Unique format sets Driven2SaveLives BC39 for Conor Daly, Kyle Larson and more than 70 others

Driven2SaveLives BC39
USAC Racing / Steve Koletar
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In its short three-year history, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 USAC Midget race has quickly become one of the marquee events on the dirt track calendar. The 2021 edition kicks off Wednesday night, August 18, and will be streamed live on FloRacing.com (subscription required). The BC39 is run in honor of three-time Indy 500 starter Bryan Clauson, who lost his life in a racing accident in 2016 in Belleville, Kans.

Clauson was an organ donor, and the BC39 is sponsored by Driven2SaveLives.org to heighten awareness of organ donation.

In its inaugural edition in 2018, Brady Bacon topped 77 entries. This year’s race also features more than 70 cars competing to make an A-Main that holds a maximum of 26.

The size of the field is not the only draw. Current IndyCar and NASCAR stars including Conor Daly, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will crowd into the quarter mile dirt track built inside of Turn 3 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But first, the lineup had to be set.

Strategy came into play in lining up the heats. On Tuesday night, a draft allowed drivers pick where they wanted to start in one of eight heats that will set the lineups for Thursday. Since passing points come into play, starting deeper in the field provides some advantage, assuming one believes they can get to the front of the pack before the 10-lap heat is over.

Drawing second, Larson had one of the earliest picks and chose to roll the dice with an outside starting position on Row 4 of Heat 5. With the third pick, Elliott the inside of Row 2 in Heat 2. Daly also picked the third starting spot in Heat 3.

On Thursday, the alphabet soup of Mains begins with D. Heat winners will advance to the feature, with passing points setting the remainder of the positions.

With the draft, top names are spread throughout the night. Elliott rolls off in Heat 2, Tyler Courtney and Chase Briscoe in Heat 3, Bacon and JJ Yeley in Heat 4, Larson in Heat 5, Daly and Ryan Newman in Heat 7, and Spencer Bayston in Heat 8.

It took a while for Heat 5 to fill out after drivers noted Larson was in that event.

In addition to the Wednesday night heats, the track will host the Stoops Pursuit race – a 25-lapper split into five-lap segments with 24 starters including the heat winners. The starting lineup will be inverted by fastest heat race time. It is important to move forward; every five laps, USAC will throw a competition flag, and cars with a net loss in position will be forced to exit the race.

All of that is a prelude to Thursday’s feature.

The 12-lap D-Mains will include cars that ranked 45th through 76th in passing points. The 15-lap C-Main will consist of cars ranked 31-44, plus the top three D-Main finishers. The B-Main will be 20 laps and include drivers ranked 17-30, plus six drivers who advance from the C.

The top six finishers in the B will join the A.

The 39-lap, A-Main feature will have 22 starters, plus two USAC provisionals (if needed) and two track options.

DRIVER2SAVELIVES BC39 HEAT LINEUPS

HEAT 1: Kevin Woody Jr., Cole Bodine, Blake Brannon, Bryant Wiedeman, Jerry Coons Jr., Hayden Reinbold, Karter Sarff and Kevin Thomas Jr.

HEAT 2: Chase Randall, Justin Dickerson, Chase Elliott, Carson Garrett, Tommy Kouns, Jacob Denney, Hayden Williams, Buddy Kofoid and Chris Windom.

HEAT 3: Zac Taylor, Tyler Courtney, Ben Varner, Kaylee Bryson, Jeff Schindler, Chance Crum, Chase Briscoe, Emerson Axsom and Jason McDougal.

HEAT 4: Robert Bell, Aiden Purdue, Kameron Gladish, Maria Cofer, Randi Pankratz, Ethan Mitchell, Brady Bacon, Logan Seavey, and JJ Yeley.

HEAT 5: Taylor Reimer, Austin Barnhill, Russ Gamester, Brenham Crouch, Tanner Thorson, Justin Grant, Trevor Casey, Kyle Larson and Rylan Gray.

HEAT 6: Carson Kvapil, Tanner Berryhill, Shane Cottle, Ryan Timms, Billy Lawless, Daison Pursley, Jeff Wimmenauer, Ronnie Gardner and Tyler Edwards.

HEAT 7: Ryan Newman, Corey Day, Conor Daly, Gary Taylor, Bryan Stanfill, John Heydenreich, Aaron Leffel, Thomas Meseraull, and Daniel Robinson.

HEAT 8: Sam Johnson, Jonathan Shafer, Kyle Cummins, Cannon McIntosh, Glenn Waterland, Zeb Wise, Riley Kreisel, Spencer Bayston and Ian Creager.

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

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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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.”