J.J. Yeley to Compete in Silver Crown Showdown at Darlington
J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz., who swept USAC's "Triple Crown" in 2003, winning all three USAC National driving championships, will pilot A.J. Foyt's Greer Special C & R/Chevy in Thursday’s "USAC Showdown at Darlington" Silver Crown Championship race. The 50-lap contest marks USAC’s return to the track “Too Tough To Tame” after a 51-year hiatus.
Yeley, who finished ninth in Darlington’s Busch Series race last year and has two Nextel Cup starts at the storied oval, hopes to be the third driver in a row to post a victory in the familiar #14. Tracy Hines won the March 23 race at Homestead, Fla. and Bobby East won Saturday’s 100-lapper at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Yeley has a dozen career USAC Silver Crown triumphs, including pavement wins at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. in 1998 and O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind. in 2003. He also has 11 career Silver Crown poles to his credit.
Yeley, who finished ninth in the 1998 Indianapolis 500 at age 21, will team with Pablo Donoso of Chile in Thursday’s race. Donoso finished 11th in Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway. His USAC career includes five National driving championships and 56 total National feature victories, which ties him with Mario Andretti for 15th on USAC’s all-time winners list. He won the USAC Sprint Car title in 2001, the Silver Crown title in 2002 and matched Tony Stewart’s 1995 “Triple Crown” feat with his 2003 Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget championships. In 2003 he also broke Foyt’s 42-year-old USAC single-season victory record of 19, scoring 24 total feature wins. The old record of 19 was also shared by Sleepy Tripp and Jay Drake.
It has been four years since Yeley’s last Silver Crown victory, at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, and two years since his last USAC Silver Crown start, at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado. Thursday will also mark his initial start in USAC’s new-generation pavement Silver Crown machines.
“Darlington is a really cool place and I’m looking forward to this race,” said Yeley. “I’ve watched a few of these new-generation Silver Crown races and actually worked on Aaron Fike’s car at Kansas last year. They look pretty similar to the cars I drove and even though I haven’t even sat in one yet I think I’ll adapt pretty quick.
“I used to drive a USAC car for George Snider who now takes care of A.J. Foyt’s new Silver Crown team. I called him earlier in the week just to check in to see how Tracy Hines was doing and we talked and I told him we would see him in Darlington. I told him that if you haven’t found anyone to run the car there then I would like to try one of those new Silver Crown cars since I haven’t driven one yet. I think that Darlington would be an awesome race track to run. He called me back on Saturday and told me I had the ride so we’ll head up there on Thursday and have a bit of fun before we get in the Interstate Batteries Nextel Cup car on Friday and Saturday.”
“Having J.J. compete in our USAC race is a great added bonus for fans,” said Raceway president Chris Browning. “They will literally be able to see for themselves how the Silver Crown Series drivers of today evolve into tomorrow’s NEXTEL Cup Series stars. We’re excited; it should be a lot of fun for everyone.”
Paul White of Temple, Texas, who won USAC’s 2001 Silver Crown title, emerged as the new series point leader after his seventh-place finish at Iowa. He leads A.J. Fike by five points in the new standings going into Thursday’s race.
Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind. led all but the first seven laps of Saturday’s “Casey’s General Stores USAC Triple Crown” race in the Foyt machine to beat Aaron Pierce, Cameron Dodson, A.J. Fike and Tim Barber. The victory was worth $15,500 to East, whose last series start also produced a victory in
Indianapolis, Ind. in 2005.
Jeff O’Connor of North Vernon, Ind., whose father Pat won USAC’s 200-mile race at Darlington in 1956, will serve as Thursday’s Grand Marshal.