Leffler opens title defense at Phoenix

LEFFLER OPENS TITLE DEFENSE AT PHOENIX IN NATIONAL/WESTERN STATES MCI WORLDCOM MIDGET CAR OPENER The USAC MCI WorldCom National and Western States Midget Car Series debut as part of this weekend's racing events at Phoenix (Ariz.) ...

LEFFLER OPENS TITLE DEFENSE AT PHOENIX IN NATIONAL/WESTERN STATES MCI WORLDCOM MIDGET CAR OPENER

The USAC MCI WorldCom National and Western States Midget Car Series debut as part of this weekend's racing events at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway and defending 2-time USAC National Midget Champion Jason Leffler of Long Beach, Calif. is expected to be among top candidates for victory. He finished second in last Saturday night's 100-lap "Thunder in the Dome XV" invitational USAC Midget car race at the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis, Ind.

The 22nd U.S. Tobacco Company "Copper World Classic" includes USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet, WSMRA Supermodified and NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour Stock Car racing, with practice on Friday, qualifying and "qualifying races" on Saturday and the four main events on Sunday. The 25-mile MCI WorldCom Midget Car feature is first up Sunday at noon.

Drivers will aim at Tony Stewart's 1-lap track Midget car qualifying record of 132.125 mph set in 1997. Stewart captured last year's 25-mile Midget car feature at PIR.

Challenging Leffler this weekend will be defending USAC Western States Midget Car Champion Rick Hendrix of Simi Valley, Calif. and an assortment of top talent from across the nation. Indy Racing League vets Davey Hamilton of Boise, Ida., Andy Michner of Grass Lake, Mich., Brian Tyler of Parma, Mich., Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio and Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla. will join top Midget car pilots Jimmy Sills of Placerville, Calif., former Western States Champ Jay Drake of Val Verde, Calif. and Ricky Shelton of Huntington Beach, Calif., west coast stars Wally Pankratz of Orange, Calif. and Jerry Coons, Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., plus Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind., Ryan Newman of South Bend, Ind., Brian Gerster of Indianapolis, Ind. and John Heydenreich of Bloomsburg, Pa.

The "Copper World Classic" kicks off both the National and Western States campaigns with points available toward both 1999 USAC MCI WorldCom Midget Car Championships.

The 25-mile Midget car race record at PIR was set in 1995 by Dan Drinan at 128.822 mph. Drinan is continuing to recover from burns suffered during the Orlando Coors Light Silver Bullet Series opener January 23-24.

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Ryan Newman , Davey Hamilton , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Jack Hewitt , Brian Tyler , Jay Drake , John Heydenreich , Dan Drinan , Jerry Coons , Wally Pankratz , Jimmy Sills , Brian Gerster , Rick Hendrix , Ricky Shelton