For the fifth installment, we look back on the day when Tony Stewart solidified his name in the ranks of the best drivers to ever run in the Copper World Classic at Phoenix Raceway in 1998.
He became the only driver in the 22-year history of the famed event at PIR to win two feature events on the same day, doing so on Feb. 1, 1998 by winning the USAC Midget and USAC Silver Crown Series.
After a late consolation race on Jan. 31 earned him the 25th of 30 starting spots in the Silver Crown main event, Stewart slowly crept through the field, climbing to 15th after four laps and eighth after eight laps. He eventually took the lead from polesitter Dave Steele and never let it go.
On the flip side, he wasted no time to dominate the main midget race as he started from the pole and led 24 of 25 laps to earn his second-consecutive victory in the division.
With the record-breaking two victories, the defending Indy Racing League Champion won half of the four-race Skoal Bandit Racing Copper World Classic. In fact, he even turned in a runner-up finish in the supermodified main, his first-ever race in that division.
In over 23 years of racing in the desert, Stewart has run everything from USAC Midget and Silver Crown cars, Indy cars, Supermodifieds and NASCAR XFINITY and Sprint Cup cars, so if anyone can pull off the feat of winning in two different cars in one day, Stewart would be the racer to do it.
Reflecting on why the Copper World Classic was so important, he said, “It was everything. Take what it’s like for us in the Sprint Cup Series to get ready for the Daytona 500 – that’s what it was like to come out to Phoenix for the Copper World Classic. As soon as the season was over, everybody got ready and started getting cars built for the Copper Classic. You literally built cars that were basically one-off cars, so to speak, just to run the Copper Classic. You put extra time, extra detail in them. It was the big one, for sure.”