LAST-RACE DRAMA EXPECTED FOR USAC'S 1998 NATIONAL TITLES As October approaches and the eyes of the sporting world focus on Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire in their continuing battle for baseball's home run supremacy, the eyes of USAC's racing world...
LAST-RACE DRAMA EXPECTED FOR USAC'S 1998 NATIONAL TITLES
As October approaches and the eyes of the sporting world focus on Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire in their continuing battle for baseball's home run supremacy, the eyes of USAC's racing world have focused on what has become an unprecedented duel for seasonal championships. No sooner have David Besnard, John Sluss and Michael Lang wrapped up driving titles with last-race heroics, than USAC's National point races heat up to the boiling point with anticipated last-race drama as well. Jason Leffler of Long Beach, Calif., last year's USAC National Midget Champ, holds a slim 10-point lead over Brian Tyler, last year's Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Champ, with just three races remaining in the Silver Crown Championship Series! Kevin Thomas of Danville, Ind., who narrowly lost last year's Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car title to Tyler, seeks to reverse that this year as he holds a minimal 28-point lead over Tony Elliott of Kokomo, Ind., like Thomas seeking his first USAC championship. Californians Jay Drake of Canyon Country, Leffler and Ricky Shelton of Huntington Beach appear to have the most heated battle going in the National Midget Series. Drake, with two TQ titles and the 1996 "Western States" Midget title on his resume, has only a five-point lead on Leffler, with Shelton, trying to become USAC's first driver ever to win three different titles in consecutive years, third in the standings. Shelton won the 1996 TQ crown and followed with last year's "Western States" Midget honors. Besnard, of Sydney, Australia, clinched the 1998 USAC/SCCA Formula 2000 National and Oval Crown Championships in the August 29 Oval Crown finale at Atlanta, Ga., while Sluss and Lang, both of Indianapolis, took the Indianapolis Speedrome and 16th Street Midget titles respectively in the final 1998 events for each. Besnard beat Robby McGehee, the Atlanta race winner, by 14 points to take the Oval Crown, while Sluss upset Lang in the Speedrome finale and Lang edged Andy Pierce by only 14 points at 16th Street. Only five points separate Monte Faccinto of Hanford, Calif. and Davey Pombo of Kerman, Calif. in their fight for the new USAC "Regional Rebel" Sprint title and just 50 points separate Jeff Gardner of Fresno, Calif. and Rick Williams of San Leandro, Calif. in the Western States Sprint Car points. Both series conclude in November. Rick Hendrix and Alex Harris of Simi Valley, Calif. continue to lead the "Western States" and TQ Midget standings as they attempt to become USAC's first back-to-back champions in the same two seasons from the same city. Both those series conclude in late-November. And, several drivers, including point leader Niklas Loven of Gislaved, Sweden, have an opportunity to land the 1998 USAC Russell Pro Racing "Triple Crown" Championship, which winds up October 11 at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Silver Crown Point Standings: 1-Jason Leffler-442; 2-Brian Tyler-432; 3-Ryan Newman-385.
Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Point Standings: 1-Kevin Thomas-1,668; 2-Tony Elliott-1,640; 3-Derek Davidson-1,390.
National Midget Standings: 1-Jay Drake-770; 2-Jason Leffler-765; 3-Ricky Shelton-700.
Western States Midget Standings: 1-Rick Hendrix-406; 2-Bryan Stanfill-351; 3-Wally Pankratz-340.
Western States Sprint Standings: 1-Jeff Gardner-605; 2-Rick Williams-591; 3-Tony Hunt-376.
TQ Midget Standings: 1-Alex Harris-405; 2-Randi Pankratz-298; 3-Gene Godepski-298.
Regional Rebel Sprint Standings: 1-Monte Faccinto-661; 2-Davey Pombo-656; 3-Mark Barroso-486.
Formula 2000 National Point Standings: 1-David Besnard-333; 2-Ryan Hampton-275; 3-Robby McGehee-247.
Russell Pro "Triple Crown" Standings: 1-Niklas Loven-35; 2-Stephen Hill-31; 3-Tyler McQuarrie-24.
Formula 2000 Oval Crown Final Standings: 1-David Besnard-137; 2-Robby McGehee-123; 3-Ryan Hampton-121..
Indianapolis Speedrome Midget Final Standings: 1-John Sluss-7,300; 2-Michael Lang-7,200; 3-Gregg Cory-2,290.
16th Street Speedway Midget Final Standings: 1-Michael Lang-272; 2-Andy Pierce-258; 3-Ron Smoker-218.