BROWNSBURG, Ind., (Aug. 13, 2003) - Long before Tony Stewart was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, he was a champion many times over in the United States Auto Club (USAC). In 1994 he won the USAC National Midget championship, which served as...
BROWNSBURG, Ind., (Aug. 13, 2003) - Long before Tony Stewart was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, he was a champion many times over in the United States Auto Club (USAC). In 1994 he won the USAC National Midget championship, which served as a precursor to his 1995 season, where he became the only driver to win the USAC Triple Crown in a single season, taking the National Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown titles.
While it's been seven-and-a-half years since Stewart competed as a full-time USAC driver, he remains fully immersed in USAC, but now as a car owner. And it's in that role of car owner where Stewart is helping another young and successful driver make USAC history.
At 26 years old, J.J. Yeley holds the USAC single season feature victory record. His win on Aug. 7 at the 26th annual Belleville (Kan.) Midget Nationals was his 20th win in 2003, surpassing the mark of 19 set by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and tied in 1988 by Sleepy Tripp and in 2000 by Jay Drake.
Eleven of Yeley's wins have come in Sprint Cars, where Stewart is the owner. And in the three Silver Crown wins Yeley has earned, Stewart is co-owners with Bob East.
"There really haven't been that many drivers of J.J.'s caliber who can go out in three different divisions and have the equipment in three different divisions to reach such a milestone," said Stewart. "He has three good race teams to driver for and he's got a lot of talent. You can have the three best cars in three different series but still not get the job done if you don't know what to do behind the wheel.
"J.J. is a great talent who is focused every week at every event - especially on the dirt. That's his specialty. He's taken full advantage of every dirt race he's run this year and been very successful."
The record run with over 20 races still remaining on the USAC schedule makes Yeley a legitimate threat to join Stewart as a Triple Crown champion. Going into a race week that features six races in four days, Yeley leads the Sprint standings by 253 points, the Midget standings by 35 points and the Silver Crown standings by 30 points.
"I'm behind J.J. a hundred percent this year and I'd love to share that record with him," said Stewart, "especially from the standpoint of being able to be a part of it with him as a car owner in two of the three series. Nothing would make me prouder for him to tie my record and be beside me in the record books."
Stewart's interest in USAC car ownership is simple. He wants to groom talent, giving those who grew up like he did on the USAC bullrings a shot to win consistently in top-flight equipment so that they can get noticed by car owners within NASCAR and the Indy Racing League (IRL).
"J.J. is the number one candidate from the USAC series to move up," said Stewart. "What he can do on dirt tracks is awesome, and he's gotten better and better on what he's been able to do on pavement. It's just a matter of time before he starts winning as many races on pavement as he does on dirt. That's the direction we're working toward with him right now."
When asked if Yeley was someone IRL car owners should be paying attention to, as he's an American driver who honed his skills within the ranks of USAC - a staple of the IRL's formation - Stewart responded, "All car owners should be paying attention to him."
-courtesy of Mike Arning at Tony Stewart Motorsports/usac