Bryan Clauson was going to be tough to beat in the USAC Midget race of the 70th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
USAC National Midget Champion Bryan Clauson
Bryan Clauson became the first driver to win consecutive Turkey Night Grand Prix races since Billy Boat from 1995 to 1997.
He had little to lose. He came into the race with the USAC National Midget championship wrapped up. Clauson admitted after the race he probably made some decisions that he might not have made if the national championship wasn't up for grabs.
"The pressure's kind of off once the points are thrown out the window," said Clauson of Noblesville, Indiana. "We were able to make some three-wide moves there and thread the needle a couple of times. Maybe if you're in a points championship battle, you don't do it."
Bryan Clauson at Turkey Night Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway
But the race ended with some uncertainty. Clauson said the right front tire on his car was going flat with about 20 laps to go in the 98-lap race. He said he thinks he ran over some debris in the waning laps of the race and it affected the handling on his car.
Luckily for Clauson, he built up a substantial lead on the Armstrongs, Caleb and Dalton, and was able to cruise to his second Turkey Night Grand Prix win in a row.
Clauson became the first driver to win consecutive Turkey Night Grand Prix races since Billy Boat from 1995 to 1997. He is one of only five drivers to win Turkey Night Grand Prix races in consecutive years and the only the second driver to do it at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Jason Leffler is the other.
"It's pretty special," said Clauson, who races for Corey Tucker Racing-Keith Kunz Motorsports with support from K&N. "A guy like Billy Boat is synonymous with Midget racing. The things he did in Midget racing were unbelievable."
Clauson took the lead on lap 9 from Cole Whitt and held it for the remainder of the race. Kody Swanson started on the pole and led the first lap. Dakoda Armstrong took over the lead on lap 2 and held it for two laps. Whitt passed Armstrong on lap 4 and was out front until lap 8.
Clauson pulled away from the rest of the field and had little trouble maintaining his lead.
"It's so hard to race yourself," Clauson said. "You're just trying to keep a pace your car can hold for 98 laps and hope it's fast enough to hold off the rest of them."
Clauson started the race in fourth and quickly made his way to the front. Racing with the National Midget championship already won didn't factor into Clauson's approach in the opening laps of the race.
"I don't think it really would have made a difference," Clauson said. "We had such a good car the first half of the race, we would have found our way to the front no problem. We were able to keep it close and not use up our tires too much working through the field."
Part of winning the USAC National Midget championship includes a scholarship to race in the Firestone Indy Lights season. Indy Lights team owner Sam Schmidt and Izod IndyCar Series chief executive officer Randy Bernard were in attendance at the track to watch Clauson race.
"It's been a great year," Clauson said. "We've won a lot of big events. We've had five USAC wins and some other special victories. It's a special year for us."
Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.