Clauson Strikes First At Perris
PERRIS, Calif. — Bryan Clauson came into this weekend’s 17th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway with a scant seven-point lead over 1999 AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion Dave Darland, but stepped up with an impressive performance to lead from flag-to-flag for the Friday night win.
It was Clauson’s seventh victory of the season, putting him ahead of Darland and into the top spot in the victory column, while tacking on a point going into Saturday’s 40-lap feature.
Clauson started outside the front row and took row-two starter Nic Faas with him as they stretched out a large advantage over the field in the first half of the race. Darland, who began from row-three, moved by Richard Vander Weerd into the third spot before trying to track down the lead duo. With 13 to go, the first of five interruptions found those three joined by Jon Stanbrough, who had crept into the top-five.
After a red flag for Ryan Bernal, Darland used a lap-20 restart to diamond off turn-two and take the runner-up spot. Clauson, however, was stout up front as he moved to the cushion all the way around and held back Darland, until a caution appeared with six laps to go for Cody Williams.
The chance appeared for Darland to take the point from Clauson as he got a great run on the restart, attempting a slide-job into turn-one, but Clauson motored around the outside and distanced himself off turn-two to hold the lead. Stanbrough, who had found the bottom all the way around, scooted by Darland just a moment later.
A caution and a red in the final two laps forced Clauson to survive a couple more restarts, but he was up to the task as he traced the cushion perfectly to collect his 18th career national victory in the Curb Records – R&B Trucker’s #7 Maxim/Fisher.
“I knew that I had to get a good run off turn-four and get my momentum up on those restarts. I swear we won that thing twice before we actually got it, but they gave me a great car to finish it off. Coming into tonight, it was me and Dave, and he’s a guy I’ve looked up to all my life. I knew it wouldn’t be easy tonight, and it surely won’t be tomorrow night, either. We’ve got a battle on our hands, but tonight was a big step,” Clauson said.
Stanbrough hit a great restart and nearly pulled alongside Clauson on the final circuit before coming home second in the Leer Motorsports – DND Oil Company No. 21x DRC/Speedway.
“I wanted to win tonight, and we were close. I always enjoy coming out here at the end of the year to race. We were fast enough, especially in a longer race, to get there, but congratulations to Bryan and his guys, and it was good, clean racing with Dave all through that race. Hopefully, we can close a little more on them tomorrow,” Stanbrough said.
Darland kept his title hopes alive with a top-three finish in the Jeff’s Jam-It-In Storage – Hoosier Tire #11 Maxim/Claxton, but will have to beat Clauson by at least three positions on Saturday to have a shot at his second title.
“That time I started in second right behind Bryan, we had a good chance. We were getting really good starts off four, and had a good chance to get him into one and didn’t get it pulled off. We were just a little too tight for my liking. It was a good night, and we’re still in the hunt for the championship. Bryan and I have been racing hard all summer, and it’s coming down to one last race tomorrow night.
Tracy Hines just nipped Faas at the line for fourth in the MP Environmental Services – Support Esophagus Cancer Research No. 4 DRC/Shaver, while Faas closed out the top-five in the Scott Sales Company – La Villa Restaurant No. 4 Spike/J&D. Those five, along with fast qualifier Mike Spencer, are locked into tomorrow night’s “Super Six” Dash.