Return to podium boosts Clarke's confidence
For the past few seasons, Dan Clarke has been in racing's version of limbo. Without a regular ride, he picked up whatever drives he could and stayed as visible as possible in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock as one of the many drivers walking the pit lane.
That all changed earlier this year when veteran team owner Derrick Walker tabbed Clarke as the driver of his team's No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special in Firestone Indy Lights, beginning with round two at Barber Motorsports Park.
While his early results were solid, he's become more and more of a threat to win as he's gotten more and more comfortable with the series.
"I have to say we've picked it up (since Toronto)," the 26-year-old native of Maidenhead, England said after recording his second podium in three races at the Mid-Ohio 100. "That's what we've been trying to do all year is catch up to these guys. It's my first year in (Firestone) Indy Lights. A lot of these guys, it's their second year. I'm literary coming into tracks I haven't driven before. I had to learn Mid-Ohio in a practice session."
Part of the team's recent run of success was the addition of engineer Nathan O'Rourke, who worked with Ed Carpenter in the IZOD IndyCar Series at Vision Racing. Since O'Rourke joined the team at Toronto, Clarke has three consecutive top-five finishes and jumped from 10th to seventh in the standings.
"It appears like (Nathan) changed everything really, but we've all been working hard all year," Clarke said. "I really credit a lot of this to Derrick, not only putting me in the car and getting me back in a race car, but also just all the dedication he's put in just making sure that everybody's doing their absolute best and we're getting the best out of everything. That's really why we've got this momentum now."
Taking that momentum and continuing to finish well could translate into Clarke's first win in the series, but the Englishman has bigger plans, even if the Firestone Firehawk Cup may be out of reach. Clarke hopes to pay back Walker's faith in him by helping the team achieve its goal of moving up the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"We're working really hard to get in the big car," he said. "We have an opportunity to get in a big car this year really, and we just need a little bit of sponsorship to do that. These podiums are great. I'm happy for Derrick that we're back on the podium because he wants (to move up) just as much as I do and prove that he belongs higher up."