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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Rich Clouser won the inaugural NASCAR Super Late Model track championship at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in 2013 and he’s already two races into the track’s 2014 schedule and getting ready for more.
Clouser, 31, of Deland, Fla., posted top-10 finishes in the first two legs of the track’s Florida Triple Crown Series this month. He opened with a third-place finish in the Red Eye 100 on Jan. 4 and a 10th-place effort in the Pete Orr Memorial Orange Blossom 100 on Jan. 18. Travis Cope won both events. The Triple Crown Series concludes with the Bruce Gowland Memorial 100 Feb 22. That race is also the finale of the track’s 48th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Feb. 14-22.
The partnership between NASCAR and New Smyrna Speedway opened a new era in central Florida racing. Clouser, who was the defending division champion, wanted to be part of the historic 2013 season.
“I was very excited when the NASCAR sanction at New Smyrna was announced,” Clouser said. “It made us work even harder to win the championship because we wanted to be the first. What we didn’t know was what NASCAR does for the tracks and drivers.
“Going to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series awards banquet in Charlotte blew every expectation I ever had out of the water,” he said of last month’s gala. “It made me wish NASCAR had come to New Smyrna 15 years ago.
“My wife Jenn and I couldn’t believe how we were treated. We were pampered. It was very organized and professional. Everything was spot-on. The hotel was beautiful. It was quite a getaway.”
Clouser placed sixth in the 2013 state points race with a record of four wins, 11 top fives and 11 top 10s in 13 starts. David Rogers won the state championship.
Clouser is a second generation driver and started racing with his father, Rick, in the Bomber division at the track in 1996. As his own racing career grew, his the elder Clouser backed off and eventually stopped competing in 1999.
Clouser holds a number of track championships. He was the New Smyrna Bomber division champion and rookie of the year in 1997, and won division titles at New Smyrna and Orlando Speedworld in 1998. He also won a Street Stock division championship in 2001 at DeSoto Speedway in Bradenton, Fla.
Clouser joined team owner Bobby Sears and his son, crew chief Danny Sears, in 2002. They won New Smyrna Speedway’s Limited Late Model division World Series championship in February 2003. They travelled the state with the former Goodyear Challenge Series in 2003-06 and won the series championship 2005-06. They eased back into racing at New Smyrna in the track’s Brighthouse Series of 100-lap features for Super Late Models and became fulltime weekly regulars in 2009. They placed second in Brighthouse Series points for five consecutive years.
The Sears’ business, Sanford (Fla.) Auto Dealers Exchange, is primary sponsor of their Chevrolet. The car is based on a Hamke chassis with an A.R. body and is powered by a CRE racing engine.
The Clousers have two children, who both compete in Quarter-Midgets on a tenth-mile paved oval on New Smyrna Speedway’s infield.