Bryan Clauson turned only eight laps of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, but he was rewarded by the car he will race for the first time in the Firestone Freedom 100.
The 21-year-old resident of Noblesville, Ind., was awarded the Sunoco Pole Award and its $5,000 prize after qualifying was rained out and the field was set by entrant points. The 2010 USAC National Drivers Championship title holder earned the top starting spot thanks to Conor Daly, who leads the Firestone Indy Lights standings and served as driver No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy for the first three races of the season.
"We didn't get to qualify and get the pole but that's part of being part of a great team and having great teammates like Conor Daly to put us up front," said Clauson, who tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13. "Starting from the front kind of heightens your expectations a little bit. Now you don't have to work traffic. I've got a couple teammates in the lead pack. We watched a lot of race tape with Wade (Cunningham) and saw how teammates can make things happen. Obviously, I want to win but the big key is being there at the end. The first few laps are going to be key."
Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Josef Newgarden will line up on the front row while Andretti Autosport's Stefan Wilson and Team Moore Racing's Victor Garcia will grid on the second row for the 40-lap race, which will air at 12:30 p.m. ET on Versus. Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Esteban Guerrieri and O2 Racing Technology's Peter Dempsey will make up the third row.
"I think we're going to be in a strong position tomorrow, but we really wanted to qualify," Newgarden said. "I think everyone wanted a shot at the pole and we didn't get that opportunity. We proved in testing that we had a strong car. Sam Schmidt Motorsports is a good Indy Lights team and they have a lot of history in the series and a lot of experience and knowledge to draw from. The (IZOD) IndyCar Series side did a phenomenal job last weekend, and I'm confident that we can handle the job on our end."
Teams got in about 10 minutes of practice before rains fell over Indianapolis' 2.5-mile oval. Wilson, who was fastest in the Open Test, led the brief practice session turning a lap at more than 189mph before the caution flew.
"Kind of mixed feelings about how today went," Wilson said. "Happy to be starting P3, but we were pretty quick on the test day, and I felt we had a decent chance to start on the front row and a shot at battling for the pole. But at the same time, I am happy to be starting at the sharp end of the grid."
Teams will have a 30-minute final practice session at 9 a.m.