Short track, open-wheel racing fans will see a familiar name and a familiar car number when practice begins May 12 for the 96th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Reigning USAC National Drivers Championship title-holder Bryan Clauson will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Honda-powered No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW car.
Clauson, from Noblesville, Ind., has won several races behind the wheel of his family-owned No. 39 USAC midget. He will be a teammate to another young American driver, Josef Newgarden, from Nashville, Tenn., who also will compete in the "500" for the first time.
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Newgarden, who drives the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and Clauson were teammates in Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2011. Newgarden was the series champion, and Clauson posted four top-five finishes in six oval races.
"It’s an awesome opportunity for me to enter the Indianapolis 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing,” said Clauson, who along with Newgarden passed their rookie oval test earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway. “It’s almost surreal just talking about it. For me to be attempting to make the race with Sarah’s team is just phenomenal. With her background in sprint car and midget racing and her continued involvement at that level, this is just a good fit for me. I’m also proud to be an Indiana boy driving for an Indiana team.
"I’m also excited about the continuity we’re building into the program. My car number will be No. 39 and I’m bringing along some of my short track supporters with me like Rotondo Weirich.”
Clauson won USAC National Drivers Championships in 2010 and 2011 for his performance in all three major USAC divisions. He also won the USAC National Midget Championship in 2010 and 2011and has more than 26 USAC wins.
"It's quite an honor to bring a USAC champion to the Indianapolis 500,” Fisher said. “I am very fond of my roots in short track oval racing, and watching Bryan at some of these events really brings back memories. Personally knowing his background, I have complete confidence in his credentials, talent and capabilities, and look forward to working with him at Indy. It will be exciting to fill out our team roster with both of the Road to Indy Champions from last season, really solidifying the ladder program.”
The Mazda Road to Indy program, consisting of Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda and USF2000, develops drivers to move up the ladder to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Scholarships are awarded the champions of each division to help them move to the next level.
"INDYCAR continues to focus on strengthening ties with USAC as a path to the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500," INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said. "After a strong oval debut in Firestone Indy Lights last season, it made sense to utilize our USAC National Drivers Championship scholarship to enter Bryan in the Indianapolis 500. Not only is Bryan one of the most talented USAC drivers, his participation in the Indy 500 will attract the interest of short track fans across the country."
Clauson and Newgarden will participate in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on May 10.