It was a wonderful fall day and night Thursday at Phoenix International Raceway for the first of four days of racing. The schedule calls for USAC Midgets and Silver Crown cars in the Copper World Classic, and all three of the NASCAR top tier series – Craftsman Trucks, Nationwide Series, and Sprint Cup.

The weather was mild – mid seventies, with not too much wind. In the evening it cooled as it is wont to do in the desert. It promises to be warm and wonderful all weekend.

BOBBY EAST had the pole for both Thursday USAC races. His father, BOBBY EAST, is a winner of the Copper World Classic and Junior wants to follow in his steps. Dad is handling the car setups in – what else – a Beast, with a Ford engine.

Among the regulars and drivers who opted for a Provisional starting field in the largest ever Midget field this year (39) is NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, KASEY KAHNE of Eumclaw, WA, running one of his own (Beast/Mopar) Midget cars. In the Silver Crown race, Cup driver, RYAN NEWMAN of South Bend, IN, is racing a Beast Chevy for DDK of Illinois. Newman said he’d rather be racing in both events, but “with the Midgets, we just didn’t get it right, right off the bat.” He doesn’t think anything in the USAC events will translate to his No.12 Alltel Dodge in the Sprint Cup. “These are just extracurricular activities.”

East won the Midget race, leading start to finish. Kahne finished fourth in the 33-car field.

The Truck race has 35 entries, Nationwide has an overflow field of 50 cars, and there are 44 Sprint Cup entries.

The Trucks have two races left – PIR and Homestead. At this point, the championship battle is the tightest it’s ever been for the penultimate round. Only six points separate leader JOHNNY BENSON/No.23 Toyota and RON HORNADAY/No.33 Chevrolet. Hornaday has won six times this year, Benson has five wins, and there have been 11 different race winners in 2008.

The Trucks and Nationwide Manufacturer’s Championship have already been won by Toyota.

In the Cup Manufacturer’s Championship, Chevy leads Ford by two points.

Friday both Trucks and Cup qualify and the Trucks have their race at 8 PM local time, televised live on SPEED TV.