USAC Midget race will kickoff Brickyard 400 once more

IndianapolisMotorSpeedway_com
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After a successful debut in 2018, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 USAC Midget race will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in 2019.

The 39-lap race is held in honor of three-time USAC Midget and two-time USAC Sprint Car champion Bryan Clauson who lost his life in August 2016 following an accident at Belleville (KS) High-Banks Speedway.

Clauson made three starts in the Indy 500, finishing 30th in 2012, 31st in 2015 and 23rd in 2016.

Scheduled for September 4-5 as the opening event of the Brickyard 400 weekend, the Midget race will kick off five nights of racing.

Last year, Zeb Wise won the opening night’s Stoops Pursuit race with Brady Bacon taking the A-Main on Night 2.

Last year’s race featured 118 cars on the entry list. Representing IndyCar, Conor Daly finished 12th in his qualification race and failed to advance to the A Main.

“The Driven2SaveLives BC39 … was a spectacular event for everyone involved, putting talented short track racers and teams from across America into a richly deserved spotlight,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a press release. “There were memories made for a lifetime both nights, and everyone at IMS is so happy to see this event return in 2019 as part of Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard weekend.

“We’re especially grateful that the BC39 raised so much awareness for the Driven2SaveLives campaign and honored the memory of Bryan Clauson, an extraordinary race driver who was an even better person.”

Clauson was a registered donor and following his accident, his organs helped save the life of five individuals.

“Right now, more than 115,000 men, women and children wait for a life-saving organ transplant,” said Kellie Hanner, Indiana Donor Network president and chief executive officer. “Each day, 22 patients die because the organ they needed did not become available in time. Our Driven2SaveLives campaign raises awareness around those who wait and honors donor heroes like Bryan Clauson who saved lives. All of us at Indiana Donor Network are proud to be a part of the BC39 again.”

The Driven2SaveLives BC39 inaugurated the Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and started a new chapter in the relationship between the track and USAC. From 1956 through 1997, USAC was the sanctioning body for the Indy 500.

“We were so pleased to see the longtime relationship between the United States Auto Club and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway enter a new era through the inaugural Driven2SaveLives BC39 … last September,” USAC President and CEO Kevin Miller said. “Both nights of racing were among the high points of our season this year, with great action at the new venue generating incredibly positive response from teams, drivers, fans and media.

“We can’t wait to see who will master The Dirt Track next September, and we appreciate the continued partnership with IMS, Driven2SaveLives and NOS to support the legacy of Bryan Clauson.”

Ticket reorders and new applications are being accepted through January 4, 2019 at IMS.com and through the IMS Ticket Office.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”