Clauson eyeing scholarship "renewal"
Bryan Clauson is inching closer to a repeat of the USAC National Drivers Championship as he continues to find success in the final stint of his season.
Clauson, who earned a scholarship to compete in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season with Sam Schmidt Motorsports by winning the USAC National Drivers Championship, wrapped up a series of races on the West Coast with a sweep in Peoria, Ariz., and a strong showing at Perris Auto Speedway on Nov. 5-6.
With two USAC national races remaining, he hopes to remain atop the National Drivers Championship standings and again receive the USAC/INDYCAR scholarship.
"Going out west, we knew it was crunch time to finish up the National Drivers Championship, which we were barely leading," Clauson said. "And we knew if we were going to want to come back with the scholarship that this was a big western swing for us."
The 22-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., went in to the Parker Store Hall of Fame Classic AMSOIL USAC National/CRA Sprint races on Oct. 28-29 with a 10-point lead over Kyle Larson. After Clauson swept both races, he increased the gap to 40 points.
"Arizona was a big step in the right direction," Clauson said. "It put more pressure on Larson, who was running second. He's running the last five races, and he's going to have to win a couple of them to try and take a shot at us. It was a big step in the right direction, but it wasn't by any means a clinching weekend."
Larson couldn't cut into Clauson's lead in sprint car races at Perris, but 20-year-old Chris Windom snuck into second place after winning the Budweiser Oval Nationals AMSOIL USAC National and USAC/CRA Sprint race on Nov. 5. He trails Clauson by 32 points.
Though two-time champ has a great ring to it, Clauson is also focused on again receiving the scholarship provided to the winner to help fund a ride in the INDYCAR system. The scholarship was created in October 2010, and last year provided Clauson with the opportunity to compete in Firestone Indy Lights oval races.
"The scholarship has been a big help and a big hit, and a great program that (INDYCAR CEO) Randy (Bernard), the league and USAC put together to help the short-track USAC guys enter into IndyCar racing," Clauson said. "It was great to hear that it was going to happen, but to be the guy that ultimately won it and was able to go on and run in Indy Lights and venture into INDYCAR was a blast, and hopefully we can continue that next year if we can pull that off again."
Should Clauson win the scholarship, he and INDYCAR will work together to identify the appropriate program for 2012. That could work out to be Firestone Indy Lights, but the door isn't closed to an opportunity in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"We've already moved forward on some things with INDYCAR, both on the Indy Lights side and big car side that we're looking into, and we'll see where everything lands and go from there," Clauson said. "Don't have any definitive plans yet. The scholarship is still a long way out and along with that we'll have to sit down with Randy and see what we feel the best direction is for myself and the league."