Eldora: Season opener preview

Branson/Larson Sprint opener Saturday at Eldora The 2002 Stoops Freightliner/USAC Sprint Car Series debuts Saturday night at the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio and the storylines include a number of record opportunities. Jack Hewitt of...

Branson/Larson Sprint opener Saturday at Eldora

The 2002 Stoops Freightliner/USAC Sprint Car Series debuts Saturday night at the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio and the storylines include a number of record opportunities.

Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio will be trying for his 47th USAC Sprint Car career feature victory as he chases Tom Bigelow's all-time leading record total of 52. Hewitt won twice last year and his record in the "Don Branson/Jud Larson Classic," which unfolds for the 20th time Saturday, is remarkable. He has a dozen "top-four" finishes, including no finish worse than fourth in the first 11 runnings of the race! He won it in 1982 and 1990 and is one of at least four former winners expected to return this year.

Derek Davidson, Jay Drake and Tracy Hines won the 1999, 2000 and 2001 "Branson/Larson" event and should provide plenty of competition for Hewitt Saturday, along with New Mexico's famed "Gas Man" - Richard Griffin, who is also slated to compete. Griffin set the USAC gentry on its ear two years ago, posting fast qualifying time for six of the seven "Indiana Sprint Week" events!

Practice at Eldora's 1/2-mile dirt track starts at 6 pm and qualifying gets under way at 7. The first preliminary race begins at 8 and the feature is 30 laps.

Also chasing records are the Hoffman Auto Racing Team of Milford, OH. Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. will pilot the Dynamics, Inc. machine at Eldora and hopes to give the team a record-tying 51st USAC Sprint Car feature win. That would tie Steve Stapp for the all-time record. Stapp, though, is intent on keeping his record, fielding cars for Troy Lowery of Memphis, Tenn. And Dickie Gaines of Mitchell, Ind. Hines was the winningest driver is USAC Sprint Cars last year, scoring six wins, including the "Branson/Larson."

Defending Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Champion J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz. is also entered. Yeley won the Midget and Silver Crown portions of last year's Eldora "4-Crown Nationals" and is anxious to post a Sprint win at Eldora. USAC National Midget Car Champion Dave Darland is also among entrants for Saturday's series opener.

Drivers will be aiming at Jay Drake's 1-lap qualifying record of 15.232 seconds, established in 2000.

--USAC--

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Series USAC
Drivers Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Richard Griffin , Jay Drake