KOKOMO, IN — official release — Travis Branch photo — Bryan Clauson turned 25 years old on Sunday at Kokomo Speedway and celebrated in victory lane with his first Honda National Midget feature win of the season to close Indiana Midget Week.
Meanwhile, Rico Abreu finished an amazing week that never saw him finish off the podium to wrap up the “Midget Week” championship.
Zach Daum and Michael Pickens led the field to green and kept their formation for the first four laps as they swapped the top spot coming to the line. On lap five, defending National champion Christopher Bell came to a stop and slowed the torrid pace. He was able to visit the work area and return for the restart.
Abreu was the man on the move after the restart, as he went to the high side and powered by Daum for the lead on lap six. Daum would not go away, however, as Abreu made a mistake on the cushion and nearly got into the fence as Daum raced back to the lead. A red flag for Isaac Chapple became the second stoppage on lap nine.
Abreu again had a great restart, nailing the opening lap on the cushion to retake the lead and begin opening up his margin over a torrid battle for second. Clauson began his move on the leaders, as he found the middle of the track through turns three and four and took Tracy Hines along with him.
The final caution appeared just after halfway, as the leaders had started to encounter traffic. After the restart, Clauson shadowed Abreu and got a huge run coming to complete lap 17, using a long slow slider all the way to turn-two to force Abreu off the cushion and back underneath him. The duo raced through turns three and four, with Clauson taking the lead.
Hines moved to second and kept pace with Clauson, cutting into his lead over the closing laps as they again approached slower cars. Hines got all the way to Clauson’s tailtank but could do nothing with him, as Clauson won by .330 seconds in the Fairbury Westin Packaged Meats – Curb Records #63 Spike/Esslinger. It was his 31st career National Midget win, tying him for eighth all-time with Chuck Rodee and Gene Hartley.
“This is my favorite place in the world to race, and I’ve got a lot of laps here; it took all the experience and laps I have here to win that one,” Clauson exclaimed in victory lane. “We’ve been knocking on the door, but there’s three really good cars over there that are hard to beat. We’ve been good and keeping up with them later in races, but we’ve had to come from behind. I knew I had to break his momentum and wasn’t as close as I wanted to be there, but I just wanted to go in there and break that rhythm.”
“This is a great group and we’ve taken some big steps to get our team this strong, and I’m happy to notch our first one together,” Clauson said of his first win with the combination of Rusty Kunz and Joe Dooling.
Hines was again strong as he finished right behind Clauson in the runner-up spot aboard the Parker Machinery – Turbines, Inc. #24 Spike/Stanton Toyota.
“We went to work with Spike Chassis and have a better car now. I fiddled around there and found the top, and jumped up there and went forward. I had a little sweet spot through three and four. It was a tough track to give a slider – the only place we were lifting was into one and I thought I’d crash myself if I tried there. It was tough to get through down there. I’m happy with our weekend and our whole operation right now,” Hines said.
Abreu finished off an unbelievable week with another podium finish, easily capturing the week-long title with his Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD #97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota. He also took home the night’s ProSource “Fast Time Award” for the second time on the week.
“It was a really exciting week for me. It was such a test to come in here after the three weeks off, so to finish with the Midget Week championship is cool. Keith (Kunz) and Pete (Willoughby) build such fast race cars. I wasn’t sure where everyone was running behind me, and I thought I was good, but Bryan just was able to break my momentum. That changed everything for me. I got back going but it was too late. You learn from races like that and move on to the next one,” Abreu said.
Dave Darland finished fourth in the CML RW Security – King Racing Products #17 Spike/Fontana, and Daum rounded out the top-five in the Daum Crop Insurance – Weld Wheels #5D Eagle/Stanton Toyota. Kevin Thomas, Jr. won the night’s B&W Auto Mart “Hard Charger Award” for his drive from 16th to finish seventh.
RESULTS: USAC HONDA National Midget Series; June 15, 2014; Kokomo, Indiana; Kokomo Speedway
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Rico Abreu, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Zach Daum, 6. Michael Pickens, 7. Kevin Thomas Jr., 8. Tanner Thorson, 9. Andrew Felker, 10. Brady Bacon, 11. Justin Grant, 12. Christopher Bell, 13. Trey Marcham, 14. Shane Cottle, 15. Garrett Aitken, 16. Parker Price-Miller, 17. Ronnie Gardner, 18. Brenden Bright, 19. Tyler Thomas, 20. Tyler Courtney, 21. Chris Windom, 22. Steve Buckwalter, 23. Thomas Meseraull, 24. Isaac Chapple. NT
**Kendall flipped during qualifying. Chapple flipped on lap 9 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Daum, Lap 2 Pickens, Laps 3-5 Daum, Laps 6-7 Abreu, Laps 8-9 Daum, Laps 10-17 Abreu, Laps 18-30 Clauson.