May 23, 2007 -Torrance, CA - On the strength of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s May 12 victory after the first round of the Toyota Challenge, the #21 Tony Stewart Racing entry sits in the points lead heading into this weekend's Toyota Night Before the 500 at O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP) in Indianapolis – the second round of the $25,000 Toyota Challenge for the USAC National Midget Series.
A record four Toyota-powered entries will be competing for the top spot on Saturday night, including three from Nine Racing. The team currently stands seventh in the Toyota Challenge with the #91 car that Davey Ray piloted to a seventh-place finish at Tri-State Speedway. Ray will hand over the reins to pavement specialist Dave Steele for the final two rounds of the Challenge at ORP.
Steele will be joined by teammate Dave Darland (25th at Tri-State) and rising Western States Midget star Kody Swanson, who will make his first start of the year with the Nine Racing squad this weekend.
Josh Wise, the 2005 USAC Midget Series champion, will once again be behind the wheel of the #75 Cruz Pedregon Racing entry. Wise was 24th in the Challenge opener at Tri-State. In addition to his USAC Midget Series duties, Wise is running a limited schedule with Toyota power in both the ARCA RE/MAX and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
The Toyota Challenge, which concludes at the Toyota USAC Racing Classic, also at ORP, is a three-event "championship within a championship" that will award a $25,000 prize fund. Included in the prize fund will be a $15,000 award to the Toyota Challenge champion. Keith Kunz Motorsports won the inaugural Toyota Challenge last season.
Developed in partnership with Nine Racing and Ed Pink Racing Engines, Toyota's four-cylinder race engine debuted a year ago at the Phoenix International Raceway with Nine Racing's Dave Steele winning its maiden race, the Copper World Classic.
Toyota's USAC program has expanded in 2007, highlighted by its title sponsorship of the prestigious "Toyota USAC Night Before the 500" at O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP) in Indianapolis, May 26. The race, held yearly prior to the Indianapolis 500, will be a part of the successful Toyota Challenge that debuted a year ago. The Toyota USAC Night Before the 500 joins the Circle of Champions presented by Kenny Kent Toyota at Tri-State Speedway (May 12), and the Toyota USAC Racing Classic at ORP (June 16), as part of the three-event championship.
"Toyota is thrilled to add the title sponsorship for the Toyota USAC Night Before the 500 and have the event incorporated as a part of this year's Toyota Challenge," said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. "We're happy to be a part of such a huge racing weekend in Indianapolis. O'Reilly Raceway Park is undoubtedly one of the finest facilities of its kind in America and Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. is in close proximity to our Tundra Princeton assembly plant. It should be a terrific Toyota Challenge schedule."
Toyota also will continue two other initiatives begun during the 2006 campaign. The manufacturer will offer a unique year-end owner's bonus fund that can total up to $25,000 to recognize and support entrant participation. At the end of the season, the top-10 point standings USAC National Midget Series team owners will receive $100 for every event entered in the 2007 schedule.
The Toyota-sponsored year-end bonus fund is intended to reward the series' teams who participate in the majority of the USAC National Midget Racing Series, regardless of what chassis or engine they have selected for competition.
For the second consecutive season, the USAC National Midget Racing Series also will be a part of Toyota Motorsports/TRD, U.S.A Contingency Awards Program that is designed to reward exemplary performance. Toyota-powered USAC National Midget Racing teams must submit required claim forms and display proper TRD logo stickers as outlined in the program guidelines. The payouts will include $1,000 to the highest finishing Toyota-powered USAC Midget per A Main national event and $500 to the second highest finishing Toyota. USAC Western Midget series drivers will earn $500 and $250 per event as the highest-placing Toyota finishers. The program excludes participants from Nine Racing.
"Toyota is committed to bolstering the financial reward for all USAC Midget Series team owners and drivers," said Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. "Strong teams foster a high-level of competition and greater success for everyone involved in the series."
New for 2007, TRD will be involved with the National Midget Driver of the Year award. The award recognizes the nation's top midget driver using a unique point system based on several factors including car count, purse and event prestige.
"USAC is extremely pleased that Toyota is supporting USAC Midget Racing again this year," said Rollie Helmling, USAC President and CEO. "Toyota has illustrated its strong desire to support what may be America's most exciting racing series. The continuation of last year's programs and new additions certainly illustrates Toyota's interest in enhancing the sport and all of its participants."
To request an application and register for the Toyota Motorsports/TRD Contingency Program, contact Steve Marston (firstname.lastname@example.org; 714-957-4110) for additional information.
2007 Toyota Challenge Standings after Round One 1. #21 Tony Stewart Racing 68 2. #114 Hud Cone 64 3. #32 RFMS 60 4. #43 Quin Motorsports 59 5. #11 Wilke-Pak Racers 54 6. #7 Carter Racing 52 7. #91 Nine Racing 50 8. #99 Kasey Kahne Racing 44 9. #5 Tom Hessert Racing 43 10. #17x Kenny Brown 38
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