Clauson’s hiring of six-time Indianapolis 500 starter Mann showed wisdom in its simplicity. He didn’t want to “throw a driver to the wolves” in the team’s first year at the speedway.
Instead, Clauson wanted to make sure his team has the best shot he could give it to make the race, with 36 entries meaning three cars will go home without racing in the Indianapolis 500.
“Of course, the question … and it’s a legitimate question, don’t get me wrong, has been, ‘Well, why not Sunshine (Courtney)?’ The answer to that is that we’re rookies at this deal and I don’t want people to forget about that,” Clauson noted. “The worst thing that I could do in this scenario is bring someone who’s trying to learn into a program where we’re also trying to learn. It does the driver a disservice in that case.
“With the pieces that we have, though, I believe we’re going to have a competitive effort and I think Pippa (Mann) does a lot more for us than just checking the box of sitting in the seat,” he added. “I think she’s smarter than people give her credit for and I hope we do our due diligence in surrounding her with a group that will help her to shine the most this month.”
One other link that Clauson brings to the table for the Month of May linking his USAC and IndyCar efforts is the green, blue and silver colors of Driven2SaveLives and the Indiana Donor Network.
The organ donation campaign has been a major supporter of CMR for several seasons now, backing Courtney last year in the midget ranks and sponsoring 16-year-old Zeb Wise’s No. 39bc this year.
Driven2SaveLives and the Indiana Donor Network will be the primary sponsor on Mann’s Chevrolet-powered Indy car as she makes her eighth attempt to qualify for the 500.
“The Indiana Donor Network has been on cars at the Indianapolis 500 for the last three years and now with this deal coming together, I feel like it allows us to carry the brand not just at the speedway, but across the short tracks a lot more conducively,” Clauson said. “If you look at it, we now have a true 365-day activation, instead of us doing the short tracks, stopping while someone else does the 500 and then trying to ramp it back up after the Month of May gets through. I think it’s a big statement for them.”
While Clauson hasn’t committed to any further Indy car racing beyond the 103rd Indianapolis 500, he noted he’s treating this piece of his racing operation as every bit the business that he does the dirt teams, with a goal on each portion of the puzzle making all the other portions stronger.
“What we’re looking at right now is what I do with all my programs. When we started our sprint car program, I didn’t plan for year two until I saw how it affected our company totality, like I would with any other piece of the business that we put into play,” Clauson explained. “Our focus right now is on 2019. Once we get through this month, then we’ll look at what the future of it could be.
“If you look at everything we’ve done, we don’t contract very often, even if sometimes maybe we should … but it gives us a chance to put our foot in the water here and see what comes of it,” Clauson added. “If short-track America gets behind us, it certainly makes it a lot easier to do the work and everything it takes to build a program like this and in turn, for someone who would fit the mold even a little bit better.
“We have one year for now, but if this goes well … I always say that you can never rule anything out.”
Clauson was also quick to note he hopes to keep Mann involved beyond just driving this year, both as a friend to the team and a valuable resource, regardless of what the future holds for both sides.
“Moving forward from this, she’s going to be a huge asset for us if we continue to build this out past 2019,” Clauson said of Mann. “We hope she’ll be able to help us grow our program so that we can have a program that a dirt guy could potentially get into one day.
“Right now, we’re just taking this journey one step at a time.”