INDIANAPOLIS – The annual PRI Show has been running only two days this week but the amount of big announcements from the USAC world during the show have been nothing short of remarkable.
On Friday, it was announced that two-time USAC National champion Chris Windom will move from Clauson-Marshall Racing to Tucker-Boat Motorsports on the full USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship schedule during the 2020 season.
Windom, is seeking to become just the seventh driver to win the USAC Triple Crown in terms of winning a championship in all three National series. Windom’s 2016 Silver Crown and 2017 AMSOIL National Sprint Car titles have him just one USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship shy of joining Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley, Pancho Carter, Dave Darland, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Tracy Hines.
Windom, leaves Clauson-Marshall with no ill feelings, just that he thinks that his new team gives him the best opportunity for a championship.
“They run a top-notch operation,” Windom said via USACRacing.com. “They pay close attention to detail, as does everyone at the top of the midget standings, but I just felt like I’ve always gotten along great with Chad, and at this point I’m at in my career, this is the right move for me.”
Windom arrives at Tucker-Boat Motorsports following a successful 2019 campaign with Clauson/Marshall Racing with whom he collected his first two career series wins at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway and Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway. Following the season, Windom and CMR parted ways. The free agent driver then scoped out the possible landing spots and a deal was made with Tucker-Boat to step into a full-time ride.
“I have nothing bad to say about anybody at CMR,” Windom stated. “We had a great year, and without Tyler having a record setting season, I think we would’ve been battling for a championship. I have nothing but good things to say about all those guys there. They definitely worked their butts off to give me a great car all year, but once I left there, I felt this was the best opportunity out there to go to.”
With primary sponsorship from NOS Energy Drink, Windom takes on the role for a team which won two events in 2019 with two different drivers, team owner Chad Boat at Pennsylvania’s Path Valley Speedway Park and with Gio Scelzi at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway.
“I’ve had the opportunity to race with Chris for a long time,” Boat recalled. “We’ve both been around USAC and done other types of racing and I think we’ll complement each other very well. I think, as a driver, I have an understanding of what he’ll need in the car. We definitely have high expectations for the team that we can go out and compete for wins every night.”
This was just the latest move of a lot. In other Midget news, 16 year sensation Zeb Wise also moves on from Clauson-Marshall too and will race winged sprint cars full time. Replacing him is Cole Bodine.
Clauson-Marshall Racing announced that it is continuing its partnership with Indiana Donor Network to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives campaign for the 2020 race season in honor of Bryan Clauson.
Driven2SaveLives, which launched in 2016 surrounding the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, has been involved in dirt track racing with the goal of registering fans and racers to become donors in honor of Bryan Clauson since January 2017. Since then, the campaign has raised awareness and encouraged well over 1,000 people to register their donation decisions through their partnership with Clauson-Marshall Racing and sponsorship of various dirt track related events, including the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink at the dirt track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kellie Hanner, Indiana Donor Network president and chief executive officer, stated, “The Driven2SaveLives campaign is an increasingly visible symbol for the donation message both here in Indiana and throughout the nation. We are excited to continue our partnership with Clauson-Marshall Racing to raise awareness with race fans, register donors and ultimately save more lives.”
Stepping into a new role for Clauson-Marshall racing, Bodine will pilot the Driven2SaveLives #39BC in 2020. Bodine is transitioning into a full-time competitor for the NOS ENERGY DRINK USAC National Midget Series. Bodine is no stranger to the driver’s seat as he previously ran for Clauson-Marshall Racing in a limited number of races in 2018. He also ran the 2019 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals for Clauson-Marshall Racing and solidified his spot in the Championship A-main by finishing 3rd on his preliminary night.
Tim Clauson stated, “We are excited to be able to offer Cole a chance to compete in the USAC National Midget Series. He has proved over the last couple of years that he truly has the heart to race at this level. Along with heart, in his limited appearances with us he has proved he has the talent to be successful at this level. He finished 2nd in one of his early starts for us and made the 2019 Chili Bowl A-main with a stellar podium run on his preliminary night. Along with the talent he possesses, he also has proved to me that he fits the person we want representing not only Clauson-Marshall Racing but also Driven2SaveLives. He certainly has proved he has the heart of a hero.”
Bodine will continue to help the Indiana Donor Network and Driven2SaveLives raise awareness for organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation, as he competes for the NOS ENERGY DRINK USAC National Midget Series Championship.
Bodine stated, “When you surround yourself with good people, good things happen. I’m honored to get this opportunity to carry on the legacy of the #39BC and continue to raise awareness for organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation in honor of Bryan. I can’t wait to get the 2020 season started.
On Saturday, it was announced that 2019 Midget Rookie of the Year has joined Tucker-Boat Motorsports too.
Andrew Layser will drive for the organization after leaving Clauson-Marshall Racing. Layser, 18, recorded eight top-ten finishes in 24 starts, including leading his first laps in July at Sweet Springs, Mo.
The three-time winner in USAC’s Eastern Speed2 Midget division finished 11th in USAC National Midget points for 2019.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” Layser exclaimed. “(Team owner) Chad (Boat) is a great driver, a great crew chief and a great mentor, and I’m really looking forward to working with him for the whole 2020 season. They have a great foundation for a team, and I think that showed with how strong they were this past year.”
Tucker-Boat Motorsports captured two victories in 2019 with team owner Boat behind the wheel at Pennsylvania’s Path Valley Speedway Park and with Gio Scelzi at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway. Layser will be paired as a teammate alongside Chris Windom, a two-time USAC National Champion who scored a pair of USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget wins himself in 2019.
“Seeing the results that Chad’s had over the years, and with the others who’ve driven for him, it’s obvious his cars are top notch,” Layser relayed. “On any given night, you can win, and that’s the goal for me this year, to go out there and have good runs, and hopefully, the wins will fall into place. I see what he’s doing not only as a team, but what he does for his drivers. That really appealed to me and I really couldn’t be more excited to be working with him.”
Boat has observed Layser both on-track and off in recent years and is confident in what he’s witnessed, a driver who is continually growing and can very well develop into a premier contender as he gains more experience.
“I think Andrew has a great foundation,” Boat said. “Obviously, he’s worked with some good teams and I think that foundation will carry him into next year. I believe that by him going to these tracks for a second time, he’ll be able to pick up right where he left off. When somebody gains experience then has a little bit of an offseason to think about, you see them excel. I think you saw that with Zeb (Wise) last year and I think there’s no reason Andrew can’t put up the same results.”
Defending Sprint Car champion C.J. Leary is on the move to Gene Gile Racing where he will pilot car No. 1 on the full USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car trail in 2020.
Leary makes the move to the Phoenix, Arizona-based GGR team following a single season at Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports in 2019, which resulted in a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car title following two victories and series best 32 top-ten finishes in 34 starts.
However, the GGR team, led by Gene and his son, USAC Sands Chevrolet Southwest Sprint Car driver Dennis Gile, have had an eye on putting a program in place for Leary of Greenfield, Ind.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to drive for these guys,” Leary said. “Dennis has been trying to get me to run for him this whole past year. He had been hinting to me that he’s been wanting to do something. Finally, everything came together.”
Leary’s exodus from Reinbold/Underwood came just days following their championship celebration at Arizona Speedway in mid-November. The team moved forward with other plans, leaving Leary with the opportunity to team up with Gile this next season.
“Andy (Reinbold) let me go at the end of the season,” Leary explained. “He just said he couldn’t make a commitment to me. He did everything he said he was going to. We set out to win a championship and that’s what we did. There’s no hard feelings there.”
Along with Leary, his championship winning crew chief Davey Jones has made the migration to GGR as well. With two months remaining until the season opener, the combo now has a team to put together basically from scratch and they’re up to the task.
“We’ve got a long two months ahead of us before Florida,” Leary reiterates. “I’m really looking forward to getting started. I don’t really like the offseason with the down time and what not. The biggest part is the waiting game. We ordered four new motors from 1-Way Technology, ordered six new DRC cars from Joe Devin and six new rear ends from DMI. This stuff just doesn’t happen overnight. Until we get all the parts to assemble the cars, we’re just going to sit around and wait. When we get everything, it’ll only take a couple days to build the cars. We’ve got a truck and trailer and a new mule on order. It’s an all new team and it’s going to be top notch. We’re going to come out of the gate swinging.”
With the switch to No. 1 for 2020, Leary becomes the first reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion to sport the number since Robert Ballou in 2016, something of which the 23-year-old driver has yet to do in his career.
“I’ve never run the No. 1 before,” Leary admitted. “I figured, after winning the biggest title I’ve ever won, it’s probably the best time to do it. Being No. 1, you unload with some clout, you could say, and maybe a little pressure. Everybody knows you’re the past champion. My dad thinks it might be cursed, but I think it’s going to be a really good year.”
TOPP Motorsports announced that Justin Grant will be returning to the #4 sprint car for the 2020 season. The duo will continue their chase for the United States Auto Club (USAC) AMSOIL National Sprint Car Championship, racing the full sprint car schedule for next year.
“Having Justin on our team has been such a blessing,” said Kevin Birchmeier, owner of TOPP Motorsports. “We’ve learned a lot the past two years and we have a lot of great support behind us. Our crew chief, Mark, is phenomenal. We’re lucky to have him and the rest of the talented crew we’ve put together. We can’t wait for the 2020 season to gear up and get back to the track.”
“We’ve been together two years and it’s been such a great experience,” explained Grant. “It wasn’t really a question of whether or not we were going to continue the partnership next year – it’s a solid team and we work well together. I’m excited to get things kicked off again next year and get back in the #4,” said Grant.
While the team didn’t earn the top spot they were looking for in 2019, they had multiple successes throughout the season. With veteran crew chief, Mark Shambarger, behind the wrench, the team achieved three total USAC race wins and one additional non-points win at Kokomo Speedway on August 21 for the #GYATK Night. Grant’s season stats show 20 top-five feature finishes and 28 top-ten feature finishes, leading a total of 86 feature laps throughout the 2019 season. Grant also earned four fast qualifying times and ten heat race wins throughout the season.
Ultimately, Grant and the team finished fifth in overall USAC National Championship points. Additionally, some extra practice evenings at Kokomo Speedway led Grant and the team to earn the Kokomo Speedway Track Champion title for 2019.
The team will continue to have the support of sponsors like NOS Energy Drink, TOPP Industries, Inc., Challenger Construction in the upcoming season. The team will also continue their partnership with non-profit partner The Bow Foundation, helping to raise awareness for GNAO1-related disorder, an extremely rare disease, throughout the season.
“We’re really lucky to have the backing and support from our partners,” said Grant. “We couldn’t do it alone. NOS Energy Drink was a big supporter last year, we’re happy that they are sticking with us for 2020,” finished Grant.
TOPP Motorsports, based out of Rochester, Indiana, was established in 2015. The organization is owned and operated by TOPP Industries, Inc. President and CEO, Kevin Birchmeier, who has always had a passion for racing.