J. J. Yeley and Cory Kruseman, driving for Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart's team, head a cast of 64 of the nation's best non-winged sprint car drivers who will compete in the Budweiser Oval Nationals, starting tonight, at Perris Auto Speedway.
Yeley, 27, of Phoenix, won the first race held at Perris in March 1996 and this year has already won the U.S. Auto Club sprint car and Silver Crown championships and may clinch the midget crown Thanksgiving night at Irwindale Speedway.
Kruseman, 32, the 2001 Sprint Car Racing Assn. champion from Ventura, holds a one-point lead over Bud Kaeding in the Non-Wing World Championship series, which will conclude Sunday at Perris. In his last appearance at Perris, two months ago, Kruseman nosed out SCRA veteran Rip Williams to win the 30-lap feature.
Kaeding, 23, is a third generation driver from Campbell, Calif., who won the non-wing crown in 2001 and 2002. His wins this year include a USAC sprint car race at Kokomo, Ind., in July, a USAC Silver Crown race at Tulsa, Okla., in September, and the Western Dirt Nationals Bandit series main event at Hanford, Calif., two weeks ago.
Complete programs are scheduled tonight and Friday night on the half-mile dirt oval, climaxed by 25-lap main events. The Saturday feature will be 50 laps.
The leading driver after Friday night's program will receive the first Dean Thompson Award, named for the popular three-time SCRA champion who died last month.
-- Shav Glick