USAC: Dutcher Tabs Bernal For Run At Indiana Sprint Week Title

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Ryan Bernal and team owner Michael Dutcher will reunite for a run at the Indiana Sprint Week title. (Collin Markle photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — Two-time USAC champion Ryan Bernal will team with Michael Dutcher Motorsports to drive the No. 17GP sprint car during the 30th edition of Indiana Sprint Week, July 7-15.

The 2013 and 2014 USAC Western Classic Sprint Car champion, Bernal takes over driving duties from leading USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year candidate Stevie Sussex, who has made six starts for the team this season.

Sussex remains the focus of the long-term plan for Dutcher, but for Sprint Week, the seat goes to Bernal, who has already scored six USAC West Coast Sprint Car wins this year.

“I’m very excited to get back to Indy and race with the best non-wing talent around,” Bernal said. “Dutch and I have tried to put something together for a couple years now. Schedule conflicts were always an issue, but this time it worked out for us to be in a great event like Sprint Week.”

Indiana Sprint Week will mark a reunion of sorts for Bernal and Dutcher. In March’s non-sanctioned No Way Out 40 at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway, Bernal was running in the top-five in Dutcher’s car when the rains came and washed away the remainder of the event.

Though the night was brief, it left an impression on the driver, who makes his living by day as a fireman.

“We only ran six laps of the No Way Out 40, unfortunately. At the time, we were in fourth or fifth,” Bernal recalled. “Dutch is really easy to work with and we were fast right out of the box, so I’m excited to work with him at tracks he’s done very well at.”

Bernal’s highly-accomplished résumé boasts the most USAC West Coast Sprint Car wins of any driver, with 30 points-paying wins and five special event victories. He also has eight wins in the AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprint Car division, including a California Sprint Week title in 2015.

He made an impressive entrance to USAC National Sprint Car racing in 2011, earning fast qualifying honors in his first start at California’s Perris Auto Speedway. Three races later, in the finale at Hanford, California, he made the most of his opportunity by securing a third-place finish, which remains the best result of his 25-career series starts.

Bernal made all five of his Indiana Sprint Week starts in 2013, where he snagged a fifth at Bloomington Speedway for his top performance to date.

“Last year, we talked about wanting to race together sometime,” Dutcher said. “We always knew Ryan was a good guy and a talented race car driver and could win on the national level if he got a shot.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for Dutcher team, which is coming off a trying Eastern Storm. But success has been in the cards in past years during Indiana Sprint Week for the 2012 USAC Mechanical Achievement Award winner.

Runner-up finishes in the standings for Dutcher came as a crew chief in 2012 with Bryan Clauson and with his own team in 2015 with Kevin Thomas Jr. It’s a level of success that Dutcher hopes to see come to fruition once again.

“Hopefully we can kick off with some success,” Dutcher added. “We’ll run a couple this weekend to get tuned up for Sprint Week. We’re back on our home tracks for the next couple of weeks and we always seem to have a successful Sprint Week.”

“We finished second one year and have done pretty well in others and won a few races. Hopefully, we’ll get back up on the platform in victory lane.”

CREDIT: USAC Media

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