Indianapolis veteran George (Ziggy) Snider of Bakersfield will start after the second of the two national championships he hopes to win this season next Saturday night when the sprint car season opens at Ascot Park with a California Racing Assn.-U.S. Auto Club challenge program on the half-mile oval.
Snider, who hopes to win both the USAC sprint car and dirt-championship series, got off to a good start in the latter when he won the opening race at Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 10.
The CRA-USAC series this season will be comprised of 11 races. Drivers will be competing for points in both their own associations as well as a special series title.
The 44-year-old Snider will be at the wheel of Damon (Blackie) Fortune's No. 39 sprinter, a Gambler chassis powered by a 410 cubic inch cast iron Chevrolet motor.
Snider and his team, headed by chief mechanics Rick Fortune and Jerry Rowan, may be at a slight disadvantage at Ascot, since the CRA permits lighter aluminium engines while USAC does not, but the team definitely knows how to win.
They have won the last two USAC sprint car titles with Ricky Hood, who will also be in the race, driving in 1984 and Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo., doing the wheelwork in 1983.
Snider, who started racing when he was 6 in soap-box derby cars, might have won the USAC sprint title in 1975 but was sidelined by an accident while leading the standings.
Snider's best finish in 19 Indy 500s had been eighth, which he accomplished in both 1975 and 1978. He also led the race twice (1977 and 1980) and last year finished 11th driving for A.J. Foyt.
At the dirt-champ opener at Tampa, Snider was followed home by Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio, who will pilot the Bubby Jones-built Agajanian 98 Jr. sprinter in the Ascot opener. Hewitt also finished third in the recent World of Outlaws sprint show in Dallas, trailing winner Steve Kinser and Bobby Allen home in that one.
Bubby Jones and Dean Thompson, who have accounted for the last five CRA championships, figure to give Snider his biggest challenge. However, Jones, who lost his ride when the Kazarian Brothers decided not to compete this season, is expected to drive for Frank Lewis, while Thompson has been ill and missed the CRA openers at El Centro.
Hood subbed for Thompson in the Bruce Bromme Gambler West entry and finished second to Jimmy Edwards on Saturday and was sixth on Sunday. It was his first competition since being severly injured when hit by a runaway sprinter during last fall's Western World races at Phoenix.
In addition to Jones, several other Ascot regulars will be in new mounts this year. Brad Noffsinger has moved to the Joe Kasperoff team, with Midwesterner Brad Marvel replacing Noffsinger in Jack Gardner's No. 96. Jeff Heywood has moved into the Alex Morales No. 5 while Eddie Wirth, the early point leader, is driving a car he and Steve Davis co-own. Veterans Jimmy Oskie and Tony Simon are still looking for rides.