INDIANAPOLIS – Pennsylvania young gun Andrew Layser has joined Clauson-Marshall Racing for this weekend’s fourth annual Junior Knepper 55 at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin.

Layser, 17, will become the latest in a growing group of young talent to wheel a midget for veteran owners Tim Clauson and Richard Marshall when he straps in for the traditional USAC season closer on Saturday night, making his debut at the indoor sixth-mile dirt oval in the process.

The potential for the pairing came about after Clauson paid a visit to Kutztown’s Action Track USA for the first time and Layser, racing a 600cc micro that night, caught Clauson’s eye.

“I had heard all about the track and how tough the 600 racing was there, so I was really jacked up about it, and Andrew was there and really impressed me,” Clauson told SPEED SPORT. “I had gotten to know him a little bit from the time he spent racing for Alex Bright recently, and then even more so on the Eastern Midget swing last year and this year. After getting to know him outside the race car and then seeing him behind the wheel, I really felt like he might be a good fit for one of our cars.

“Kutztown is a place where, if you can run up front there on a consistent basis, I feel like it’s a pretty good statement about your abilities, and Andrew has certainly done that … as well as shown speed in the midgets this year,” Clauson added. “He’s shown a lot of what we look for in our drivers and we’re really excited to work with him this weekend in DuQuoin.”

Layser contested the full USAC Eastern Midget Series presented by ARDC schedule this year, finishing second to teammate Alex Bright in the point standings, and also ran a handful of USAC National Midget Series shows as well.

While he scored a pair of top-10 finishes against the national invaders, Layser knows that this weekend’s opportunity is his biggest chance yet to step into the spotlight on a big stage.

Andrew Layser in action with the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series. (TeeJay Crawford photo)

“Starting off at DuQuoin is going to be pretty cool, but going there with Clauson-Marshall Racing is a huge moment and something that I’m still trying to soak in,” Layser said. “It’s great equipment and a great group of people, and you always want to go into the big shows during the winter with a car that you know is capable of winning and the Clauson-Marshall cars certainly are, as they’ve shown before.

“If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be in the position that I’m in now, I would have probably said that you were crazy,” Layser continued. “It’s an unbelievable chance and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Both Clauson and Layser agreed that, as a new pairing, everyone involved is keeping their expectations for Layser’s DuQuoin debut realistic as both sides learn together through the weekend.

“DuQuoin certainly isn’t an easy track for a rookie; we did the same thing with Gio (Scelzi) last year,” Clauson said. “It’s a tough environment and can be a frustrating environment, but I think those types of situations can be the most telling on how a driver reacts to both good and bad situations. There’s value in both ends of the spectrum, so we’re not expecting the world, but we believe it will be a great test for Andrew in one of our race cars.”

“It’s not going to be easy, but I’ve been watching a lot of video, particularly from the last two years that USAC has raced there in March and December,” Layser noted of the Mini Magic Mile. “It’s definitely about surviving your heat and qualifier to transfer into the feature, and then with the longer races it’s about timing your moves to the top and back to the bottom as the track changes through the race.”

For Layser, who grew up with Clauson’s late son Bryan as one of his racing heroes, the chance to represent the three-time USAC national champion by driving for the team that now bears his last name and carries on his mission of promoting organ donation is one that he relishes and appreciates.

“This is huge for me. Clauson-Marshall Racing is a fantastic team, not only from a results standpoint, but outside of that with how they handle their sponsors and drivers,” Layser pointed out. “More than that, though, it’s a dream come true and truly amazing to be able to honor Bryan by driving for his dad’s team.

“He was a great driver, a great person and someone I looked up to as a kid, and I hope I can do his legacy and memory proud with a strong run this weekend.”