INDIANAPOLIS – Almost fittingly, Clauson-Marshall Racing rookie Zeb Wise became the first driver to win a feature at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by topping the 20-lap Stoops Pursuit on Wednesday night.
Wise, who started 18th in the race that eliminated drivers from contention as they were passed on track, charged into the top 10 by the start of the second four-lap segment but waited patiently to make his moves during the second half.
Finding himself third by the halfway point, Wise moved past mid-race leader Brayton Lynch with six laps left and then set his sights on Alex Bright, who assumed command as Lynch dropped back and was subsequently eliminated.
Coming to the white flag, Wise used a turn four slider to charge past Bright and never looked back, leading the final two circuits around the quarter-mile dirt oval set inside turn three of the famed 2.5-mile IMS oval for arguably the biggest win of his young career.
Wise collected a total of $3,200 for his victory Wednesday night – the $1,500 winner’s purse and an additional $100 for each position he advanced during the main event.
“Man, starting 18th, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Wise told SPEED SPORT. “I just knew I had to pass cars and stay in the race at first, and then when we got to the last restart (with four to go), I knew I had to go because there wasn’t going to be another one.
“I waited, was patient and didn’t go through any holes down there at the end,” continued Wise. “I didn’t know how it was going to be down there (on the bottom lane) but we made some shock adjustments that really helped us. Once I slid him (Bright) down there in three and four and saw the white flag, I’m like, ‘alright, now I need to be patient and stay calm, before I jump the cushion and hit the fence’ … which I still did, but we held on!”
Zeb Wise hoists the trophy after winning Wednesday night’s Stoops Pursuit. (IMS photo)
Notably, the Angola, Ind. teenager put the No. 39bc in victory lane at the BC39, a fitting tribute to three-time USAC national driving champion and event namesake Bryan Clauson.
Wise also said he learned plenty for tomorrow’s second half of the BC39 program, which includes eight qualifiers and alphabet soup mains that lead up to the grand finale, a 39-lap feature that pays $15,000 to win.
“That race right there was huge,” Wise noted. “I don’t know what I would have done without that race. It taught me how to run the top here. This is a lot different track than anything I’ve ever run. It’s got a lot of character and a few bumps down in (turns) one and two that give it that character.
“Running the top here is a blast, I can say that, for sure!”
Bright hung on to finish second, .714 of a second behind Wise at the checkered flag, with Wise’s Clauson-Marshall teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completing the podium.
JJ Yeley was fourth in a Dooling-Hayward Motorsports entry, with Jerry Coons Jr. crossing fifth for Petry Motorsports.
Tucker Klaasmeyer finished sixth in a Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports Bullet-Toyota and was the final car among the 25 starters that survived all four elimination rounds and completed all 20 laps.
Lynch was scored seventh in the final rundown. He led 11 of the 20 laps, but was eliminated at the final segment break with four to go.
Zeb Wise, Alex Bright, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JJ Yeley, Jerry Coons Jr., Tucker Klaasmeyer, Brayton Lynch, Matt Westfall, Shane Cottle, Chad Boat, Korey Weyant, Travis Young, Matt Lux, Chase Jones, Ryan Robinson, Brady Bacon, Tyler Thomas, Brian Karraker, Terry Babb, Maria Cofer, Stve Buckwalter, Christopher Bell, Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney, Kevin Thomas Jr.