2010 USAC National Drivers Championship title holder Bryan Clauson may be making his first ever Firestone Indy Lights start, but the pressure will be on as he will start pole.
Clauson won the Sonoco Pole Award and its $5,000 prize for tomorrow’s Firestone Freedom 100 as a result of qualifying being rained out and the starting grid being set by points. The 21-year old from Noblesville, Indiana won the pole as the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy car sat first in points, thanks to Conor Daly, who drove the first three events of the year.
“We didn’t get to qualify and get the pole but that’s part of being a part of a great team and having great teammates like Conor Daly to put us up front,” Clauson said. “Starting from the front kind of heightens your expectations a little bit. Now you don’t have to work traffic. I’ve got a couple teammates in the lead pack. We watched a lot of race tape with Wade (Cunningham) and saw how teammates can make things happen. Obviously, I want to win but the big key is being there at the end. The first few laps are going to be key.”
Clauson has only been able to turn eight laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to the rain-shortened practice this weekend, though did test on May 13th to prepare for the event.
“We felt a lot better after practice today than we did after our test earlier,” Clauson said. “We worked really hard on the test day and never quite got it right. The guys brought back a great race car for us. We didn’t get to qualify and get the pole, but that’s part of being a part of a great team and having great teammates like Conor Daly to put us up front. Starting from the front kind of heightens your expectations a little bit. Now you don’t have to work traffic. I’ve got a couple teammates in the lead pack. We watched a lot of race tape with Wade (Cunningham) and saw how teammates can make things happen. Obviously, I want to win, but the big key is being there at the end. The first few laps are going to be key.”
While competiting in the Firestone Freedom 100 during the afternoon, Clauson will also be running the Hoosier Hundred that night.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “They are both prestigious races in the state of Indiana. I look at the Hoosier Hundred as the second most prestigious race in Indiana after the Indy 500. It’s a race that has a lot of history, and a lot of dirt track heroes ran that race and were winners there. Doing both the Freedom 100 and the Hoosier Hundred in the same night is going to be cool. I think it’s great that the Speedway and the Fairgrounds have built a ‘BC’s Bandwagon’ ticket package around it. It’s an added bonus for an already-special day in my career.”
His Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Josef Newgarden will line up on the front row beside him as this continues a successful couple of weeks at Indianapolis for Sam Schmidst as he won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 last weekend with driver Alex Tagliani.
“I think we’re going to be in a strong position tomorrow, but we really wanted to qualify,” Newgarden said. “I think everyone wanted a shot at the pole and we didn’t get that opportunity. We proved in testing that we had a strong car. Sam Schmidt Motorsports is a good Indy Lights team and they have a lot of history in the series and a lot of experience and knowledge to draw from. The (IZOD) IndyCar Series side did a phenomenal job last weekend, and I’m confident that we can handle the job on our end.”
Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ success reins no surprise as they’ve enlisted driver coaching help from former Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd and Wade Cunningham to serve as driver coaches to help their young drivers.
“Now that I’m racing ovals (for Dale Coyne), I can’t spend as much time with him as I’d like, but today is a good day since we have no track activity (for IZOD IndyCar Series.)” Loyd said. “I’m here to give them tips and tricks of the trade of racing at Indianapolis, how the race goes down, how to deal with traffic, things like that. The guys all know how to drive a race car. You don’t have to teach them how to drive. It’s more about remembering the experiences you had and trying to relate it to the nuances they are experiencing on the track.”
Andretti Autorsport’s Stefan Wilson and Team Moore Racing’s Victor Garcia will start third and fourth. Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ Esteban Guerrieri and O2 Racing Technology’s Peter Demsey wil make up the third row.
The race is set to be 40-laps in length tomorrow and will be shown on VERSUS at 12:30pm EST. It can also be listened to through the IMS Radio Network broadcast on indycar.com, Sirius 212 and XM 94.
Going into the event, teams only got 10 minutes of practice before the rains fell. Wilson led the brief practice sesson, turning a lap at more than 189mph.
“Kind of mixed feelings about how today went,” Wilson said. “Happy to be starting P3, but we were pretty quick on the test day, and I felt we had a decent chance to start on the front row and a shot at battling for the pole. But at the same time, I am happy to be starting at the sharp end of the grid.”
Wilson was followed in practice by Duarte Ferreira, Newgarden, Clauson and James Winslow.
Before the event begins tomorrow, teams will be given a 30-minute practice at 9 a.m.