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J J YELEY HAS THE RIGHT TOUCH IN INDIANA SPRINT WEEK TAKING 3 OUT OF 4!!!

It was an interesting four days of Indiana Sprint Week for me, one that didn't include any rainouts or other bad weather as had been the norm in Indiana the week before. It all came too quickly to an end this past Sunday at Habstadt. It was almost totally dominated, except for a Jay Drake bump that kept J J Yeley from the first half sweep of the annual series. Four tracks that had varied large numbers of cars attacking the dirt tracks made for some interesting fun.

My pics from ISW are here.

J J Yeley first went to Indiana a few years ago to move up in his racing world. He had a short dance in the IRL, but something went amiss and he returned to work even harder to go back to the big money racing he so desires. From the time he was a rookie with SCRA until today, he has just continued to get better. After winning 19 main events with the SCRA, he moved to Indiana under the ABC Sand & Rock colors of Dave Waltemath and partner Bob Price. It wasn't an immediate success, but he was a quick thorn in the side of the midwest teams he competed against while he learned the lay of the land that was so different from the west coast sprinters. Times have sure changed as he is threatening the all time season win total as the next race approaches. He is so hot, he could put it out of reach on his way out of town to the next level. Will it be Busch or IRL or what?

Even though he drives a two-seater at IRL events, giving rides to "the special" people, the ride he wants has still eluded him. J J deserves a chance to move up and, in what has to be his last year with USAC, he is literally tearing up the dirt tracks and adding a few pavement wins as well. Now under the Tony Stewart colors, as is Cory Kruseman, J J is shining bright as he reached the seasonal total of 18 USAC wins on Sunday night at Tri-State Speedway in Habstadt, Indiana. It is just one short of the record now held by Jay Drake, Sleepy Tripp and AJ Foyt. When the huge Yeley, Stewart, Mopar hauler arrives at the track, his competitors know they are often running for second, as he proved three out of the four nights.

All the young lion Yeley did was lead 60 laps to win the first two, then start farther back in the last two and patiently go to the front. He finished second by a wheel at Putnamville and won the last one before the break. J J ran away with the opener when Jay Drake didn't have enough to chase him down. Same song, second verse the next night at Gas City as Drake again couldn't catch him. On Saturday, the Drakester was hot and took the lead until the last lap where J J drove under him thru turns three and four, but Drake wasn't having any of that! Jay came back off the fourth turn high cushion and bumped his way to the checkered flag first, by a foot or so. Jon Stanbrough looked uncatchable early the last night, but Yeley tracked him down and won it before the two day break.

Sprint week in Indiana brings out all the cars and fans that the tracks can hold. With over 60 sprint cars and packed grandstands, the success of this yearly event continues to shine. It is an outstanding series that showcases the best traditional sprint car drivers that can make the tow. With the strong California/Arizona additions, it just gets better every year. Twin Cities, Gas City, Putnamville and Habstadt finished the first half of the 8 race series and the first two nights were especially racy, with all four features big winners with the fans. Still to come are Kokomo, Lawrenceburg (it's a live TV night on the Speed channel), Bloomington and Terre Haute, so there is plenty of action left if it don't rain.

Jay Drake isn't far behind the latest USAC master as he won one, was 2nd twice and had a third the last night for enough points to be only four behind the leader for the sprint week championship. Jay is beginning to make Yeley's path a little harder as he has several victories of late and it is looking like the Keith Kunz junket is about to explode with more. Drake dominated this series two years ago when he had his record 19 wins. Others have done the same as Dave Darland, Tony Elliott and few more were dominant for a season at least. Tracy Hines is 3rd in overall points as he has led a little and hung in there behind the two leaders. Damion Gardner is 6th, with Cory Kruseman 8th and Levi Jones 10th.

Damion Gardner is showing his high flying style, but has only one fast time and three top tens to show for it. You have to understand that his crew is home resting up, while he is on the road doing ISW. He is using a makeshift crew led by Tony Smiley and being directed by the Demon himself as he learns these new venues. At home he doesnít have to worry about every little thing, but back here in this series, he is totally focused on what to do and drive the car. His heat race win on friday at Gas City had the locals take notice as he passed for the lead on the last corner going up and around the leader, where few go there. He is concerned that he isn't doing as well as he wants for his fans, but time will improve his dry slick technique and you will see some scalding results, maybe even this week.

Cory Kruseman finished 6th, 8th, 10th and dropped out with a broken motor in his four nights of racing, not what he was hoping for as the defending champion. The brand new Keith Kunz car performed very well, but the slick tracks and some normal Indiana "bumping" seemed to hold him back a little. He was in the hunt on Saturday when the motor broke. It looks like he will do better the 2nd half of the sprint week with all the set-ups coming around for him and crew chief Bobby Barth.

John Scott missed the main the first two nights and then promptly ran over an errant wheel when he made the third feature, and ended up putting that car in the dumpster after a nasty quick flip. He was 2nd quick at Habstadt and ran 4th for his best finish, and maybe the brand new Maxim had something to do with it. He and his crew worked hard to earn that 4th, his best finish so far in Indiana. Maybe his shiny tires helped him, they did look great.

Spunky Mike Spencer got a ride in the BWB car that Derek Davidson, Dave Darland and others have done some seat time in. He looked good, and had 2 feature appearances, with a 13th his best finish. Getting used to a totally different car on new tracks has to be tough, but he looked better each night. The youngster is looking to improve and a few nights back in Indiana will help to make that happen.

Charles Davis Jr had some good and bad as he took on the Indiana clan. He made two features with 12th his best finish. He had a fuel fire on Friday that looked really bad, but it only burnt the new fuel filters, that were just installed, and some hoses up, not the motor like I feared. Charles new darker yellow and red combo paint scheme looks good on the # 94 car.

Casey Shuman has been in Indiana for a few months, but this week he brought out a brand new Stanton built car for car owner Rooster Hawkins. The black # 3 car (sound familiar?) ran pretty good as the week went on finishing 10th on Sunday night. Gary A Howard, former VRA champ, built this beauty at the Kentucky based Stanton factory and has high hopes for itís success.

Besides the big three, Yeley, Drake and Hines, there were still others who had their moments. Jon Stanbrough nailed the wall on the last night during qualifying and the team had to rebuild the car so he could run the semi and transfer, and he did. He started on the front row and took off, with a few yellows and a red bringing him back to the pack. Boston Reid is a young flashy driver who is 5th in overall points, but hasn't scored yet. He can get to the front, but hasn't stayed up there. Matt Neely gave a memorable performance at Putnamville when he came from the 7th row to get 3rd, passing some stout runners along the way. Another young 18 year old kid with a lot of talent. Justin Marvel, the point leader at Bloomington and Putnamville, made the feature three nights driving an old Gardner Sled Chassis. He was thrilled to have just received another Sled recently and says now he has a back-up for the rest of the season. He made the feature three nights with 15th his best finish.

Speaking of haulers, the two Stewart sponsored teams have the biggest 18 wheeler's around. Very similar in size to Rip Williams big black one in SCRA, but both are decorated with the Mopar colors and the matching cars make for a striking appearance when you see them lined up side by side, which happened once this week. Add Drakes brand new hauler and similar looking sprint car, the three of them make the rest of the field look small. There were other big haulers in the pits, but most of the attention went to these three.

I have to rate the action at Gas City, and particularly the battles behind the winner in the feature, as the most exciting race night. Bud Kaeding, Jon Stanbrough and Damion Gardner put on a "show" the last half of the feature. Each of the three had the 7th position in their grasp several times before Jon took it by the narrowest of margins on the last lap. Habstadt was 2nd, but I was surprised that Tom Helfrich didnít makeover the track during the intermission like normal. Instead a little water and wheel packing didnít change the surface enough to make two good grooves like normal here. North Vernon was pretty racy, but the rough Putnamville made many a drivers night very rough, just like the surface.

Thanks to Jack Kraemer for the hospitality as he picked us up at the airport and chauffeured us around for the trip and we stayed at his haunted mansion in Hooterville two nights. He made sure I remembered his Wagsdash donation was properly recorded as last year I sorta forgot. The great apple dumpling adventure was courtesy of Mike Clark at an interesting place north of Indy was special. The tree blocking the road on the way to the airport was big and shattered, causing us to detour a few blocks to get around. Thanks to the tracks at North Vernon, Gas City and Habstadt for letting this scribe get in to cover the SCRA boys. And thanks to the weatherman, it couldn't have been any better!

Tickets for Oskaloosa $30,000 to win race will be available for race fans and family members that need to sit in the all reserved grandstands on tour. I will have a limited supply on this Saturday at the PAS, so come see me if you need them. Be at Perris where the heat is always on the wild track action.

Good luck to Mike Kirby at his stock car bonanza affair in Reno this week.

SCRA POINT STANDINGS
1. Richard Griffin 1050 2. Troy Rutherford 983, 3. Damion Gardner 945, 4. Rip Williams 862, 5. Mike Spencer 742, 6. Steve Ostling 735, 7. Rickie Gaunt 687, 8. Mike English 548, 9. Tony Jones 511, 10. Adam Mitchell 491, 11. Josh Ford 435, 12. Verne Sweeney 412, 13. Levi Jones 364, 14. Alan Ballard 359, 15. Lance Gremett 321, 16. Bryan Stanfill 315, 17. Bobby Cody 291, 18. Brian Venard 289, 19. Cory Kruseman 285, 20. Jimmy Crawford 270.

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