Levi Jones Wins Fifth USAC Title
In racin’ news today, Sunday, Nov. 13th:
On Saturday night, Tony Stewart Racing driver Levi Jones drove his No. 20 Chevrolet/GM Performance Parts/Maxim to a flag-to-flag victory in the 30-lap season finale at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., ending the 2011 AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car season with a 99-point advantage over runner-up Chris Windom.
The championship was Jones’ seventh USAC National title, tying him with legends Mel Kenyon and the late Rich Vogler. Jones now trails only A.J. Foyt, who has 10 USAC championships.
“I remember putting our first car together and talking about going to our first USAC race when we had no business going,” said Jones, who on Oct. 15 clinched his second consecutive USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series championship. “We were just hoping to make a race, let alone someday win a championship. Tonight, we stand here not only the winner of the race, but as a five-time USAC National Sprint Car champion. This puts us in a class of our own and that’s really special. USAC changed up the championship formula this year by only counting the races on dirt toward the title. I don’t know if they thought that would give a lot more guys a chance to knock us off, but here we are, champs again.”
Jones’ title marked the sixth USAC Sprint Car championship for car owner Tony Stewart. Three of Jones’ four previous titles (2007, 2008 and 2010) came driving for Stewart. J.J. Yeley (2003) and Josh Wise (2006) piloted Stewart’s No. 20 to the other two USAC Sprint Car crowns. Jones’ first Sprint Car title came with Benic Enterprises in 2005.
This championship is Stewart’s 12th as a USAC car owner, as Stewart has six USAC Silver Crown championships, with Jones delivering TSR titles in 2010 and 2011. Stewart captured four consecutive Silver Crown titles from 2002 to 2005 as a co-owner with Bob East.
Stewart now has 15 total owner championships, as TSR is a three-time winner of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series championship (2001, 2008 and 2009).
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Levi Jones is a gifted driver,” said Stewart, who won the 1995 USAC Sprint Car title before moving onto the IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR. “We’re so fortunate to have him drive for us at TSR. He came to us a champion and we’re thrilled to win another championship together. He’s a five-time champion and that’s a huge accomplishment.
“It’s a total team effort that starts in our shop at Brownsburg (Ind.) and continues at the track. Those guys never give up. Winning both Silver Crown and Sprint Car titles in consecutive years says so much about everyone involved. I can’t put into words how proud I am of this.”
Jones’ title run began in February at Ocala (Fla.) Speedway. He showed that consistency was key, opening the season with four top-10 finishes. Following a fifth-place finish May 20 at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway, Jones grabbed the point lead. He remained atop the standings for the remainder of the season thanks to victories June 1 at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., during the annual USAC Eastern Storm Tour and Oct. 1 at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway. Finally, after a 31-race tour, Jones became only the third driver to win three consecutive USAC Sprint Car titles, joining four-time USAC Sprint Car champion Steve Butler (1986-1988) and the late Robbie Stanley (1991-1993).
“Every year so many people start the season with the goal of winning the championship,” said Jones, who came into the season-ending race at Hanford with a 33-point lead over Windom. “Just about every year it ends up coming down to where you end up battling two or three guys to win it. This season it came down to us and Chris (Windom). He had a good year and made it interesting. When he crashed out of his heat race and was done for the night, we knew we had it won. At that point, we told ourselves, ‘Let’s go win this race.’
“It was just another testament to the guys on this TSR team (John Sayne and Brad Mariscotti). My car never had anything fall off it this season. We didn’t have any self-inflicted problems all season. We ended the year as both a winner and a champion. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Sprint Car title was the fourth for Chevrolet, but the first with GM Performance Parts.
“It’s so much fun to bring Chevy another USAC title and to be able to do it for GM Performance Parts, too,” Jones said. “We always strive to be the best at the track each night, and we can’t compete at a championship level without these partnerships. Winning this championship is another milestone I’m really proud of, and the same is true for everyone associated with TSR.”
The NHRA released its 2012 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series schedule Saturday. It features 43 events, with a minimum of five races conducted in each of NHRA’s seven divisions and four series specialty events.
In its 11th year, the Lucas Oil Series also includes the addition of a newly created Regional level of events that will feature the Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car categories. There will be four Regions: East, North Central, Central and West with a total of 23 Regional events across the country.
Returning to the schedule in 2012 will be Orlando Speedworld Dragway with an event on Feb. 10-12 and the addition of a second stop at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.
NHRA Lucas Oil Series drivers in seven categories compete for valuable points leading to regional, divisional and national championships and a share of over $500,000 purse. The series also includes three sportsman-focused national events: the JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals in Belle Rose, La.; the JEGS NHRA Pacific SPORTSnationals in Fontana, Calif.; and the JEGS NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals in Columbus, Ohio.
Other categories that compete in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series are Comp Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street. Some divisions also opt to run additional categories, including Top Sportsman, Top Dragster and the Sportsman Motorcycle Series presented by Harley-Davidson.
“Sportsman racing is the core of our sport and the people that compete at this level are not only our customers, but our friends,” said Forrest Lucas, owner and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. “It gives us great pride to support the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and we’re excited about a promising 2012 season.”
Bonus programs available to competitors in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series include the $100,000 JEGS Allstars, the NHRA Perfectly Strange Performance Award, in which a total of $45,000 is up for grabs throughout, and the Sportsman Motorcycle Series presented by Harley-Davidson. Individual divisions may also have additional bonus programs available to racers.
Some prominent graduates of the NHRA Lucas Oil Series who have gone on to successful careers in the NHRA Full Throttle Series include Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Alexis DeJoria, and Jeg Coughlin.
Ending his racing season the way it began last March at Sebring International Raceway, Lee Davis – with more than a little help from teammate Ryan Eversley – swept both the sprint and endurance races Saturday at the HSR Daytona Historics to seal both the 2011 Cayman Interseries sprint and enduro championships.
Davis swept all three races in March’s opener at Sebring to get his season off to a great start and overcame more than one scare Saturday in a similar performance at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) to wrap up the dual Cayman Interseries titles. The endurance championship was the second in a row for Davis after first taking the title in 2010 while his first sprint-class crown avenges a close second-place finish in last year’s championship.
“It’s one thing to have a target on your back and be the one that everybody is going after, which we were fortunate enough to be this year, and it is another thing to chase people down,” Davis said. “I have had both now, and it is a different type of pressure, but it is great to come out on top. We do this for fun but we put a lot of work into it, a lot of hard work, and it’s really great when you put in the work and are able to pull out a couple of championships.”No Comment