Dirt track drivers will again get smoked in IndyCar [Editors Note: Here we go again - another inexperienced leader of IndyCar who thinks a driver who came up driving on dirt with the engine in front of them can even remotely compete in a rear engine car on asphalt on ovals, street circuits and road courses. A driver who has come up through the road racing ranks driving rear engine cars will just make the USAC drivers look silly. The USAC drivers are at a distinct disadvantage, which few if any can overcome. Which is why they all failed before and why they will all fail again. It makes for a good story but will end up with the same sad result.]
It's now clear Randy Bernard wants sprint car champions such as Levi Jones in the Izod IndyCar Series, and the feeling is mutual.
Jones not only attended Wednesday's IndyCar chassis unveiling at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he was mentioned in the introductions and spoke in favor of Bernard's push to get drivers like him in the series. Jones, 28, said Bernard, IndyCar's chief executive officer, went to Sunday's Indiana Sprint Week race at Kokomo Speedway. Bernard hasn't announced how he would like to help Jones, but it figures to be through funding as the U.S. Auto Club's sprint car champion. He is the current points leader.
Ideally, Jones (and other USAC drivers) would work through the Firestone Indy Lights Series, but there are ways Bernard could help make an Indianapolis 500 ride happen, too.
Jones likes the sound of it. "It's looking more and more promising for guys like myself," he said. "Maybe we'll get a good shot at doing this and not something to end a career or a last-ditch effort."
Several short-track drivers received Indy-car opportunities a decade ago when the Indy Racing League was new and the rides weren't as expensive. Steve Kinser finished 14th in his only 500 in 1997; Jack Hewitt finished 12th in the 1998 race.
Billy Boat had the most successful IRL career of the true USAC bunch, winning a race (at Texas Motor Speedway in 1998) and nine poles. Jay Drake was essentially the last such driver to be near that level, but he never got higher than Indy Lights. Since becoming CEO in February, Bernard has learned quickly that having a path for USAC drivers to IndyCar is key to connecting with a segment of auto racing's fan base.
That's why he went to Kokomo, and expects to be at other high-profile short track events in the future.
"I want to start getting to as many of these events as I can," Bernard said.
Bernard said Jones' "eyes lit up" when he pitched an idea of how to make the jump happen. Bernard admitted he has obstacles to clear, but the ball is rolling.
"I asked (Jones) if he thought he could win the (sprint car) championship, and he said yeah, he thought he could," Bernard said. "So I told him, 'Well, I have an idea.'
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