PONCE INLET, FL - Going into the 1998 season, many experts predicted the newly formed team of veteran Kenny Jacobs and two-time All Star champion car owner Tim Hughes would be a force to be reckoned with on the All Star Circuit of Champions ...
PONCE INLET, FL - Going into the 1998 season, many experts predicted the newly formed team of veteran Kenny Jacobs and two-time All Star champion car owner Tim Hughes would be a force to be reckoned with on the All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car trail. And after the dust settled at the end of 63 races for the series' 19th season, Jacobs sat atop the points list for the first time in his 26-year career, capturing 11 feature wins and finishing in the top ten an amazing 55 times. Along the way to his 181 point margin over points runner-up Joey Saldana, Jacobs also set 13 fast times, won a dozen Commercial Truck & Trailer Dashes and snared 22 heat races. With Kriner-Chevrolet engines under the hood, Jacobs and Hughes utilized J&J chassis and Goodyear tires, with sponsorship from Hughes Wheel and Axle. The team of Jacobs and Hughes received the keys to the All Star 1998 Chevrolet Silverado Turbo Diesel Pace Truck, courtesy of the GM Powertrain Division, at the awards banquet at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis in December, plus manufacturer's contingency awards and the lion's share of the series' points fund.
In addition to three wins at Eldora Speedway, Jacobs also captured two special non-points races held during the season, the 20-lap Frigidaire Ohio Scramble for Buckeye State feature winners at Attica Raceway Park, and the $15,000 Commercial Truck & Trailer Shootout held in October at Eldora, for the top ten drivers in year-long Commercial Truck & Trailer Dash points. The 11 wins pushed the total career All Star wins for Jacobs to 77, keeping him atop the series win list. His other wins came at Volusia Raceway Park, Butler (MI), 34 Raceway in Iowa, New 96 Speedway (MI), Dixie (GA), Flag City (OH), Sharon (OH) and Lawrenceburg (IN).
Points runner-up Saldana drove a Stealth for Steve Mox, capturing seven feature wins at Tri-City (PA), Eldora, Sharon Speedway, Wayne Co. Speedway in Orrville, K-C Raceway in Chillicothe, Oh and at the All Stars' inaugural visits to Hartford (SD) Speedway and Rt. 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. He finished in the top ten positions 46 times and set quick time nine times.
Third in points was perennial front runner Frankie Kerr aboard Stan Shoff's familiar No. 23s. Kerr captured a half dozen feature wins with single victories at Attica, Sharon and Flag City (OH), a pair at K-C Raceway and a win at Volunteer Speedway in Tennessee, for a total of 54 top ten finishes. Behind Kerr was Dean Jacobs, who split his season, starting behind the wheel of Denny Ashworth's Schnee and ending his season in Junior Holbrook's Eagle chassis. Dean captured five checkered flags at New 96 (MI), Flag City, Attica, Eagle (NE) and Lernerville (PA) for the Earl and David Bauman Memorial race.
Keith Kauffman snared one win during the season at Attica Raceway Park in the Warren Johnson United Expressline Doemelt Chassis, and completed the season fifth in points with seven runner-up finishes and 46 top ten finishes. Rookie driver Brian Smith attended all 63 events, driving his father Mike's J&J, and was sixth in points with a best showing of tenth place three times during the season.
Georgia Marketing and Promotions Rookie-of-the-Year Scott Jones, driving his own unsponsored machine out of the Keystone state, was seventh in points, with four top tens, a pair of United Expressline B Main wins and six heat race victories.
Pennsylvania's Judi Bates ran a partial season, finishing eighth in points with two top ten finishes. Fellow female driver, 18-year-old Sarah Fisher was ninth with nine top tens in her Mead Carbonless Paper sprint car, with an impressive runner-up finish at Eldora in the final event of the season.
Kevin Huntley, with a pair of wins (Crystal, MI and Lima, OH) for owner Rick Daugherty, was tenth in the final standings. Jeff Shepard, who led the points chase early in the season, ran a limited schedule, but captured 10 feature wins and an 11th place points ranking for car owners Les and Lynda Stewart. Shepard had 29 top ten finishes with wins at East Bay, Attica three times, Lernerville, Tri City (PA), Eagle (NE), Wakeeney (KS) and two at Mercer Raceway Park.
Other feature winners during the summer were Greg Hodnett, with his first four career All Star triumphs at Sharon, Selinsgrove and two at Port Royal, Danny Lasoski with three at Volusia Raceway Park, Gary Wright, three at Knoxville, Bellville and 81, and dual winners Kelly Kinser (Skyline and K-C), Billy Pauch (East Bay and Grandview), Lance Dewease (East Bay and Grandview) and Fred Rahmer (two at Lincoln, PA). Single winners were Todd Shaffer at Port Royal, Donnie Crawford with his first career All Star win on his home track, Tulsa (OK) Speedway, and Donnie Kreitz, Jr. at Williams Grove Speedway.
The Western Pa. Speedweek was shortened by rain in 1998 to a pair of events, with Jeff Shepard capturing wins at Lernerville and Tri-City Speedways and snaring the Western Pa. Speedweek crown. The 16th annual Ohio Speedweek also lost one event to rain, with winners being Kerr at Flag City on Sunday, rain Monday, Kelly Kinser at Skyline on Tuesday, Saldana at K-C on Wednesday, Kerr repeating at Sharon on Thursday, Kevin Huntley capturing Lima's $5,000 on Friday and Dean Jacobs pocketing the $10,000 Attica finale money on Saturday night with Kerr taking his fourth career Ohio Speedweek points crown by eight points over Kenny Jacobs.
Other big money race winners were Shepard in February's $10,000 East Bay Nationals, Kelly Kinser for ten grand in K-C Raceway's Freedom 40, Hodnett capturing $10,000 in the Sharon Nationals and the Port Royal Tuscarora 50, Shepard sweeping both ends of the Mercer Fall Nationals, pocketing over $12,000 and Kenny Jacobs capturing Lawrenceburg's Hoosier Fall Classic for $10,000 and the Eldora points final, worth $5,000.
The series visited 33 speedways in 13 states in 1998, and paid out over $1.5 million in prize money, and drivers and fans are looking forward for the series 20th anniversary season in 1999, which kicks off in February with the annual Florida visits to Volusia Raceway Park and East Bay Raceway. With an increased purse for 1999 and Ernie Saxton on board to handle marketing for the series, look for the 20th anniversary season to be a memorable one.
Final 1998 All Star Sprint Driver Points: 1. Kenny Jacobs, 5368; 2. Joey Saldana, 5187; 3. Frankie Kerr, 5130; 4. Dean Jacobs, 4916; 5. Keith Kauffman, 4863; 6. Brian Smith, 3685; 7. Scott Jones, 3608; 8. Judi Bates, 2076; 9. Sarah Fisher, 1891; 10. Kevin Huntley, 1764; 11. Jeff Shepard, 1747; 12. Brian Paulus, 1524; 13. Greg Hodnett, 534; 14. Byron Reed, 527; 15. Rob Chaney, 508; 16. Rocky Hodges, 319; 17. Tim Kern, 264; 18. Danny Smith, 262; 19. Fred Boso, 255; 20. Bill Bailey, 208.