Short track, open wheel racing fans will see a familiar name and a familiar car number when practice begins May 12 for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
USAC open wheel star Bryan Clauson has been hired by Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman to drive the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in this year’s ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ Clauson, from Noblesville, Ind., is a multi-time USAC national champion and has won several races behind the wheel of his family-owned No. 39 USAC midget.
Clauson will be a teammate to another young American driver, Josef Newgarden, from Nashville, Tenn. Newgarden drives the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car fulltime in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Clauson and Newgarden were teammates in the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2011.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to enter the Indianapolis 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing,” said Clauson. “It’s almost surreal just talking about it. For me to be attempting to make the race with Sarah’s team is just phenomenal. With her background in sprint car and midget racing and her continued involvement at that level, this is just a good fit for me. I’m also proud to be an Indiana boy driving for an Indiana team.”
“I’m also excited about the continuity we’re building into the program,” added Clauson. “My car number will be No. 39 and I’m bringing along some of my short track supporters with me like Rotondo Weirich.”
Clauson won back-to-back USAC National Drivers Championships in 2010 and 2011 for his performance in all three major USAC open wheel divisions. He also won the USAC National Midget Championship in 2010 and 2011and has more than 26 USAC wins.
In addition, Clauson had four top-five finishes in Firestone Indy Lights racing in 2011. His best finish was third at Iowa Speedway driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
“It’s quite an honor to bring a USAC champion to the Indianapolis 500,” said Fisher. “I am very fond of my roots in short track oval racing, and watching Bryan at some of these events really brings back memories. Personally knowing his background, I have complete confidence in his credentials, talent and capabilities, and look forward to working with him at Indy. It will be exciting to fill out our team roster with both of the Road to Indy Champions from last season, really solidifying the ladder program.”
The pairing of Clauson and Newgarden is a strong statement for the Road to Indy program. In addition to Clauson’s USAC National Drivers Championships, Newgarden won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship.
“INDYCAR continues to focus on strengthening ties with USAC as a path to the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500,” said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. “After a strong oval debut in Firestone Indy Lights last season, it made sense to utilize our USAC National Drivers Championship scholarship to enter Bryan in the Indianapolis 500. Not only is Bryan one of the most talented USAC drivers, his participation in the Indy 500 will attract the interest of short track fans across the country.”
It’s more than a coincidence that SFHR has hired two American drivers for its Indiana-based operation. The team is proud of its Indiana roots and routinely flies an American flag in its pit box.
“SFHR is happy to welcome Bryan to the team,” said Wink Hartman, co-owner of SFHR. “We’ve been working toward this program for quite some time, and I feel we are prepared to present a first-class effort for the entry. Working with young American talent fits this team and its values perfectly, and we are working hard to find a primary sponsor for Bryan to match that platform. We are also thankful to have the support of all our partners, including Honda, for this program and the excitement the total package brings.”
Not lost on Clauson is the fact he is joining an emerging IZOD IndyCar Series team that already has a victory in its portfolio.
“With its performance so far this year with Josef on the road courses, combined with the fact it ran strong at Indy and won the last oval race in 2011, SFHR is proving it is a first-class team. I can’t wait for ROP.”
Clauson and Newgarden both passed their INDYCAR oval test at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5. They will both participate in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on May 10.
Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins Saturday, May 12. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” takes the green flag at Noon ET on Sunday, May 27.