From Dick Jordan, photo courtesy of Jim Fisher
Wilke-Pak Racers of Milwaukee, Wisc. will seek an historic record 134th USAC National feature victory November 12 when the USAC Mopar National Midget Series takes to the Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway for the 34th “Copper World Classic.”
The Midgets join the USAC K & N Silver Crown Championship Cars for the Thursday events at the mile paved oval and a Wilke-Pak victory would mark the ninth for them in Phoenix in their half-century USAC career.
Steve Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif. and Wilke-Pak both have an all-time USAC record of 133 total USAC National feature wins to their credit. Wilke-Pak, which scored their initial USAC feature win with Rodger Ward in the 1959 Indianapolis 500 as Leader Cards, Inc., earned their 133rd career victory with Josh Wise in the September 5 “Pepsi Midget Nationals” at Sun Prairie, Wisc. Lewis, whose first USAC win came with Stan Fox at Anderson, Ind. in 1979, scored his 133rd with Dave Darland at West Salem, Wisc. in May of 2008.
Previous Wilke victories in the Arizona capital came in 1963 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds (Rodger Ward in a Championship race), in 1965 at PIR (Don Branson in Championship cars), in 1968 at PIR (Bobby Unser in Championship cars), in 1974 at PIR (Mike Mosley in Championship cars), in 1984, 1988 and 1989 at PIR (Rich Vogler in Midgets), and 1991 at PIR (Stevie Reeves in Midgets).
Three drivers have scored wins for both teams, Tracy Hines, Page Jones and Reeves. Other Lewis winners include: Fox, Darland, Mike Bliss, Bobby East, Mike Fedorcak, Chuck Gurney, Kenny Irwin Jr., Kody Swanson, Kasey Kahne, Jason Leffler, Dave Steele, Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley. Other Wilke-Pak (Leader Cards) winners include Ward, Wise, Unser, Branson, Mosley, Vogler, Tom Bigelow, Jerry Coons Jr., Mel Cornett, Kevin Doty, A.J. Foyt, Jeff Gordon, Rick Hood, Johnny White, Mario Andretti, Bobby Marshman, Bobby Olivero, Kevin Olson, Parnelli Jones, Davey Ray, Johnny Rutherford, Ken Schrader, George Snider, Bob Tattersall, Bob Wente and Chuck Weyant.
All of Lewis’ victories have come in the highly-competitive Midget Series, while Wilke-Pak (Leader Card) wins are spread across the Championship (36), Silver Crown (10), Sprint (6) and Midget (81) Series.
“I have great admiration for the Wilke’s,” says Lewis, the winner of last year’s Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence. “I was at Indianapolis in 1959 to watch Ward’s victory and the success of the Wilke team eventually had a strong bearing on my entry into the sport. I’m equally proud of what we have both accomplished, and appreciate the Wilke heritage which has lasted a half-century. Their continuing commitment to the sport is a remarkable achievement and I commend them on their success. I’m not completely retired just yet, although I will not have cars competing in the final races of the 2009 season.”
USAC Triple Crown Champion Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz. will pilot the Wilke-Pak Midget entry at Phoenix.