Hagen Nips Clauson At Ocala

Ocala, Fla. – Darren Hagen nipped Bryan Clauson by a scant .0291 seconds to win the “Bubba Winter Dirt Games” AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series race at the Bubba Raceway Park on a windy, bone-chilling cold night in central Florida.

The race marked the final night of USAC action on the 1/3-mile dirt oval and with the chill factor in the high 20s, the boisterous crowd warmed to the action on the track.

Bolting into the lead at the drop of the green flag, Hagen had to endure first the charge by Justin Grant and then Clauson, who put on a furious charge to catch the leader on the final go-around. Hagen and Clauson came off the final turn side-by-side and bumped into each other at the finish line.

The victor drove the Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Mopar/Chalk/Stanton Mopar while the runner-up steered the CTR-RW-Curb Agajanian/Curb Records – R&B Truckers/Maxim/Fisher entry.

Said the victor, “I knew Clauson was there and I expected him to come underneath but he came on the outside. We did get together at the flag stand, but I didn’t do anything on purpose. I was just racing for the win. I haven’t been in a sprint car in a year and a half, and this is a great way to start off the new season. I have had my ups and downs in recent years – bleeding on the brain, broken back and ribs and collapsed lungs – and we have been blessed at times, so now we are riding the roller coaster right.”

Clauson accepted second place but saw the outcome of the dual from a different viewpoint. “He shut the door on me when he looked low and chopped low, so I went high and that door got shut, too. Ten laps earlier (Justin) Grant got a run on him and he ended up in the fence, too. You don’t have to look too far to know what happened. It was a great weekend for us. We were really, really fast, and our No. 7 will be hard to keep up with when we get back home to Indiana.”

Grant motored to third place. “I had a great view of the finish. My car was tight and wore me out, but the track was rough and choppy, which is how I like them,” he said.

USAC champion Levi Jones took fourth place followed by Thursday’s winner Damian Gardner, who advanced from 10th.

Jon Stanbrough earned sixth and was trailed by Wes McIntyre, Kody Swanson, Tracy Hines and Bud Kaeding.

The one-lap track record was lowered three nights in a row with Grant having the final say with a time of 14.018 seconds.

Heat victors were Casey Shuman, Brady Bacon, Chase Stockton and Kaeding. Kevin Thomas took the B-main.

Leaving Florida, Clauson leads in points with 187 followed by Gardner in second with 176, Stanbrough in third with 174, Grant in fourth with 167 and Jones holds down fifth with 159.

The USAC sprint group races next at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on April 14.

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