News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

July 17, 2014

Clauson breaks Action Track drought in Don Smith Classic

Windom has Indiana Sprint Car points lead

TERRE HAUTE — While one driver chased history at the Terre Haute Action Track, another tried to slay his demons at the storied half-mile dirt oval.

Bryan Clauson has long been one of the most prominent names in sprint car driving. He had won at every other track in Indiana worth winning at except one ... the Action Track.

Clauson removed that omission from resume on Wednesday during the Don Smith Classic sponsored by First Financial Bank and which is part of Indiana Sprint Week.

Clauson got past leader Robert Ballou on lap 17 and held off Ballou to get his long awaited victory in Terre Haute. Brady Bacon was third.

"It's the only place in Indiana I hadn't won, so it's huge," Clauson said. "I've ran second here a lot, but it's always been hit-or-miss here. It's great to finally get over the hump. There's not a whole lot of places I haven't won at. It's always kind of slipped away here, but not a better night to do it than during Indiana Sprint Week."

Many fans came to the Action Track hoping to see history made. Tom Bigelow's long-time USAC sprint car record win total of 52 was in jeopardy as Dave Darland was sitting on 51 and was very much in contention to match Bigelow's mark. Bigelow himself was on-hand to witness the proceedings.

Darland contended, he was as high as third-place near the mid-point of the 30-lap feature before he fell back to seventh, but the race for the win boiled to a dual between Clauson and Ballou.

Ballou took the lead from Bacon on lap 13, but Clauson was close behind. The two used distinctly different lines -- Ballou went high, Clauson went low -- to negotiate the track, but what would prove to be decisive was Clauson's comfort level on either line.

"It was one of the those times where being back a bit [Clauson started third, but fell back to fifth] and being able to search was an advantage. I kind of made the mistake early of running too high before it got cleaned off," Clauson said.

Clauson caught Ballou on lap 17, and once past him, he went high himself to establish dominance. By lap 23, Clauson had a two-car length lead, and with lapped traffic coming into play, Clauson deftly weaved his way through it to build his advantage. By the time Clauson took the checkered flag, he had built a 10-car length gap.

"I picked them off one at a time [low on the track], but I also felt it was going away. I had to get back up [high] to get some momentum," Clauson said.

Bacon seemed poised to win after he used a fantastic thrust at the beginning of the race to blitz past pole-sitter Jerry Coons Jr., Darland and Clauson to take the lead from his fourth-place starting position. He led the first 13 laps before giving way to Ballou.

The only yellow flag of the race came after lap 9 when Jon Stanbrough's car slowed on track.

Chris Windom finished fourth and has the Sprint Week points lead with two races to go. Windom has a narrow five-point lead over Darland. Justin Grant is eight points behind and Clauson is nine behind.

Sullivan's Chase Stockon finished 10th in the feature and was the only locally-based driver to take part in it. He is seventh in the Sprint Week points.

Ballou was the fastest qualifier for the race. Shane Cottle, Stanbrough, Bacon and Tyler Courtney won the heat races. They were contested in a difficult setting sun and had the most serious incidents of the evening.

The first came at the start of the third heat. Jimmy Light got held up behind slow traffic on the inside of the first turn. Darland made contact from behind and Light spun on the bottom of the track. Landon Simon, who was behind the initial contact, went high to avoid collision, and his car cart-wheeled in the second turn.

None of the drivers were injured. Light and Darland continued when the heat re-started (Darland transferred), but Simon could not.

Shane Cockrum brought out the second red flag in the fourth heat. His No. 66 car snapped entering the second turn, flipped, and hit the top of the wall. His car landed on-track on its wheels. Cockrum was unhurt, but was knocked out of the action.

In the semi-feature, won by Windom, former Action Track winner Daron Clayton fell out of contention from second place with a fiery blown engine on the frontstretch after lap five. Terre Haute's Brandon Mattox battled Brian Hayden for the last transfer spot, but Hayden just clipped Mattox at the line to take it.

Terre Haute's Kenny Carmichael Sr. pulled away in the modified feature on won by nearly a half-track length advantage over Roger Mills.

The Sprint Week series next races at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville tonight.

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