By: Richie Murray & Dillon Welch
Although his determined charge to the front was interrupted by three early yellow flags, Noblesville, Indiana’s Bryan Clauson was undeterred as he took the checkered flag during “Winter Dirt Games VII” in his Dooling-Hayward/B & H Contractors – Cancer Treatment Centers of America/Spike/Stanton Mopar in Thursday night’s USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season opening feature at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Starting in the fourth position, Clauson quickly pounced to the front, immediately putting pressure on outside front row starter Chase Stockon for the lead by the end of the first lap. However, a turn four spin by Jarett Andretti brought out the yellow before the first lap could be completed, bringing about a complete restart.
On the ensuing restart, Clauson once again shot to the front, taking the lead on the third lap when the rear end on Aric Gentry’s car locked up, bringing out the second caution of the 30-lap event. On lap seven, Stockon’s tail tank was shadowed around the 3/8-mile D-shaped clay oval by Clauson when Kody Swanson came to a stop backwards in turn four.
Clauson, tired of seeing yellow, was intent on making the most of an extended green flag run, finally claiming the top spot for good on the eighth lap, sliding up in front of Stockon entering turn one and eventually pulling away to a half straightaway lead over Stockon.
Clauson was never challenged despite encountering lapped traffic in the final few circuits, taking his fourth USAC-sanctioned win of the year over Kyle Cummins, Thomas Meseraull, Max McGhee and Chad Boespflug.
Clauson, who won three of the five USAC Southwest/West Coast Sprint features at the “Winter Challenge” at Peoria, Arizona’s Canyon Speedway in January likens his success at Bubba Raceway Park to Canyon.
“This place has always been a place since day one that I’ve taken a liking to,” Clauson said. “I kind of like to call it the Canyon of the south for me. Our cars are always really good and I’m proud to drive this thing. It’s been a rocket ship since we unloaded it at Eldora last year.”
As the track slicked off a bit, Clauson felt that the conditions suited his style to park it in victory lane for the fourth time in “Winter Dirt Games” competition, also picking up victories in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
“Our car, historically, the slicker it gets, the better we are,” Clauson said. “We were licking our chops all night. Our Spike chassis and Stanton power were getting to the ground and we felt like we had really good forward drive all night long. We were able to maneuver; that was the big thing. When Chase took our line away up top, I could go to the middle and still make some runs at him. That’s what we work on every night, not only to be fast but to be able to make multiple lines work.”
Cummins, of Princeton, Indiana, had a superb run, taking second at the checkered, passing Stockon during a three abreast battle along with Meseraull, who collected the third spot.
“At the beginning I felt like I sucked everywhere, but I made some adjustments and it seemed like going into the middle of one, everybody was kind of hanging, and I could make up a little bit of ground. In three and four, I could just run in the middle. Going into one and getting off turn four was my best by far. It seemed like I could make up a huge amount on the guys.”
Brady Short, who owns the lead for the Wilwood Brake Systems Passing Master Award for the weekend, was the KSE Hard Charger for the night, moving from 18th to the 11th in the feature. The contingency award winner for Schoenfeld Headers was fifth-place finisher Boespflug while Meseraull (3rd) and Brady Bacon (8th) won contingencies from Schroeder/Pac Springs. The top-finishing driver in a Maxim chassis was McGhee in the fourth spot.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: February 18, 2016 – Ocala, Florida – Bubba Raceway Park – “Winter Dirt Games VII”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Max McGhee, 17, McGhee-13.967; 2. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Byram-14.091; 3. Bryan Clauson, 63, Dooling/Hayward-14.162; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 66, Amati-14.251; 5. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-14.276; 6. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.298; 7. Justin Grant, 5, Baldwin-14.303; 8. Chad Boespflug, 98e, NineEight/EZR-14.398; 9. Robert Ballou, 1, Ballou-14.431; 10. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-14.433; 11. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-14.539; 12. Chris Windom, 21x, Pollock-14.626; 13. Casey Shuman, 4J, Ottinger-14.654; 14. Shane Cottle, 2E, Epperson-14.724; 15. Kody Swanson, 71p, Phillips/Wolters-14.740; 16. Carson Short, 21, Short-14.775; 17. Dave Darland, 11, Walker-14.779; 18. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-14.799; 19. Brady Short, 17GP, Dutcher-14.818; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-14.819; 21. Mitch Wissmiller, 1w, Wissmiller-14.827; 22. Tom Harris, 5E, East-14.954; 23. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-15.039; 24. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-15.092; 25. Landon Simon, 24, LSR-15.135; 26. Aric Gentry, 10, GBR-15.161; 27. Bret Mellenberndt, 97, Mellenberndt-15.183; 28. Kent Schmidt, 5K, Schmidt-15.379; 29. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-17.693; 30. Brandon Spithaler, 57B, Burkey-NT; 31. Frank Carlsson, 20, Carlsson-NT; 32. Matt Westfall, 38, Baumgartner-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. McGhee, 3. Stockon, 4. Wissmiller, 5. Darland, 6. Shuman, 7. Simon, 8. Bell. 2:07.41
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Cottle, 2. Cummins, 3. Andretti, 4. Leary, 5. Harris, 6. Farney, 7. Spithaler, 8. Gentry. 2:14.09
BENIC ENTERPRISES THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. B. Short, 3. Grant, 4. Clauson, 5. Robbins, 6. Swanson, 7. Mellenberndt. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Stanbrough, 2. Boespflug, 3. Windom, 4. Meseraull, 5. C. Short, 6. Schmidt, 7. Westfall, 8. Chapple. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Shuman, 2. Swanson, 3. C. Short, 4. Darland, 5. Gentry, 6. Simon, 7. Farney, 8. Schmidt, 9. Westfall, 10. Harris, 11. Robbins, 12. Spithaler, 13. Bell, 14. Mellenberndt, 15. Carlsson, 16. Chapple. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Max McGhee, 5. Chad Boespflug, 6. Chase Stockon, 7. Justin Grant, 8. Brady Bacon, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Robert Ballou, 11. Brady Short, 12. Shane Cottle, 13. Dave Darland, 14. Casey Shuman, 15. Landon Simon, 16. Kody Swanson, 17. Aaron Farney, 18. Chris Windom, 19. Jon Stanbrough, 20. Carson Short, 21. Mitch Wissmiller, 22. Aric Gentry, 23. Jarett Andretti. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Stockon, Laps 8-30 Clauson.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brady Short
NEW USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Clauson-79, 2-Cummins-79, 3-McGhee-74, 4-Meseraull-72, 5-Boespflug-65, 6-Stockon-63, 7-Grant-58, 8-Bacon-57, 9-Leary-52, 10-Ballou-51.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: February 19 – Ocala, FL – Bubba Raceway Park – “Winter Dirt Games VII”