J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz. stands on the threshold of one of USAC's most significant all-time records. In 48 years of racing only four drivers have earned 19 feature victories in a single season. Yeley is now one of them after his victory in Friday night's "Larry Rice Classic" Sprint Car race at the Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway. He drove the Tony Stewart Racing Twister/Mopar to the 30-lap triumph.
Yeley's 19th victory of 2003 tied the all-time USAC single-season mark set in 1961 by A.J. Foyt and tied in 1988 by Sleepy Tripp and 2000 by Jay Drake.
All of Foyt's 19 victories in 1961 came in "national" events. He won four Championship race, six in Sprints and nine in Midgets. In 1988 Sleepy Tripp won 19 Western Midget races, two of which also carried "national" sanction. In 2000 Drake won one Silver Crown race, 10 in Sprint Cars and six in National Midgets, plus one each additional in Dirt Regional Midgets and TQ Midgets.
Yeley's victory at Bloomington was his 11th in the USAC Sprint Car series this year. Tom Bigelow holds the single-season Sprint Car victory record of 14, established in 1977.
Yeley's first opportunity to set a new all-time mark ended in a second-place finish at Terre Haute, Ind. Saturday night. His next chance comes this Wednesday night in the "Bosma 50" Midget Car race at the Anderson (Ind.) Speedway. He also is expected to compete in Thursday night's "J.D. Byrider 100" Weld Racing Silver Crown race at Indianapolis Raceway Park and Saturday night's USAC Sprint/Midget "doubleheader" at the Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway.
So far this season Yeley has won three Weld Racing Silver Crown races in the Stewart/East Enterprises Ford/Power Stroke Diesel Beast/Ford, five Midget races in the Steve Lewis ASE/Ford Beast/Pink Ford and 11 Sprint races in the Tony Stewart Racing Twister/Mopar.
Yeley is also battling Tracy Hines for USAC "Triple Crown" status, each needing a National Midget title to become only the fourth driver to win all three USAC National titles during a career. The others are Tony Stewart, Dave Darland and Pancho Carter. Yeley currently leads all three National point standings and could possibly repeat Stewart's unique 1995 feat of winning all three in the same season.