USAC Sprint Title Going Down To The Wire

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USAC National Sprint Cars hit the dirt at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway last year during the Budweiser Oval Nationals. (Hein Brothers Photo)

USAC National Sprint Cars hit the dirt at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway last year during the Budweiser Oval Nationals. (Hein Brothers Photo)

PERRIS, Calif. — Levi Jones and Dave Darland are separated by only 27 points as the USAC National Sprint Car Series enters its final races at California’s Thunderbowl Raceway and Perris Auto Speedway.

The 14th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals will be held Thursday through Saturday (Nov. 5-7) at Perris Auto Speedway and the Pacific Coast Nationals (a salute to the Agajanian Family) unfolds Nov. 14-15 at Thunderbowl Raceway.

While Levi Jones has never won either race, Darland owns victories in the 2005 and 2006 Perris classic. Other active Budweiser Oval Nationals champions include Rodney Argo (1998), Rickie Gaunt (1999), Tony Jones (2000), Cory Kruseman (2003 and 2004) and three-time champion Bud Kaeding (2001, 2002 and 2007).

The Budweiser Oval Nationals offers $12,500 to win and 25-lap features are slated for Thursday and Friday, with a big 40-lap feature on tap Saturday. A practice session on Wednesday is also open free to the race fans and a special on-track autograph session is planned on Saturday prior to the final events.

Jesse Hockett is the defending winner of the Budweiser Oval Nationals, while Mike Kirby won the last Pacific Coast Nationals feature in 1995. Rip Williams is the only driver to have won both events. He won the Pacific Coast Nationals in 1990 and 1993 and the Budweiser Oval Nationals in 1997.

Defending Lucas Oil USAC-CRA Sprint Car Champion and point leader Mike Spencer has won the last two races at Perris and owns nine Perris victories since the USAC-CRA series debuted in 2004. He finished 10th in last year’s Budweiser Oval Nationals main event.

USAC-CRA champions Tony Jones and Cory Kruseman also own 2009 Perris victories, as do Rickie Gaunt, David Cardey and Blake Miller, so the list of possible Budweiser Oval Nationals winners is a lengthy one. Gaunt’s win came in the National/CRA feature held at the Perris in February.

With five races remaining in the 2009 USAC National Sprint season, Jones and Darland must keep an eye on Cole Whitt, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Tracy Hines, who round out the top five in the standings.