PERRIS, Calif. — Dave Darland became a three-time winner of the Budweiser Oval Nationals with a flag-to-flag victory in Saturday’s $15,000-to-win 40-lapper at Perris Auto Speedway.
It didn’t come easily, though, as Darland’s nemesis over the last two seasons, Bryan Clauson, came on strong in the closing laps and pushed the 47-year-old driver all the way to the line.
Darland grabbed the lead from outside the front-row in a race with four cautions and set a torrid pace that saw little movement among the top six cars throughout the race. Darland’s lead grew as he reached lapped traffic, and it wasn’t until lap 30 that Clauson finally moved into second with a lot of race track between he and the leader.
A red flag for ninth-running Justin Grant put Clauson on Darland’s tail tank with eight laps to go, and Clauson immediately pressured him for the point. The two banged wheels in turn-two as Darland got back to the throttle to hold the lead down the backstretch. Just as Clauson was mounting his final charge, the caution appeared for Nic Faas with two laps to go.
Darland nailed the restart and held off Clauson by .106 seconds in the Phillips Motorsports – Racers’ Advantage No. 71p DRC/Foxco.
“He has been all over us all year, from the first race of the year when he beat me right at the end in Florida,” Darland said. “I was thinking it was more of the same when I saw his nose come in under me. Just had to find a way to fight him off and get that race over with as quick as we could.
“It’s been a great year with my car owners, Steve and Carla Phillips, and I’m glad we could end it this way, winning a big money race at the Oval Nationals. We came up a little short in the championship, but I’m proud of what we did this season.”
It was the 47th USAC sprint car victory for Darland, who is second all-time and just five behind leader Tom Bigelow.
Clauson was obviously dejected after the race, coming up short on his eighth win of the year but wrapping up a strong championship season in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing – Chevy Performance No. 20 Beast/Kistler.
“I got inside of him once there and he held me off. I really hated to see that last yellow,” Clauson said. “I would have liked to see how we ended up once we got to turn-three, but it wasn’t to be. It was still a phenomenal year for our team — we basically started from scratch with Brad Mariscotti and added Bob East as the crew chief, new chassis, new shocks, new everything.
“There were growing pains but we found our groove midway through and really became the car to beat late in the season. I really wanted that one last win to close it, but I’m pretty happy to be able to go back-to-back as a driver and get this championship with my new team at TSR.”
Defending race winner Mike Spencer held second for most of the race before finishing third in the Madera Produce – Grubstake Mini Storage No. 50 Maxim/Shaver. Chase Stockon took his third-straight top-five finish with Brady Bacon fifth.