TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — With a thrilling flag-to-flag victory romp, Daron Clayton made a statement that was loud and clear as the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car series made its fourth stop of the 25th Indiana Sprint Week at the Terre Haute Action Track Wednesday.
Racing from the pole, Clayton led all 30 laps as Jon Stanbrough claimed second ahead of Tracy Hines, Levi Jones and Coleman Gulick.
“This is probably one of the highlight races of my career,” Clayton said.
Making infrequent appearances with USAC in recent years, this being only his third event of 2012, he turned his attention to Sprint Week and exclaimed, “Daron Clayton hasn’t been here the first half, but Daron Clayton showed up tonight. And I’m ready to take it to them other nights, too. We lost the motor tonight, I’m pretty sure. Ray Morgan, who’s sponsoring me, I can’t thank Ray enough. He brought this gutter rat back out to play and I’m just excited. Since he’s been on board, we’ve won every race.”
Clayton quickly opened a half-straightaway-length lead as Gulick battled Blake Fitzpatrick for second. Behind them, Dave Darland, Bryan Clauson, Tracy Hines and Stanbrough were marching toward the front as they scrapped with each other.
On the 13th circuit, Gulick caught Clayton, pulling even briefly as they exited turn four, but Clayton was able to move up the track and drove away again. Darland was closing on Gulick when his left-rear tire exploded in turn two on lap 16.
While Clayton raced to a 15-car-length advantage on the clear track, Clauson quickly took second and set after the leader. Several times he was able to close within a handful of car lengths, but Clayton drove away each time. With a couple laps remaining, Clauson’s right rear tire delaminated and he fell back to finish ninth.
Taking second, Stanbrough reduced Clayton’s lead slightly, but was still nearly a half straightaway behind at the checkers.
Clayton said that his Ray Morgan Motorsports Spike ran flawlessly, but executing a violent donut on the front straightaway after the finish may have damaged the engine.
“The car works. It works with me. It works the way I want it to,” Clayton said. “I don’t have to make it do anything, I mean just a flick of the wrist and it does exactly what I want it to. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Stanbrough’s run to second after starting eighth moved him within 23 points of Sprint Week point leader Jones, with Clauson just two points further back and three racing remaining.
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