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

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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.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.