2003 season preview

ASCS combines rich blend of experience & youth. Lonnie Wheatley, ASCS - TULSA, Okla. (March 4, 2003) - As the initial green flag is poised to unfurl soon on the twelfth year of racing action for the ultra-competitive American Sprint Car Series,...

ASCS combines rich blend of experience & youth.

Lonnie Wheatley, ASCS - TULSA, Okla. (March 4, 2003) - As the initial green flag is poised to unfurl soon on the twelfth year of racing action for the ultra-competitive American Sprint Car Series, a powerful mix of crafty veterans and aggressive, up-and-coming young chargers ensures that the 2003 season will be yet another banner year for the nation's premier 360 Sprint Car touring series.

On the O'Reilly Auto Parts American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers, which kicks off Saturday, April 12, at Southwest Arkansas Super Speedway in Murfreesboro, AR, none other than Hooks, TX, veteran hotshoe Gary Wright must be considered among the top contenders to unseat three-time and defending ASCS kingpin Tim Crawley from the ASCS' upper tier of championship glory.

With 61 career ASCS national tour triumphs to his credit, Wright heads the list of all-time ASCS feature winners. While Wright has typically run a vast majority of the ASCS schedule, 2003 will mark the first time that Wright will focus his efforts on claiming the ASCS crown. With more than 150 total career feature triumphs, including victories with every major sanctioning body along with nine NCRA championships, Wright is sure to be a contender for the 2003 title.

Another top veteran shoe, second on the ASCS career win list with 34 triumphs, is the series' first champion, Garry Lee Maier of Cimarron, KS. Among Maier's numerous career titles is the initial ASCS national championship in 1992. If not for a slow start in 2002, Maier would have been in the thick of the points battle as the season wound down, as he consistently finished near the front throughout the majority of the year, snaring several impressive victories along the way. Maier will be shooting for that second ASCS championship trophy in 2003.

Already with one ASCS national title on his resume, Talala, OK, driver Zach Chappell still must be considered part of the younger set at just 20 years of age. Chappell used consistent strong finishes en route to the ASCS championship and National Driver of the Year honors in 2001, in just his third full year of Sprint Car competition. After a strong third place finish in 2002, Chappell will be gunning for a second national title in 2003 as he joins forces with Penn Racing, the defending champion car owner.

Among other potential title contenders is 2002 Most Improved Driver Toby Brown of Carthage, MO, who used a string of strong outings to notch a solid fifth place finish in points. With another year on the road under his belt, Brown could be ready to make that coveted first trip to victory lane and contend for a championship.

After joining forces with long-time car owner Bobby Sparks in June of 2002, Darren Stewart of Bixby, OK, quickly became a consistent front runner over the latter half of the season, scoring his first career victory at Memphis Motorsports Park in September. After earning the Newcomer of the Year award, Stewart will be among the favorites for Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 as he pursues some return trips to victory lane.

Soon to be 18-year-old Wayne Pennington of Orrick, MO, is yet another young charger who will be on the national trail full-time in 2003. Pennington will be chasing more checkered flags as well after notching his first career victory in 2002, topping a tough field of 49 cars at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway.

Seventeen-year-old Cody Branchcomb is another member of the younger set that will make his presence known in 2003. In his first season aboard the powerful Sprint Cars in 2002, Branchcomb fared well, earning a solid seventh place finish in points and Brodix Rookie of the Year honors.

Among the other top drivers expected to contend on a major portion of the 2003 ASCS national trail are: Texas City, TX, hotshoe Travis Rilat, former Rookie of the Year with ASCS, All-Stars and NCRA, and winner of the $30,000-to-win non-winged Ultimate Challenge at Oskaloosa, IA, last August; Tulsa's Shane Stewart, who takes over the driving duties aboard Scott Chilcutt's 2002 ASCS national points runner-up mount; Ft. Worth's Kevin Ramey, the former Devil's Bowl Speedway champion who notched his first two ASCS national victories last season; and Jason Martin, the young charger from Liberal, KS, who scored victories in both Sooner and Rocky Mountain Regional action during 2002.

This is a mere sampling of what the National Tour will offer in 2003, as many others are sure to throw their helmet into the mix for the glory that comes with victory on the competitive circuit that comprises the O'Reilly Auto Parts American Sprint Car Series presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers.

As if this weren't enough, each of the three ASCS Regional tours offers the same brand of pulse-pounding Sprint Car racing action.

Third-generation racer Danny Jennings of Norman, OK, will try to fend off a host of challengers as he defends his 2002 ASCS Sooner Region title. Jennings broke open a tight points race by reeling off three consecutive victories to wrap up the 2002 campaign. This year's Sooner Region opener at Creek County Speedway in Kellyville, OK, on March 22, marks the first of over 100 total scheduled racing events in 2003 for the American Sprint Car Series.

Among Jennings' top challengers for this year's Sooner Region crown are 2002 runner-up Roy Larkin, 2001 national tour Rookie of the Year Robert Sellers, Amarillo's Derek Drown, Kevin Risley, Gavin Punch, Foster Landon and Nick Smith, who won a pair of Sooner Region features in 2001 before sitting out last season.

After a stellar first season in 2002, the ASCS Gulf South Region carries its momentum into 2003 with defending champion Kelly Angelette of Thibodaux, LA, leading the way. Angelette's title defense gets underway at Fast Track Motorplex in Chatham, LA, on April 5.

As the Gulf South Region thrives throughout Louisiana, Southern Texas and Mississippi, Angelette will have his hands full as a number of worthy rivals will attempt to depose the Cajun King, including Ian Brown, Greg Rilat, 2002 runner-up Todd Johnson, Chris Sweeney, Brandon Corn and Jimmy Brooks. The Gulf South Region also boasts a bumper crop of Rookie prospects in 2003, including Brandon Berryman, Cody Pearson, Richard Cordray and seventeen-year-old Sam Hafertepe.

In the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region, Mike Dreiling of Highlands Ranch, CO, reigns as champion entering the 2003 season. Dreiling edged South Dakota's perennial front-runner Randi Miller to snare the 2002 Rocky Mountain Region title. The 2003 Rocky Mountain Region season gets underway on May 9 at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, SD.

As Dreiling tries to go back-to-back in the championship column, he will face stiff challenges from not only Miller, who sports 148 career feature victories, but also Eric Miller, Jace Pennetta, Joe McCarthy, Patrick Bourke and Jeremy Sheaffer, who are among other top contenders for the Rocky Mountain Region title.

The fairer sex is well represented among the American Sprint Car Series as well, as each of the three regions features a lady racer capable of making that trip to victory lane. Paige Lee of Pueblo, CO, competes on the Rocky Mountain Region trail, while Tina Creswell of New Braunfels, TX, aims to improve upon an impressive tenth place showing in 2002 Gulf South Region points. Meanwhile, Stephanie Chappell, who finished ninth in 2001 ASCS National points, will be a force in the Sooner Region, as she plans to run a majority of the Sooner schedule this season.

With this premium mixture of youth and experience on not only the national tour, but each of the three regional tours as well, the 2003 season shapes up as another banner season for the ASCS. For additional information, including complete schedules for the ASCS national tour and each regional tour, be sure to check www.ascsracing.com.

-ascs-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Darren Stewart , Cody Branchcomb , Shane Stewart , Travis Rilat , Nick Smith , Danny Jennings , Kevin Ramey , Tim Crawley