Irwindale racing never disappoints

IRWINDALE -- With the eyes of the men who hold his future watching his every move, Bryan Clauson linked himself to a rich motor sports past by winning the USAC Midget portion of the 70th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on Thursday night.

Clauson became the first driver since Billy Boat to win the USAC Midget race of the Turkey Night Grand Prix in successive years. Boat won the USAC Midget race three times in a row in 1995-97. Clauson is one of five drivers to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix two years in a row.

Part of winning the USAC Midget national championship is a scholarship to race in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. Indy Lights owner Sam Schmidt and Izod IndyCar Series chief executive officer Randy Bernard were at the track to watch Clauson race and let him know a little bit about what to expect next season.

"That's a really exciting opportunity," Clauson said after the race. "That's why they were here."

Clauson, a driver from Noblesville, Ind., wrapped up the USAC National Midget championship before the Turkey Night Grand Prix race. He was the fourth-fastest qualifier and took the lead on Lap 9. There were four lead changes among four drivers.

Caleb Armstrong of New Castle, Ind., was second, followed by Dalton Armstrong of New Castle, Ind., in third.

Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif., won the USAC Sprint Car race. Tony Hunt of Lincoln, Calif., was second and won the USAC Western Sprint Car championship.

Swanson took the lead in the Sprint Car race on Lap 6 and held it for the remaining 34 laps. Davey Hamilton of Eagle, Idaho, led the first five laps of the race.

Hunt won the Western Sprint Car championship by 58 points over Luis Ramos III of Clovis, Calif. Bobby East from Brownsburg, Ind., was third in the race.

Jake Blackhurst of Mapleton, Ill., won a USAC Ford Focus Midgets race that was red-flagged twice.

Two three-car crashes on Laps 6 and 8 brought the race to a stop. Michael Steele of Homedale, Calif., Winn Frazin of Fontana, Calif., and Guy Sainsbury of Tooele, Utah, crashed in Turn 3 on the sixth lap of the race. Steele's car was overturned and Frazin's car ended up on its side.

The race was stopped for 20 minutes and safety crews cleaned up the mess.

Taylor Ferns of Shelby Township, Miss., Garrett Peterson of West Sacramento, Calif., and Cody Gerhardt of Madera, Calif., crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 8. Peterson was running in seventh and Gerhardt was in eighth at the time of the crash.

It took another 20 minutes to clean up the mess from the second crash.

Michael Lewis, a 19-year-old driver from Laguna Beach, was second. Nick Drake, a driver from Mooresville, N.C., who started on the pole, was third.