When Levi Jones fires off the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing No. 20 Chevrolet Performance/Curb Records/Maxim Sprint Car on Thursday night, it won’t be just another United States Auto Club (USAC) season opener.
After winning three straight USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car titles and five in the previous seven seasons, nothing less than another championship campaign will satisfy him. And his title hunt begins anew with the opening night of the three-night Bubba’s Winter Dirt Games, which is presented by eBay Motors at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
“I’ve had a great run the past couple of years, but it’s hard to stay on top,” Jones admitted Jones. “The team Tony (Stewart) has assembled has sure made my job easier, and it’s a pleasure to approach each race with a chance to win.”
As a seven-time USAC champion, Jones always seems to carry a winning attitude and he continues to etch his name into the USAC history books. Last season, the Olney, Ill., native became the first driver in USAC history to sweep championships in both the USAC National Sprint Car and Silver Crown Series in consecutive seasons. By earning his fifth Sprint Car title in 2011, he surpassed Steve Butler’s previous record of four titles. Jones can eclipse another Butler record this season if he can earn another Sprint Car championship. By doing so, he would become the first driver to win four consecutive USAC National Sprint Car titles.
With his four collective championships in the previous two seasons, Jones has brought his career championship tally to seven. He is tied with USAC greats Mel Kenyon and Rich Vogler and trails only motorsports legend A.J. Foyt, who amassed 11 career USAC championships.
“Just having a chance to challenge A.J. on the all-time list is something I never even dreamed about,” Jones said. “I never imagined that I’d have the chance to win a championship, let alone seven. I just wanted to be competitive and have a chance to win. I’m sure when A.J. was winning all those races and championships back then, he probably didn’t think much about all-time records either.”
Jones and the success of the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team has come with the help of many partners. In 2005, Jones carried the Chevrolet bowtie on his TSR Sprint Car and earned the leading automotive brand its first USAC championship. Last season, Chevrolet and GM Performance Parts served as co-primary sponsors on the TSR machines that Jones campaigned. This season, Chevrolet and the Chevrolet Performance brands will be co-primary sponsors on TSR’s USAC Sprint Car and Silver Crown entries.
“Tony Stewart is a champion in the truest sense of the word, not only as a driver but as a team owner and organizational leader,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Tony epitomizes the passion, dedication and loyalty that embodies the culture of Chevy fans around the world, and Chevrolet is very proud to again partner with Tony Stewart Racing in 2012.”
The team also has gained partners in renowned car owners Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian. In 2010 and 2011, TSR was been joined by Curb-Agajanian Racing in its USAC Silver Crown Series championship-winning efforts. For the 2012 season, that relationship has expanded to include both the Silver Crown and USAC Sprint Car Series entries. TSR is proud to carry the historic Curb-Agajanian name as a co-entrant with its storied USAC program.
“From the day we formed Tony Stewart Racing, we always believed it was about bringing the right people together,” said Stewart, who earned his NASCAR success by way of USAC as he captured four USAC national championships, including the elusive Triple Crown in 1995 when he earned titles in each of USAC’s top divisions – Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown. “It’s such a benefit to have Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian partner with us in our USAC program. They both share our passion for grassroots racing and we’re looking forward to a successful partnership and another championship season in USAC.”
Kicking off the season in Florida has become the norm for many forms of motorsports. Florida Speedweeks brings the best in the business to the Sunshine State and, for the second straight season, USAC will begin its season in Ocala at Bubba Raceway Park. Last year, Jones twice topped the charts in qualifying and earned three top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish in the finale.
“Ocala offers a challenge unlike some other tracks we go to,” Jones said. “The racing surface is really unlike anywhere else we go. Maybe it’s the sand in the dirt. The primary objective has to be getting your car set up. We’ve qualified well there, but things seem to change by the time the feature rolls around. This year, we have a different gameplan, so we’ll see how it works out.”