Mission Accomplished For Clauson
KOKOMO, Ind. — Mission accomplished.
Just minutes after the checkered flag, Bryan Clauson climbed the roll cage of his Agajanian/Curb Records/R&B Truckers No. 7 Maxim and emotionally punched a fist at the sky as aerial bombs and colorful fireworks burst behind him.
It took Clauson 16 laps to battle his way to the front of the Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway. But once in the lead he was unstoppable as he claimed the $10,000-to-win inaugural Smackdown finale.
Tracy Hines came home second in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series event, followed by Kevin Thomas Jr., Dave Darland and Kyle Larson.
“It’s huge,” he said later. He noted USAC’s National Drivers Championship points and the sprint car owner’s title. Then he added, “But we came here to win Smackdown. We were so strong all weekend, but we thought we might have let one get away last night. It was just kind of circumstances and I didn’t make the right moves late in the race and let those guys beat me. But we really had a strong car tonight and all of the boys did a great job getting this thing ready and we came out and did our job.”
The only shortcoming Clauson had all Saturday evening was when he was beat by Thomas Meseraull in the opening round of the King of the Hill duels for feature starting spots. Clauson lined up fifth, while Hines shared the front row with Meseraull, who he defeated in the final round.
There was tremendous battling at the front for much of the race, with Meseraull holding the point for eight circuits in the Hoffman’s Mean Green No. 69, ahead of Hines, Darland and Damion Gardner. Then, after several attempts, Hines worked past on the bottom of turn one on lap nine. Hines was able to build a half straightaway advantage, but behind him, Clauson was steadily moving to the front. Clauson caught Hines on the 15th circuit, and took the lead with a strong run off the bottom of turn two on lap 16.
Clauson was able to build a lead of three seconds as he raced to the checkered flag.
A scary incident occurred on lap 36 when Levi Jones was battling Jon Stanbrough coming off the fourth turn. Although versions of how and why vary, Jones got into Stanbrough’s left front on the front straightaway, sending Stanbrough’s machine tumbling into the wall at the pit entry in turn one. The car rolled back in front of traffic, collecting Robert Ballou, who also flipped, and was hit by Chad Boespflug, who became the third car upside down.
Ballou’s machine spun violently on its side for several seconds when the throttle stuck open. Although the drivers were able to get out of their cars, Ballou was transported to a local hospital for observation.
The best battle in the closing laps was for second through fifth. Hines held off a hard charge by Thomas, who raced from 12th to battle the leaders. Darland edged Larson, as they all finished in a tight pack.
Clauson, who also captured the USAC feature on Thursday’s Smackdown opening night, later said, “Any time you come to Kokomo it’s not an easy win. You have to work your butt off and you earn every position out here. So for three straight nights of probably some of the most intense racing we’ll see all year, so to come out on top and take home the sweet bow for the first time is pretty cool.”
With back-to-back second place finishes in his MP Environmental Services DRC No. 4, Hines was pleased with his weekend effort. Before the feature he had told his team that he didn’t think he would be able to “bang against that cushion” for 40 laps. He added, “And about ten laps into it I had to go up there and never went back down. So it’s kind of funny that you have this plan and it never comes true, you just have to do what you have to do.”