By Dick Jordan
NASCAR stars Ryan Newman and Jason Leffler have their sights set on O’Reilly Raceway Park this Thursday as USAC showcases its Silver Crown and Mopar National Midget Series in a “doubleheader” on the .686-mile paved oval
Newman, of South Bend, Ind., will compete in the 100-lap “J.D. Byrider 100” Silver Crown race and Leffler will compete in the accompanying Midget portion of the program. Newman will team with nine-time “Little 500” Sprint race winner Eric Gordon for the Bowman Racing Team, while Leffler will be part of a four-car team fielded by DeBeaumont Motorsports.
Newman is currently 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, while Leffler is 10th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points. Newman won at Phoenix, Ariz. in April and Leffler, who has a pair of career Nationwide wins, has three “top-five” finishes in 2010.
Newman, USAC’s 1999 Silver Crown Champion, finished fourth and sixth in his two 2009 Silver Crown appearances. The fourth came at ORP where he won in 1999. Newman also has five career Midget wins at ORP. Leffler has two National Midget starts this year but has not yet posted a “top-10” finish. The three-time USAC National Midget champion (1997, 1998 and 1999) and 1998 Silver Crown champ won four USAC Midget races at ORP as well as a pair of Silver Crown races.
Bobby Santos III of Franklin, Mass. is the defending champion of the “J.D. Byrider 100” and Tanner Swanson won this past May’s “Night Before the 500” Midget race but Shane Hmiel of Pleasant Garden, N.C. could be the man to beat at ORP Thursday. He’s won the last two USAC races there, Sprint car races in June and July.