Phoenix: Copper World Classic preview

Track record holder Steele Phoenix Midget favorite. Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla., who raked in an all-time USAC Midget Car prize money record of over $62,000 for his victories in last September's "Twin 25s" at Indianapolis Raceway Park, hopes to...

Track record holder Steele Phoenix Midget favorite.

Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla., who raked in an all-time USAC Midget Car prize money record of over $62,000 for his victories in last September's "Twin 25s" at Indianapolis Raceway Park, hopes to repeat as the champion of the "Copper World Classic" this weekend at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway.

Steele became the earliest driver to post single-season victories in all three USAC National Series with last year's Copper World Midget Car and Silver Crown wins and his subsequent Sprint Car win at Winchester, Ind. in April. A repeat "double" at Phoenix would set him up with a chance at beating that record, since the USAC Sprint Cars open April 5-6 at Rossburg, Ohio and Anderson, Ind.

Steele holds not only the 1-lap USAC Midget Car track record at Phoenix of 136.178 mph (set last year), but also the 1-lap USAC Silver Crown track record as well. In only 13 USAC National Midget Car starts last year, he was victorious four times. He posted a half-dozen fast qualifying times and finished out of the "top-four" only five times!

Competition will be stiff this weekend, with defending two-time USAC National Midget Car Champion Dave Darland and teammates J.J. Yeley and Bobby East also in the field. Those three drivers finished 1-2-4 in last year's standings and accounted for nine feature victories. Also entered are 2002 USAC Sprint Car Champion Tracy Hines, former Western Midget Car Champion Danny Ebberts, 2002 National co-Rookies of the Year Ron Gregory and Teddy Beach, 2002 Western Midget Car Rookie of the Year Van Knill, plus former National Rookies of the Year A.J. and Aaron Fike. Jay Drake, winner of an all-time record tying 19 USAC features in 2001, is also among pre-entries.

Michael Lewis, winner of last year's "Copper World Classic" and last November's "Turkey Night Grand Prix" at Irwindale, Calif., will also return to try to defend his "Copper World" championship.

USAC drivers will join IRL and Infiniti Pro drivers for the Tempe Speedfest presented by PIR on Thursday night from 5-9:30 pm to kickoff the Copper World weekend. The function, at Tempe Beach Park, will include a driver autograph session, live entertainment, interactive games, a memorabilia auction and more.

Saturday's 25-mile Midget car feature event starts at 4 p.m., following the 100-mile Infiniti Pro feature. Midget practice is slated Thursday and Friday, with qualifying at 4:40 pm Friday afternoon. Speed Channel will air Saturday's race at 9 pm on Thursday, March 27.

-USAC-

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Series USAC
Drivers Michael Lewis , Dave Darland , Danny Ebberts , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Dave Steele , Aaron Fike , Jay Drake , Ron Gregory