ...
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2003) - Heading into the Oct. 8 Charlotte Dirt Doubleheader Nationals at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway, J.J. Yeley has won a record 22 races this season in United States Auto Club-sanctioned sprint car, midget and Silver Crown competition.
When he notched his 20th victory last month in Belleville, Kan., Yeley broke the all-time single-season USAC mark originally established in 1961 by racing legend A.J. Foyt. Jay Drake and Ron "Sleepy" Tripp also won 19 races in a season-Drake doing it in 2000 and Tripp in 1988.
"All of the USAC series are so tough," said the Arizona native who now resides in Indianapolis. "I'm having a dream season and to break a record of Foyt's is a great honor."
The USAC sprint car portion of the Charlotte Dirt Doubleheader Nationals is the season finale for the Indiana-based series, and Yeley will likely be crowned champion for the second time in three seasons.
It would be the second of three titles he could win this year. Yeley has already clinched his second consecutive USAC Silver Crown title and also leads the midget series point standings.
The only driver to win all three championships in the same season is defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who owns the No. 20 Mopar-sponsored sprint car Yeley will drive in the Charlotte Dirt Doubleheader Nationals.
Stewart is quite impressed by his 26-year-old driver. "There really haven't been many drivers of J.J.'s caliber who can go out in three different divisions and reach such a milestone," Stewart said. "He has three good race teams to drive for and he's got a lot of talent. You can have the three best cars in three different series, but still not get the job done if you don't know what to do behind the wheel."
While many drivers don't like to see their records broken, Stewart would love for Yeley to join him as the only drivers to have won all three USAC titles in the same season.
"I'd love to share that record with him, especially from the standpoint of being able to be a part of it with him as a car owner in two of the three series," Stewart said. "Nothing would make me prouder than for him to tie my record and be beside me in the record books."
Having already tried the Indy Racing League, Yeley now has his eyes on a NASCAR career. While he has not yet signed with a NASCAR team for next season, Yeley has been the subject of great interest among team owners.
"I'm sure Tony has helped and can help even more, but at this point I would rather make it on my own versus someone pulling strings to get me in," Yeley said about a possible venture into NASCAR. "It would be a lot more satisfying to do it on my own.
"If I had my way, I would like for this to be my last full season with USAC," he continued. "There's a lot of talk, but from my past experience, you can't always take that to the bank. All I can do is go out and win as many races as I can."
Yeley is the son of seven-time Arizona midget champion "Cactus" Jack Yeley. The younger Yeley got his start much in the same manner of many of today's NASCAR stars, racing go-karts. He started at age 10 and was driving full midgets by the time he turned 14.
In 1992, Yeley became the youngest driver to earn a USAC license at age 16 and two years later was racing regularly with the California-based Sprint Car Racing Association. That same year, he earned the National Sprint Car Rookie-of-the-Year award and the following season he became the youngest driver to win an SCRA feature.
Yeley then made the difficult decision to move to Indianapolis and race with USAC. "It was a really big risk for us," said Yeley, who was driving for his father at the time. "We had really good equipment, but we didn't have the best equipment. We didn't have a lot of money. It placed a big load on me because every time we went to the race track we needed to go to the pay window to be able to pay the bills."
The USAC record books will forever show that Yeley has been doing slightly more than just paying the bills. Tickets for the Charlotte Dirt Doubleheader Nationals, featuring the USAC sprint cars and the O'Reilly Southern All Star Racing Series late models, start at just $15 and are available online at www.lowesmotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.