LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Sometimes when you lose a race, the lesson learned from that loss can pay dividends later. When Bryan Clauson won his second feature during Indiana Midget Week, at Lawrenceburg Speedway Saturday, this was the case.
In capturing his fourth USAC Mopar National Midget victory of the season, Clauson took advantage of the experience gained last year, and in the process made winning look easy.
“They sprinkled the top a little bit there, and last year they did the same thing and I got beat by not getting there fast enough,” Clauson explained. “I knew everybody was probably going to swarm to the middle, and starting sixth it probably wouldn’t do me any good to follow them. So I gave it a shot and it just stuck and made me look like a hero. We were going off of last year and we tried not to make the same mistake.”
With fast qualifying time, Clauson started the 30-lap main event from the third row and saw Tanner Swanson lead into the first turn. But Steve Buckwalter drove under Swanson in turn two and they raced side-by-side, with Swanson leading the first lap, but Buckwalter charging ahead in the first turn. While Buckwalter charged to a half-straightaway advantage, Clauson was on the cushion, next to the fence, and fourth by lap four. He passed Bobby East on a restart, charged around Swanson on lap five, and overtook Buckwalter around the top of turn two a lap later.
Driving the NOS Energy Drink/Curb Records Spike/Esslinger, Clauson had stretched a three-quarters of a straightaway lead over Buckwalter when the Pennsylvanian’s car suddenly turned hard into the first-turn wall while running at full throttle, and began tumbling along the top of the track. The machine tagged Swanson as he tried to slip past, and sent his car flipping as well. Within minutes, both drivers walked away from the debris.
“Shoot, that was probably the best car I’ve ever had,” Swanson admitted when back in his hauler. “We were running third and Pickens got us on a restart and we fell back to fourth and were still fighting with him. I went down into one and I guess Buckwalter’s throttle had been hanging up a little bit, and he got over the cushion, hooked the right front in the fence and started flipping. I was on the cushion and really couldn’t get out of it, so I tried as best I could to miss him and as he came tumbling back down the track, he just barely caught my right rear and sent us for a pretty wild ride, I guess.”
New Zealand’s Michael Pickens had worked his way to third, and assumed second for the restart. He took a look inside Clauson, but couldn’t match Clauson’s momentum off the top and fell in line. With Clauson running smoothly out front, the action was all in his wake, as Friday’s winner Kyle Larson earned third after starting 17th, with Tracy Hines and Wednesday’s winner Darren Hagen collecting fourth and fifth.
“It’s a real big win,” Clauson said afterward. “It’s been and up-and-down week. We’ve been pretty good, we’ve just beat ourselves a couple of nights with some mechanical issues, getting us behind the 8-ball early on. I just came out here and just had a night like we needed to come into the final race of Midget Week. This is the homestretch, and we came out and had quick time and ran decent in the heat and won the feature. We didn’t shake Larson, he still ran third, so he’ll be close in the points. We’ve been in this battle before, with Brad Kuhn two years ago, and we know what we need to go to Kokomo and do tomorrow. So, it’s just a matter of going out there and doing our job tomorrow night. If we do that, hopefully we can hold the trophy.”
Pickens was obviously pleased with his second-place run. Driving a New Zealand-built Breka chassis with sponsorship from Polar Ice, he said, “I got up to second spot and that’s about all we had. We’ve been struggling a little bit with this motor. Tonight with the track being a bit slicker, we got through okay, but that’s about all we had. Hopefully we can finish one better tomorrow.”
“We’re happy, we’re coming a long way to do this deal. And to finish second to Bryan Clauson is, he’s the best there is at the moment. So to finish second to him is quite a privilege. Off the restart, he pulled us probably a couple of car lengths at least and I just didn’t have enough motor to get underneath him. I was hoping to catch him on that restart, but we just had nothing for him and we just had to sit behind him and chase him as hard as we could after that,” Pickens added.