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September 10, 2010

USAC's Clauson leading National Driver's Championship heading to Lincoln Park, TH Action Track

TERRE HAUTE — USAC sprint car driver Bryan Clauson has a problem just about any of his peers wouldn’t mind having.

Should he focus on tracking down current sprint car points leader Levi Jones in the USAC sprint car standings?

Or, should he focus on consolidating his USAC National Driver’s Championship lead over Jones? It’s a championship that factors in results from the Silver Crown cars, the sprints and midgets.

No matter what tact Clauson follows, he knows only one way to approach USAC’s pair of races in the Wabash Valley this weekend.

“It’s kind of an odd situation. I have to be consistent in the National Driver’s Championship, so I have to be consistent there, but I have to chase down Levi in the sprint car championship, so I have to take some shots and be aggressive there,” said Clauson, who paid a visit to the Tribune-Star on Thursday.

“It’s a balancing act and a situation I’ve never been in before. You kind of have to stick with what got you there. I call it being ‘patiently aggressive’. Take what you have.”

The USAC sprint cars will race at the Terre Haute Action Track for the third time this season as the 1/2-mile dirt oval hosts the First Financial Bank Jim Hurtubise Classic on Saturday.

The USAC sprints will also be in action at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville tonight for the Billy Marvel Classic.

Clauson, 21, is one of dirt track racing biggest stars and is considered one of its most likely candidates to make the jump to either NASCAR or IndyCar in the near future. He very nearly did make his Sprint Cup debut in 2008, only to have the two races he was scheduled to race at get rained out.

“The goal this year was to win a championship or two. I didn’t get to do that in my first go-around with USAC. I’d like to throw that on my resume. Moving forward, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I enjoy the stock cars and wouldn’t mind taking another crack. at that,” Clauson said.

While NASCAR is Clauson’ oft-mentioned destination point, the Noblesville High School graduate has given up on the Indianapolis 500 either.

“There’s nothing like the month of May in Indy as well. With the new leadership over there, they’re working towards American drivers so maybe down the road hopefully I can land in the month of May sometime,” said Clauson, who was born in Carmichael, Calif.

Since he made his USAC debut in 2005, Clauson has never won a USAC-sanctioned event at the Action Track. However, Levi Jones — his primary competition for both the sprint and National Driver’s Championships — has won at Terre Haute five times over that same span.

As ever, track conditions are of paramount importance at the Action Track. Drivers, including Clauson, praised the efforts at the track to make it raceable for July’s Sprint Week race.

With rain expected on Friday and possibly Saturday, the track will be tested again. Clauson said it takes a delicate balance to get a dirt track as large as Terre Haute in good racing condition. Most of the dirt tracks USAC races on are much smaller than the Action Track which makes maintenance a lot easier.

“It’s tough because they’re dealing with twice the race track everyone else does. Track prep is more critical on these fast half-miles. It makes the weather more critical too and it seems like they always have bad luck there with that,” Clauson said. “The track was probably the best its been in years for the Sprint Week show. We have high hopes for the track this week. It helps to get wider and a little more racy.”

The Action Track’s ticket office opens at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Gates open at 4 p.m. and hot laps begin at 6 p.m.

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