BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — “You can classify it as huge,” Bryan Clauson allowed Friday, after his second straight Indiana Sprint Week USAC AMSOIL national sprint car series victory.
Clauson caught and passed Kevin Thomas Jr. just past mid-race at Bloomington Speedway and never looked back. Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon scored second and third.
“It’s a big night for us. Throughout these seven race deals, everybody’s going to go through their ups and downs and it’s how you manage those and make the best of each situation is what gives you a shot at the end. We were fortunate enough to do that,” Clauson continued. The victory gave him a 28-point lead in the Indiana Sprint Week standings over Thomas, Bacon and Dave Darland, with only the final event, Saturday at Tri-State Speedway, remaining.
With three Sprint Week wins in the first four races, Thomas rocketed into the lead from outside the front row, and within three circuits had built a straightaway length advantage over Ryan Bernal and Clauson. Racing as if he was in his own zip code, Thomas caught up with backmarkers just a handful of laps later and began to work steadily through them. Wheeling the No. 20 Tony Stewart Racing/Curb Agajanian Beast, Clauson disposed of Bernal on lap 11. Although Thomas was still a straightaway ahead, Clauson started to close the gap. On lap 18, Thomas bobbled in turn two, and very quickly they were nose to tail. Clauson dove to the inside as they raced into turn three, cleanly cleared Thomas and began to drive way.
Once back to second, Thomas started to experience a power steering failure. Fighting with the heavy steering, he hit the curb wrong in turn two, got crossed-up, and Stockon’s Superior Tank and Trailer DRC raced past on the inside. Clauson ran quick and steady laps as they counted down, maintaining a half-straightaway lead over Stockon. With two laps remaining, Thomas slipped over the bank in turn four and slowly rolled to a stop, bringing out a caution.
Following a clean restart, Clauson opened a dozen car-length lead, which he maintained until the checkers. Bacon earned his third consecutive third place finish and moved up in both national and Sprint Week points. The second place finish was momentous for Stockon’s small team.
He explained, “I got this car running for Terre Haute and we had so many handling problems in it at first, just me getting used to the motor in the car, because it’s a little bit bigger than what I’m used to. I think we finally got it figured out tonight. We left the car a little bit free in the feature, just kind of planning on it being rough like it was, and I think that it payed off pretty good.”
Looking ahead to the conclusion of Sprint Week, Clauson admitted that there was still work to be done.
“There’s still one long night left. There’s a lot of points on the board tomorrow. By no means is this thing finished, but it’s definitely nice to have a little bit of a cushion to work with going into tomorrow night. We’ll see if we can’t bring it home.”