PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — It has been a long Indiana Sprint Week for Bryan Clauson. The defending USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series champion began the 26th annual edition of Indiana Sprint Week locked and loaded for a big result.
But the finishes have generally been disappointing and took a lot of more work than they had hoped. Finally, in the fifth event of the seven-race series, Clauson celebrated in victory lane after a hot night at Lincoln Park Speedway.
“It’s huge for us,” Clauson admitted as he stood in the cool darkness of his hauler. “After the kind of week that we had, we needed something to get us over the hump and really back in the chase. Obviously, with the 71 (Dave Darland) and the 17 (Kevin Thomas Jr.) having trouble tonight, it kind of leaves the door open for us to put ourselves back in the race. Obviously, not the favorites, they’ve been pretty strong, but put ourselves back in contention. I’ve been to Bloomington a lot of times, and a lot of times there’s a lot of points given up and made up there over the years in Indiana Sprint Week.”
The crowd that filled Lincoln Park’s grandstand was hoping to see Thomas capture a record fourth straight Indiana Sprint Week win. Although he was able to turn the fastest qualifying lap, the remainder of the program was frustrating, as Thomas finished 11th in the main event. Darland’s night was worse as a flat tire put him out of the feature early and in two races he fell from leading Sprint Week to sixth in the standings.
Christopher Bell jumped ahead of Hunter Schuerenberg at the green flag with Clauson wheeling the Tony Stewart/Curb/Agajanian Chevy Performance Beast, just behind. Clauson quickly took second, and by the third lap was working Bell for the lead. After starting seventh, Thomas had gained a spot by the time that the caution flew on lap 16. On the restart, Schuerenberg suddenly slowed up between three and four and when Thomas spun to miss him, he had to restart on the tail.