J.J. Yeley seeks racing history

Springfield, DuQuoin offer Yeley shot at racing history! Macon, IL July 9, 2003-If no is able to stop the "J.J. Yeley Express", then the hottest racing driver in the United States will have a chance to write another page in his chapter in ...

Springfield, DuQuoin offer Yeley shot at racing history!

Macon, IL July 9, 2003-If no is able to stop the "J.J. Yeley Express", then the hottest racing driver in the United States will have a chance to write another page in his chapter in racing's history book and join an exclusive list of racing immortals when the Weld Racing Silver Crown Cars of the United States Auto Club contest the traditional state fair dates at Springfield and DuQuoin, Illinois in August.

Yeley's name is on many minds these days, both in the stands and in the garage areas of prospective owners looking to hire the lead-footed shoe. J.J. is seeking to become just the second driver in USAC history to win the sprint, midget and Silver Crown titles in the same year, the first being reigning NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart, who turned the trick in 1995.

As the defending Silver Crown champion, Yeley found a lot of success in the "Big Cars" last season, joining an exclusive club of famous and talented by posting a win one on of the big mile dirt tracks. In doing so, Yeley was able to accomplish what predecessors such as Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Ken Schrader and Mike Bliss were unable to do, win a 100-mile dirt race.

Yeley's first step toward racing immortality came at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, when he led wire to wire winning the 42nd running of the "Tony Bettenhausen Memorial". When the series moved to DuQuoin 2 weeks later, Ed Carpenter looked to derail the Yeley express by setting a new track record in qualifying and leading almost the first half of the 52nd Ted Horn Memorial 100". Carpenter faded and Yeley took over, never to be headed. Yeley became just the 12th driver in 54 years to sweep both Illinois dirt car events. In fact, had it not been for Jason Leffler's outstanding performance at the Hoosier Hundred in May, Yeley could have become just the fourth man in racing history to win the "Big 3" (Bettenhausen, Horn and Hoosier Hundred) all in the same year!

Hall of famer Jimmy Bryan was the first driver to accomplish the feat, taking all three races in 1955, and then repeating the feat in 1956. The incomparable A.J. Foyt got his triple crown in his "super" season of 1964, and could have performed the feat again in 1960 and 1961 (failed to win at Springfield), 1965 (did not win DuQuoin), and 1967 (finished second to Mario Andretti in the Hoosier Hundred). Future Hall of Famer Jack Hewitt is the third man on the list, getting his triple crown in 1986, and missing by one win (the Hoosier Hundred) in 1987, and one win (the Hoosier Hundred) in 1993.

Yeley bagged the first stop in the 2003 "Triple Crown" quest by taking the pole and leading every lap of the 51st running of the Hoosier Hundred in May at the Indiana State Fairgrounds before a large crowd and a Speed TV audience. The victory added J.J.'s name to still another short list of top notch drivers, he became just the 14th driver to win a championship dirt car race on each of the mile dirt tracks of the Midwest. The current USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown point leader has won three races so far, and has yet to finish out of the top ten.

However, several drivers pose a threat to the Ford backed driver's path to glory. Former Silver Crown champ Dave Darland has reunited with Galen Fox for the dirt track events. Darland, a two-time winner of the Bettenhausen Memorial and a former one-lap track record holder at DuQuoin, is always strong on the dirt and should present a formidable challenge to Yeley. Darland was running second in the Hoosier Hundred and closing on Yeley when the right rear tire let go with about 15 laps remaining.

Other drivers who look to pickup a victory at either Springfield or DuQuoin include veterans Rich Tobias of Pennsylvania (second at the Hoosier Hundred), former DuQuoin winner Tony Elliot, the ageless Johnny Parsons (a two time winner at DuQuoin), the "Pup" Kevin Huntley, 1987 Hoosier Hundred winner Kenny Jacobs, former USAC Sprint Car champ Brian Tyler, former USAC Silver Crown champ Paul White, former Silver Crown champ Tracy Hines, Pikes Peak winner Jay Drake and Yeley's current nemesis in the Silver Crown division, Dave Steele.

One veteran driver who is close to returning to the cockpit is none other than Jack Hewitt himself, with six total wins between Springfield and DuQuoin. The career victory leader in the Silver Crown division has recuperated nicely from a tumble during a sprint car event last year, and hoped to be back at the Hoosier Hundred. That timeable has been pushed back, and there is a remote possibility Hewitt could return at Springfield or DuQuoin.

USAC's new motto is the "Starting Line of Champions", most appropriate considering that five NASCAR Winston Cup titles, one NASCAR truck title and one Indy Racing League crown have been won since 1995 by former USAC Silver Crown champs.

Heading the USAC "Kiddie Corp" of young drivers is Aaron Fike of Galesburg, Illinois, a previous winner on the Silver Crown tour and a current race winner in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series where he drives for 1996 Indy 500 winning team owner Ron Hemelgarn. His brother A.J. Fike is an up and coming driver, as is Ohio midget driver Teddy Beach who was very impressive at the Hoosier Hundred. Other young guns include Pancho Carter's son Dane, World of Outlaws drivers Tyler Walker and Donny Schatz, and current Infiniti Pro Series driver and DuQuoin track record holder Ed Carpenter.

The 43rd running of the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 takes place on Saturday, August 16, 2003 on the "World's Fastest One Mile Dirt Track" in the middle of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Practice begins at 9 in the morning, with the 100-mile main event slated for 1:30 p.m. Two weeks later, its the 53rd running of the Ted Horn Memorial 100 on the "Magic Mile" at DuQuoin, with practice at 9 a.m., and the main event slated for 1:30. Ticket and other information can be obtained by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200, or on the world wide web at www.trackenterprises.com, or by calling the box office for the Illinois or DuQuoin State Fairs. USAC information is available at www.usacracing.com, with historical and statistical information available by e-mail at statefairmotorsports@hotmail.com.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Ken Schrader , Ryan Newman , Mario Andretti , Donny Schatz , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Mike Bliss , Aaron Fike , Jay Drake , A.J. Fike , Kenny Jacobs , Paul White , Tyler Walker , Pancho Carter , Tony Bettenhausen , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter