New National Sprint League series gets a big name: Bryan Clauson


Bryan Clauson will be seeking his second start at the Indianapolis 500 this year. But he’ll also keep busy in 2015 by seeking the inaugural National Sprint League championship.

Clauson, one of the top sprint car drivers in the country, will run in the new winged 410 sprint series as part of the Elk Grove Ford Motorsports/Cole Wood Racing team.

The new deal will also have Clauson make regular appearances at sprint car mecca Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway as well as select World of Outlaws races.

As he continues to adapt to winged sprint competition, the two-time USAC National Sprint Car and Midget champion figures that running in the NSL won’t cut him any slack.

“This is really a perfect fit, at least on my end,” Clauson said in a statement. “They have really good equipment, and they have a good team put together. I would say racing with the NSL is a good opportunity to learn, but it’s as tough a lineup as any 410 series right now. We get to go to tracks a couple times, and that will be good for me as I learn the wing stuff.”

“We’ll have to miss maybe two or three in May, because I’m running the ‘500’,” he continued. “But we’re planning on racing with the NSL and Knoxville pretty much weekly. We’re going to focus on the [Knoxville] Nationals and some select Outlaw shows over the summer. We may race some other races that make sense for us.”

The NSL features a $350,000 points fund and also allows drivers to compete in Knoxville’s Championship Cup Series, which doles out more than $250,000 in cash and contingencies.

Its inaugural schedule begins April 11 at West Burlington, Iowa’s 34 Raceway, but hits its stride in May with seven races that month. Time will tell which of those May events Clauson must miss in order to focus on his Indianapolis program for Jonathan Byrd’s Racing.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)