October 19th, 2010
Levi Jones won his first USAC Silver Crown Series title Saturday at Ohio's Toledo Speedway. (Frank Smith Photo)
BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Levi Jones won the 2010 USAC Silver Crown Series by the skin of his teeth.
Jones entered Saturday’s season finale at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway two points behind defending series champion Bud Kaeding. He left Toledo with the championship after beating Kaeding by that same margin.
Driving the No. 10 Tony Stewart Racing/Curb-Agajanian Silver Crown car in all nine events during the 2010 season, Jones earned team partners Curb Records, Armor All and Bass Pro Shops their first championship in USAC’s premier racing division.
The championship marked the fifth Silver Crown title for car owner Tony Stewart and his first with co-entrant Curb-Agajanian. Jones’s title is also the first for a team fielded by Stewart since Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) moved into its current location in Brownsburg.
Prior to Jones’s triumph this year, Stewart captured four consecutive Silver Crown titles from 2002 to 2005 as a co-owner with Bob East. This championship is Stewart’s ninth as a USAC car owner and his 12th overall, as TSR has three championships in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.
“Being able to win this title as part of Tony Stewart Racing and with Curb, Armor All and Bass Pro Shops on the car means everything,” said Jones. “Tony’s (Stewart) been involved with several championships in the Silver Crown series and with us finally being able to win the first title out of his own shop with just our team working on it is pretty cool. I’m really proud of the entire TSR team and proud to be a part of this organization.”
The championship didn’t come without some major hurdles early in the year, as following his season-opening victory in February at USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz., the team suffered some major setbacks that left them with a handful of poor finishes.
“The whole Silver Crown season has been a rollercoaster. We were really good early when we won the first race in Tucson, but then we broke a driveshaft at Iowa Speedway in May,” Jones said. “The next week, we blew a tire at the Hoosier Hundred and it was at that point that we shifted our thinking into just winning races. In doing that, we qualified on the pole three times. Between the poles and number of laps led, that’s where we really gained our points back.”
Jones entered Saturday’s Rollie Beale 150 knowing he had to finish ahead of Kaeding to win the title. Jones qualified fourth and stayed within the top-10 throughout the race to finish seventh.
Kaeding, who was involved in a three-car accident on lap 124, restarted the race but needed to pass Jones to win the title. Instead, he finished eighth. Jones’s final point tally stood at 405 points to Kaeding’s 403 points at the end of the race.
“We were pretty confident in our car all day and when we got 30 laps into the race, our tires just kind of went haywire,” Jones said. “I was slipping the right-rear tire and we just kept gaining more stagger. I saw Bud (Kaeding), Tracy (Hines) and Tanner (Swanson) racing really hard, two- and three-wide, inside and outside, and I was really thinking they were going to get into each other. Finally, they did make contact and I was able to come through it OK.
“Bud restarted two cars behind me after the wreck and he was definitely letting me know that he was there. I caught Bryan (Clauson) and couldn’t go to the outside of him. From there, I just tried to hit my marks and was able to bring it home.”
Jones has driven for Stewart since 2006 and competes in the USAC Silver Crown, sprint and midget series divisions for the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
Stewart, who now holds the distinction of being the winningest entrant in USAC’s Silver Crown division, had time to place a congratulatory call to Jones prior to the start of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“I am so proud of Levi, Bryan and the entire TSR team,” Stewart said. “The USAC Silver Crown Series is one of the most competitive divisions in all of racing, and winning the championship says a lot about our organization. Levi came to our team in 2006 and has won three championships since he started driving for us. I’m very proud that he was able to earn his first Silver Crown title as part of TSR. He’s truly developed into a champion and I’m proud to have him as part of my team. I hope he’s able to wrap up his fourth USAC Sprint Car title in a few weeks, too.”