WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Bryan Clauson overcame an engine change, fought lingering mental uncertainty, and when all was said and done, he took home the trophy from Saturday night’s 40 for Shorty USAC National Midget Series feature at Riverside Int’l Speedway.
After losing an engine on Friday night, the Dooling/Hayward team put in a backup power-plant for Saturday’s finale at the historic quarter-mile dirt track, and then Clauson took advantage of a late-race tire issue on the car of leader Tanner Thorson to nail down his first USAC national midget win of the season.
“Tonight was one of those nights where we’ll look back on it after we finish all 200 (races) this year and just smile about,” Clauson acknowledged. “We were at the point of just wanting to scrap it tonight because of our motor issues, but these guys kept busting their butts. Big Rick Stenhouse patched this motor back together and put the super tune on it; it was spectacular all night. My guys’ effort and passion for the sport is unbelievable and it makes me want to win for them.”
“Having dad on the wrenches is fun. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve learned how to deal with each other, but it’s been fun this year to win with him again. We did a lot of that in the midget in 2009 and 2010 and it was a lot of fun again tonight.”
On the initial start, things went awry for Oklahoma’s Matt Sherrell as he tumbled down the back straightaway on the opening lap, bringing out the red flag. He would walk away uninjured, but unable to restart.
On the next attempt, polesitter Brady Bacon would run side by side with outside front row starter Zach Daum, but would hold court, fending off Daum to take the lead at the conclusion of lap one.
In a repeat performance of Friday night’s opener at Riverside, Thorson was lightning quick during the early stages of the feature, picking his way to the front from fourth starting position.
On lap three, Thorson slid past Daum in turn three to seize the second spot and, three laps later, he had reeled in race-leader Bacon. On the seventh lap, Thorson would head to the bottom, setting up a turn three slider on Bacon for the lead. As Thorson drifted his right rear tread up to the guardrail, Bacon crossed over, pulling alongside Thorson as the two drag-raced to the line with the advantage going to Thorson by a mere .033 seconds.
Shortly thereafter, 10th-running Kyle Jones was unharmed after barrel-rolling his machine through turns one and two to bring out the feature’s second red.
After the restart, Thorson was on a rail, appearing to put the field to bed as he continuously stretched his lead throughout the middle portion of the race.