Perris, California — Bryan Clauson overcame a trying weekend to put yet another crown jewel event on his impressive list of wins in Saturday’s 20th Annual Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction at Perris Auto Speedway. The Noblesville, Indiana driver caught a break with the two race leaders being swept up in a crash just past halfway before absolutely decimating the field on the way to a 6.542-second victory in the B&H Contractors – Dooling Machine #63 Spike/Fisher.
“This is just a testament to the people I have around me. We had an engine issue last night, and our friend Mike Martin loaned us an engine that we actually sold to him so we could race tonight. We went to Phoenix last night to get it, and my guys just worked so hard to get it together. My car owners Joe Dooling and Brodie Hayward, who actually did the driving to get the engine, and then my dad and Tyler Ransbottom who did so much work here at the track. It’s extremely gratifying to get this win,” Clauson said.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. took the lead after starting outside the front row, and Dave Darland, who won the night’s dash in a three-wide nearly photo finish, came along with him. Thomas Meseraull stuck with them and moved to second early as pre-race favorite Robert Ballou quickly navigated from sixth to fourth. Two early cautions slowed the pace.
On that restart, Meseraull had a head of steam down the backstretch and threw a slider for the lead into turn-three, but Thomas was able to cross him over. Thomas was ahead by a nose at the line and the duo nearly crashed in turn-one as they touched while racing for the lead, but in turn four Aaron Farney had spun around after losing his left-rear wheel, necessitating another caution. That returned Thomas, Jr. to the lead.
After the restart, Ballou was on the move. He cut the bottom perfectly to take third from Darland on lap seven, and then moved past Meseraull a lap later. Thomas, Jr. hit traffic on lap 15 and Ballou closed. On lap 19, he made his move for the point with a turn-three slidejob, but he banged the turn-four cushion and nearly crashed. He continued on, but lost the second spot to Meseraull.
At halfway, Thomas, Jr. led Meseraull, Ballou, and Clauson, who had worked his way past Darland. Two laps later, Clauson ran the bottom through turns one and two to take third. On lap 23, Thomas, Jr. caught the turn-three wall and spun around, with Meseraull hitting him on the way past. Thomas, Jr. was done, and after a few laps under caution, Meseraull went to the work area, as well. He was unable to fix the damage.
That gave the lead to Clauson, who proceeded to drive off into another zip code for the remaining eighteen laps. Clauson’s 33rd-career AMSOIL National Sprint Car win moved him past Rollie Beale on the all-time win list and into 11th. Also, Clauson’s father Tim earned the “Ray Scheetz Chief Mechanic of the Race” award.
“I felt like we were good enough all weekend to get it done, but we just needed things to fall our way a little bit better. I could roll up through there early and get past a few guys I thought would be good on the bottom as the race went on. I just wanted to keep those leaders in sight, but then the leaders had their issues and just gave us clear track for the last stretch. I can’t say enough about the Kazarian family and their sponsors for putting on such a big race – thanks to Budweiser and Big Mike from All Coast for taking this event to the next level,” Clauson said.
Darland appeared to be no match for Clauson, but he also ran the bottom en route to a runner-up finish worth $15,000 in the Phillips/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Trench Shoring #71P DRC/Foxco.
“I knew from when he went past me that Clauson was going to be really tough to beat. After that restart, it was pretty clear that he was the class of the field. I tried to stay patient and not make mistakes late in the race, just to hold onto my spot. It’s good to finish this weekend with a great finish and a great payday, and we will go to Tucson and see if we can take a few more points off Ballou’s lead,” Darland said.
Damion Gardner came on over the second half of the race, using the high side to finally take command of the third spot in the Alexander Racing – Scott Sales Company #4 Spike/J&D.
“It’s good to finish this weekend up on the podium and have a good run. I love this event so much, and it’s great to have the National guys come in and have this event build back to three days and all. It was probably better for us that we weren’t very good on the bottom, because I gave up on it and decided to just go to the top to try to be good later in the race up there. I really thought it would end up on the cushion, and I was surprised more guys didn’t go up there. It took a while to get it rolling up there, but we were pretty good at the end and even catching Darland,” Gardner said.
Tracy Hines finished his fine Oval Nationals weekend with a fourth-place finish in his The Carolina Nut Company – MPHG Promotions #4 DRC/Stanton Chevy, and Ballou’s weekend ended in fifth aboard the Pacific Turf & Grass – Blakesley Auto #12 Maxim/Ott, as he goes to Tucson’s USA Raceway for the “Western World Championships” on Thursday with a sixty-point lead.
C.J. Leary drove from 21st to finish 13th, earning the night’s $1,000 “Tony Jones Hard Charger Award,” and R.J. Johnson won the Wagtimes/Lafond CRA “Hard Charger.” Austin Williams started the night with the ProSource/Woodland Auto Display “Fast Time Award.”
AMSOIL USAC SPRINT CAR NATIONAL & CRA CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 14, 2015 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway – 20th Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction
QUALIFYING: 1. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-16.575; 2. Justin Grant, 5, Baldwin-16.610; 3. Damion Gardner, 4x, Alexander-16.713; 4. Bryan Clauson, 63, Dooling/Hayward-16.739; 5. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-16.821; 6. Richard Vander Weerd, 10, Vander Weerd-16.920; 7. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-16.958; 8. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-16.972; 9. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-16.989; 10. Matt Mitchell, 37, Mitchell-17.050; 11. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-17.102; 12. Ronnie Gardner, 12A, Allen-17.107; 13. Ryan Bernal, 56, Phulps-17.140; 14. Brody Roa, 48, Leonard-17.198; 15. Jake Swanson, 92, Sertich-17.224; 16. Chris Windom, 21x, Pollock-17.266; 17. A.J. Bender, 21, Bender-17.285; 18. Mike Spencer, 50, Chaffin-17.295; 19. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-17.326; 20. Chad Boespflug, 04G, Cook-17.380; 21. Geoff Ensign, 3F, Finkenbinder-17.405; 22. Danny Faria, Jr., 4D, Gansen-17.424; 23. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-17.464; 24. Jace Vander Weerd, 88, Vander Weerd-17.467; 25. Max Adams, 5M, Adams-17.503; 26. Lee Dakus, 75, Dakus-17.507; 27. Mitch Wissmiller, 36, Springstead-17.518; 28. Austin Liggett, 83, Liggett-17.600; 29. Kyle Edwards, 51E, Tafoya-17.633; 30. Parker Colston, 64, Gore-17.649; 31. Matt Rossi, 02, Rossi-17.730; 32. Verne Sweeney, 98JR, Tracy-17.800; 33. Tommy Malcolm, 5x, Napier-17.870; 34. David Bezio, 37x, Bezio-17.892; 35. Jeremy Ellertson, 98, Ellertson-17.923; 36. Logan Williams, 5J, Jory-17.958; 37. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-18.091; 38. Koby Barksdale, 12B, Sampson-18.281; 39. Randy Waitman, Y69, Waitman-18.613; 40. Mike Collins, 04, Collins-18.761; 41. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-19.109.
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Stanbrough, 2. Bernal, 3. Hodges, 4. A. Williams, 5. Ensign, 6. Bender, 7. Edwards, 8. Adams. 2:53.02
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Roa, 2. R. Vander Weerd, 3. Mitchell, 4. Spencer, 5. Dakus, 6. Faria, 7. Colston, 8. Grant. NT
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Farney, 2. Gardner, 3. Swanson, 4. Stockon, 5. Johnson, 6. Williams, 7. Rossi, 8. Wissmiller. 2:52.82
FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Clauson, 3. Leary, 4. R. Gardner, 5. J. Vander Weerd, 6. Boespflug, 7. Liggett, 8. Sweeney. 2:52.24
SUPER SIX DASH: (6 Laps) 1. Dave Darland (#71p Phillips/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (#17RW Dutcher), 3. Thomas Meseraull (#66 Amati), 4. Tracy Hines (#4 THR), 5. Brady Bacon (#69 Dynamics), 6. Robert Ballou (#12 Ballou). 1:46.52
FIRST B-MAIN: (12 laps) 1. Stockon, 2. Hodges, 3. Leary, 4. Swanson, 5. Johnson, 6. J. Vander Weerd, 7. Ensign, 8. Bezio, 9. Bender, 10. Edwards, 11. L. Williams, 12. Sweeney, 13. Ellertson, 14. Barksdale, 15. Bell, 16. Collins, 17. Waitman. NT
SECOND B-MAIN: (12 laps) 1. Grant, 2. Spencer, 3. Boespflug, 4. A. Williams, 5. C. Williams, 6. R. Gardner, 7. Rossi, 8. Mitchell, 9. Adams, 10. Colston, 11. Dakus, 12. Gansen, 13. Liggett, 14. Malcolm, 15. Faria. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Dave Darland, 3. Damion Gardner, 4. Tracy Hines, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Jon Stanbrough, 8. Chris Windom, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Brody Roa, 11. Justin Grant, 12. Richard Vander Weerd, 13. C.J. Leary, 14. Chad Boespflug, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Mike Spencer, 17. Austin Williams, 18. Jake Swanson, 19. Cody Williams, 20. Logan Williams, 21. Matt Mitchell, 22. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 23. Thomas Meseraull, 24. Ryan Bernal, 25. Aaron Farney, 26. Josh Hodges. NT
-USAC Sprint Car Series Press Release. Photo credit: Rich Forman