BELLEVILLE, Kan. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — TeeJay Crawford photo —
Call Bryan Clauson the ‘Kunz Killer’.
After defending Belleville Midget Nationals champion Rico Abreu stormed to victory in Thursday night’s 25-lap preliminary feature, Clauson wanted his turn in the limelight — and he got it on Saturday night, storming from the outside pole around Abreu on the opening lap at the Belleville High Banks and never looking back from there en route to a wire-to-wire victory aboard the No. 63 RKR/Curb-Agajanian Racing mount.
In leading all 40 laps, Clauson beat Abreu’s Keith Kunz Motorsports teammate Christopher Bell to the checkered flag for a historic victory.
Not only did the win make Clauson the second three-time Belleville Midget Nationals champion — joining Jerry Coons Jr. as one of the race’s two winningest drivers — but it was also the 35th career Honda National Midget victory for Clauson, tying Tracy Hines for seventh on the series’ all-time win list.
Clauson had several scary moments en route to the win. The open wheel veteran caught the outside fence on lap 10 and struggled to clear teammate Spencer Bayston right at the halfway point of the race. By the time Clauson lapped Bayston — who was running 11th — at lap 21, the Belleville rookie (Bayston) was taking his car to the infield with smoke coming from the rear of his machine.
With 12 laps to go, Clauson lapped teammate Dave Darland in ninth but had a rapidly-closing Bell on his tail. Moments later, just after Clauson had put one additional car a lap down, Jerry Coons Jr. slowed from the fourth position with a flat tire to bring out the only caution of the event.
Coons rejoined the field, and the restart gave Bell a chance to close on Clauson, but the Oklahoma native could do nothing to run down the Dooling Machine – Jonathan Byrd’s No. 63 Spike/Stanton Mopar, which ran away to a 1.44 second victory.
“This is real sweet. The first one is special, but it’s been five years since I’ve won, and to get Rusty (Kunz) his sixth and car owner Joe Dooling his second, it’s a great feeling,” Clauson said. “And to do it pounding the fence the way we did it tonight, that’s just Belleville to me. I had a couple close calls with lappers and still led so I knew I had a gap, but you’ve got to attack this place for 40 laps or you’ll regret it.”
“It’s a test to make it through, and you just hope you can beat the track for a night. Joe Dooling has been more than a car owner to me and Rusty is unbelievable on the wrenches, so to join them in victory and stop the stranglehold of Rusty’s brother Keith here is satisfying.”
Bell came home second in a solid night, but hoped for more after winning the event in 2013.
“I had a really good car and honestly thought I took the lead when I passed Darland, but Clauson was just that checked out,” Bell admitted. “I was pretty disappointed when we got the yellow and realized that was him so far ahead and still leading. I guess I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was. I thought we were pretty comparable at the end, but there’s obviously not much to do at that point.”
Abreu finished third, with Honda USAC National Midget Series points leader Tracy Hines and Coons — who made a rapid rebound over the final sprint to the finish — rounding out the top five.
Kevin Thomas Jr. was sixth ahead of Zach Daum, Tanner Thorson, Cody Brewer and Dave Darland.
Abreu, Bell, Thomas and Darland all won heat races to kick off the night’s racing action, and Abreu followed his performance up with a win in the six-lap pole dash to garner the top starting spot for the main event.
Thorson took the checkers in the B-Dash and Patrick Stasa grabbed the last chance race win to transfer to the main event.
The Honda USAC National Midget Series returns to action on August 18 with an event at Path Valley Speedway Park in Spring Run, Pa.
RESULTS: Honda USAC National Midget Series; 38th Belleville Midget Nationals; Belleville High Banks; August 1, 2015
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Christopher Bell, 3. Rico Abreu, 4. Tracy Hines, 5. Jerry Coons Jr., 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Zach Daum, 8. Tanner Thorson, 9. Cody Brewer, 10. Dave Darland, 11. Tyler Thomas, 12. Patrick Stasa, 13. Jeff Stasa, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. C.J. Johnson. 16. Michelle Decker, 17. Chett Gehrke, 18. Chad Frewaldt, 19. Matt Johnson, 20. Kyle Jones, 21. Steve Buckwalter, 22. Spencer Bayston, 23. Garett Hood, 24. Warren Johnson.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Clauson.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: email@example.com