USAC National Drivers Champion Clauson to test Firestone Indy Lights car
Bryan Clauson has enjoyed about 10 days at home in Noblesville, Ind., since securing the inaugural USAC National Drivers Championship on Thanksgiving night. He's been on the road, competing in New Zealand for three weeks and in the annual Chili Bowl (fifth place in the main event) in Tulsa, Okla., most recently.
Now the 21-year-old will get behind the wheel of a Firestone Indy Lights car for the first time Jan. 28 at Phoenix International Raceway with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Winning the USAC title includes a scholarship to compete in the six oval races on the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights schedule beginning with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With his busy schedule, Clauson hasn't had much time to digest the opportunity.
"It's been a whirlwind week of getting the licensing and physical and paperwork," he said, "but I'm excited and can't wait to get out there and get started. I had a short time to relax and reflect on everything we accomplished last year and to look forward to this year, but after that it's been on the go. I left for New Zealand just before Christmas, and that was cool to race over there. I had never been out of the country. Then I came back and it was time for the Chili Bowl. I don't know if it will really sink in until we get to Indianapolis - the place I dreamed about as a kid and where it all starts really."
Clauson, who visited the race team shop in Indianapolis last week to get acquainted with the personnel and car, has familiarity with the one-mile Phoenix oval. Victor Carbone, who will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2011, and two other drivers will join Clauson at the track.
"I even got a handbook that explained everything," he said. "It will be fun being a rookie again and going through the learning process. If I could pick two places to go, it would be Phoenix and Kentucky because I have thousands of laps at both places. I've raced the Midget at Phoenix and driven a Silver Crown there and it's a place I know fairly well, so it's a nice place to get started.
"I'll be working with a great group of guys who have lots of experience and that's important when you're learning something new."
Clauson wrapped up the USAC National Drivers Championship with a victory in the 70th Turkey Night Grand Prix -- the first back-to-back winner of the USAC Mopar National/Western Midget race since Billy Boat (1995-97). The National Drivers Championship is based on the best 25 races of each driver in one of the three national divisions (Silver Crown, Sprints, Midgets).