MONTPELIER, Ind. – It took him eight months and a roller-coaster road to get there, but Andrew Layser was finally able to join his Clauson-Marshall Racing teammates as a feature winner last weekend.
Layser topped a stellar 37-car field at Montpelier Motor Speedway on Sept. 14 to secure his first victory under the guidance of team owner Tim Clauson, starting from the outside pole in the 20-lap main event and leading from flag to flag for the win.
It was part of a clean sweep for the night for Layser, who topped hot laps and also won his heat race during the unsanctioned special event.
Though he redrew the fourth starting position for the feature, it took Layser less than a revolution around the quarter-mile Indiana bullring to grab a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“Man, it felt really good,” said Layser of finally taking home a trophy. “The car was great. That race (at Montpelier) was just about getting laps for me, and staying on track to keep my skills sharp. I felt like we were where we needed to be all night long, really. Things just felt really smooth and I was able to put the car wherever I needed to; I was running the top, but in traffic I was able to put it anywhere.”
The breakthrough victory wasn’t just Layser’s first win under the Clauson-Marshall banner, it was actually his first win in a full-size midget, after two prior seasons of ARDC action yielded no trophies.
That meant an emotional celebration in victory lane at Montpelier for Layser and his family.
“I felt like it finally got the monkey off our back,” Layser noted of the win. “It’s been a long time coming.”
On the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series side, Layser’s year has been one wrought with struggles, despite the fact that he’s been fast off the trailer in many races during the summer.
The rookie driver circled some of his own mistakes, as well as mechanical issues, as reasons why he hasn’t been able to get the results on paper that he’s wanted to for much of the season.
“We’ve just been inconsistent,” said the 18-year-old, who ranks 12th in the USAC standings but leads the series’ rookie-of-the-year battle over Jesse Colwell and Karsyn Elledge. “We’ve had speed and we’ve had some good results, but every time I’ve taken a step forward, I feel like I take another step back.
“But this feels good.”
Buoyed by his recent victory, Layser’s belief in better days to come is now brighter than ever.
“(Winning) gives me a lot of confidence. I think just from me just running up front, no matter if it was a USAC race or a local show, just being there and running up front for that many laps and learning how to set a pace was good for me,” he pointed out. “So I think it gives me a lot of confidence going forward, not just for the next couple of races, but really all the way down the home stretch for the season.”
That homestretch features several crown-jewel events, including next weekend’s 4-Crown Nationals at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and the famed Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway on Thanksgiving Night in November.
But while winning a national-tour race remains the primary goal for Layser going forward, he has his eyes set on locking up the USAC Rookie of the Year title as well and adding that to his resume.
“For sure, rookie of the year with USAC is still our big-picture goal for the rest of the year, but I think we have to look race-by-race some too,” he said. “It would be really cool if we could get it (the rookie title). But I think just running consistently is a big thing we still need to focus on. That will help, and I think we’re getting close to that, where we can run consistently up front. We’ve seen our teammates do it.
“If we can do that like they have, I think we can get a win, and the rest will take care of itself.”