From Dick Jordan
Two-time USAC National Drivers Champion Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. has the early lead in the 2012 AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series after second and fourth-place finishes in “Bubba’s Winter Dirt Games” In Ocala, Fla.
Clauson finished fourth behind winner Damion Gardner on Thursday night, then nearly beat Darren Hagen to the checkered flag in a spectacular finish to Saturday night’s 30-lapper at the three-eights mile dirt oval.
The three-night extravaganza presented by eBay Motors suffered a rainout after qualifying on Friday.
Hagen, of Riverside, Calif., held off Clauson on the final corner to take the victory on Saturday. Justin Grant set a new Track Record and the feature ended with a .092-second winning margin in the 30-lap Main Event.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to get a win for this team after all the work they’ve put in this week. They’ve been great to work with, and we’re just really pumped to take a win here tonight,” Hagen said of his Hoffman Auto Racing Mean Green Chalk/Stanton Mopar #69.
Hagen held off advances from Grant throughout the first half of the race. Hagen slipped away in lapped traffic until a caution flew with ten laps remaining. From then on, Clauson stalked the lead in his CTR/RW/Curb-Agajanian R&B Trucker’s Maxim/Fisher #7. On the final lap, Clauson went high in turn three and had a run to the line with the two making contact just before the flagstand. Clauson spun to the infield in turn one.
“We were just getting better and better. We could get some runs on him but just couldn’t get a way by. We had a shot coming to the line, but he kinda shut the door there. It’s a great way for us to start the season, though,” Clauson said.
Grant held on for third in his Hery Racing Sunset Meats DRC/Claxton #40. Defending series champion Levi Jones was fourth in the Tony Stewart Racing GM Performance Maxim/Kistler #20. Thursday’s winner Damion Gardner was fifth in the DG Racing Pace Lighting Eagle/Shaver #71
Gardner, of Concord, Calif., started the 2012 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season much the way he has started the last two after capturing the opening round of “Bubba’s Winter Dirt Games” presented by eBay Motors at Bubba Raceway Park on Thursday night. Gardner took his DG Racing Pace Lighting Eagle/Shaver #71 to the point on lap six, slipping past early leader Brady Bacon, and led the distance despite heavy pressure throughout.
“It’s just a great way to start the year. We have to keep it going, but it’s great to get this one tonight. There were a couple times I thought we weren’t going to get it, but we caught a couple lucky breaks, so it worked out well,” Gardner said.
Gardner did appear to be in trouble as Bacon pressured him in lapped traffic. After catching a caution on lap 26 to get clear track, Bacon slipped by on the restart aboard his Hoffman Auto Racing Mean Green Triple X/Stanton Mopar #69, but a caution negated the move and gave Gardner the lead back. On the ensuing restart, Bacon surrendered second to Jon Stanbrough, who also looked low for the lead. Gardner held on despite another late caution for his third win in four tries at the Ocala, Fla. oval. Gardner also went two-for-two at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton in 2010.
Stanbrough held on for second in his Roberts/Tate Racing Leer Racing DRC/Speedway #21x over Bacon. Bryan Clauson, who set a New Track Record in qualifications, finished fourth in the CTR/RW/Curb-Agajanian R&B Trucker’s Maxim/Fisher #7. Bud Kaeding was fifth in the BK Racing Kaeding Performance Maxim/Speedway #29
The 2012 AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series resumes April 14 at the Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway,
2011 AMSOIL USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR POINT STANDINGS
1-Bryan Clauson-187; 2-Damion Gardner-182; 3-Jon Stanbrough-179; 4-Justin Grant-167; 5-Levi Jones-159; 6-Dave Darland-147; 7-Darren Hagen-140; 8-Kevin Thomas Jr.-140; 9-Tracy Hines-137; 10-Casey Shuman-135.