Clauson Captures USAC National Drivers Championship, 2011 Indy Lights Ride While most of the news coming out of the Izod IndyCar Series won't take effect until the 2012 season, Noblesville's Bryan Clauson made sure that open wheel fans will have at least one intriguing story line to follow through the 2011 season by winning Thursday night's Turkey Night Grand Prix USAC Midget Race at Irwindale Speedway in California.
By winning the historic Turkey Night Grand Prix for the second consecutive year, Clauson maintained his five point advantage over Levi Jones to claim the inaugural USAC National Drivers Championship. The Drivers Championship was originally created to award the top performing driver across USAC's National Silver Crown, Sprint Car, and Midget series with a $40,000 cash bonus. On October 20 IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard raised the stakes for the Championship revealing that the points champion would also be awarded a $300,000 Firestone Indy Lights Scholarship to be used to fund a team for the six oval races in the 2011 Indy Lights season.
The transition from front-engined Midget and Sprint Cars to rear-engined, formula style open wheel cars is one that hasn't been made with much success recently. Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter are the only active IndyCar Series drivers with a Sprint/Midget background and only Carpenter has been able to show some strength on the ovals recently after making his IndyCar debut back in 2003. Only Tony Stewart was able to translate his USAC Triple Crown to an IndyCar Championship in the oval-only years of the Indy Racing League.
The race wins and championships show that Bryan Clauson is made from the same mold as his car owner Stewart. He believes the versatility required to be a championship driver in each of USAC's three National Series will accelerate his transition to the Indy Lights Series.
“Everyone at IndyCar has put me in a situation to go out and have some success. It will be a completely new venue for me with the rear-engine open-wheel car, but I tell people all the time when they ask how we’re going to adapt I don’t think there’s anything tougher than running USAC. You have to run a mile dirt track in Illinois on Friday with the Silver Crown car and come back on Saturday and run a quarter-mile paved track in a Midget. I think we’ll be able to adapt to the Firestone Indy Lights car pretty quickly.” Exminer.com
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