This message was edited on
November 07, 2006 at
05:56:02 PM by ljennings
Yeley and Hewitt at Manzanita's Western...
by Windy McDonald
The oldest and the youngest drivers in the 1998 Indy 500 have important roles in the Checker Auto Part/Budweiser Western World Championships which begins it three night run at Manzanita Speedway Thursday night. However, they will be playing different roles.
A suprise entry from now NASCAR star J.J. Yeley came into the Manzanita office yesterday morning added to the already star studded list of drivers that will be competing for a share of the 130,000 purse. Yeley, who at age 19 finished ninth in the '98 Indy and Jack Hewitt, the oldest rookie to ever qualify for the 500 finished 11th. He was 46 years of age.
J.J. will be entering his first sprint car race of the year but his ability in open wheel cars is what carried him to NASCAR where he is currently ranked fifth in points in the Busch Series and in his Nextell Cup rookie season he has had three top ten finishes. Yeley won three CRA races at Manzy in early 1998 before heading for Indiana. He became only the second driver to win three USAC titles in the same year. Tony Stewart, now J.J.'s teammate in NASCAR, had pulled it off and Yeley, driving for Stewart set a record when he won 24 features on his way to the Silver Crown, Midget and Sprint car championships in 2003.
The Phoenix native last raced at his "home track" in the 2003 Western. His luck went sour as he had problems in his qualifying night, won the Saturday night consolation race, finished 8th in the semi but was the first car out of the feature. His performance in the 2001 Western was one of the best ever. He had bad luck in his qualifying runs and had to run the consy Saturday night. He came from the rear and won. The gave him a start near the rear of the field in the semi. He finished third in the semi and that placed him deep in the field for the feature. He sped toward the front but ran out of laps. He still finished fourth. He finished third in the feature 2003 and was fifth in the 360 main event. Yeley will be racing with the USAC sprints on the half mile track all three nights.
Jack Hewitt is a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and when he qualified for the Indy 500 he became the oldest rookie to drive in the 500. He finished 11th. He will be serving as Grand Marshall for the 39th running of the Western. Although he was already considered among the top open wheel dirt track drivers ever, his achievement in the 1998 in the Four Crown races at Eldora Speedway maybe something that will never happen again. Jack drove in all four divisions--USAC Sprints, USAC Midgets, USAC Silver Crown and Dirt Modifieds. He won all four features and had the winner's circle all to himself.
Hewitt will be signing autographs, doing the invocation and perhaps even selling some of his books at the Western. He will be busy all three nights.