By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Pippa Mann’s run in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 might be considered average by some, but looking beneath the surface shows a great drive from 30th to 16th place for the No. 39 Chevrolet.
Mann raced for Clauson-Marshall Racing, a USAC racing team known for performances on dirt and paved short tracks around the country. However, in their first foray into Indy car racing, the little team that could showed that it belonged as it finished every lap on race day and ran as high as 13th at one point.
“Coming in here realistically I said if we ran in the top 20 it would be a win for our team,” said team co-owner Tim Clauson. “To run 16th and to keep pace, to run all the laps, that’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to run all the laps and wherever it fell, it fell and we ran all the laps and to run 16th in our first effort as a bunch of newbies, I’m tickled to death.
“This is a rag tag bunch of guys that love to race and that’s the first thing I noticed when we all got together is we had a group of racers. They weren’t Indy car guys, they weren’t sprint car guys, they weren’t sports car guys, they were just racers so they get to do this and watch those guys. Our last pit stop was badass, they nailed it and to watch that progression was about as cool as watching our progression as a team.”
Mann ran much of the race a lap down but was able to get back on the lead lap thanks to pit strategy late in the race and finished 2.5 seconds behind Matheus Leist in 15th place.
“You know our whole goal coming out here today was to try and run just as we have been doing all month,” said Mann. “Be smart, be mistake free and try and do the right things. This was a completely new group of people that we put together for this Clauson-Marshall racing team and I’m proud of how the Driven2Save Lives car ran all day. I can’t thank Chevy enough for everything they’ve done here all month long and I think we should feel pretty proud with finishing 16th in our first Indianapolis 500 as a group together.”
Clauson knew that his team’s big struggle was getting into the 500 in the first place. With no experience in Indy car racing or at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the team had a mountain to climb and focused all of their efforts into outright single car run pace.
“If we got into the show, anything that happened after that would be a cherry on the sundae,” said Clauson. “So we worked on single car stuff the whole week leading up to qualifying and it worked out, we had good single car pace. I think if we go out in that last hour (last Saturday) we’ll run a lot more respectable than the 30th and so coming into this race it was really just kind of let things sort out, see what we had, that’s all we did.”
The Clauson-Marshall Racing Driven2SaveLives machine was entrusted to an Indy Lights race winner and former Freedom 100 polesitter that was a great friend of the late Bryan Clauson. She has championed organ donation as her former teammate saved five lives with organs he donated following his death in a midget racing crash in 2016.
Her name caused numerous cheers at Thursday’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds because of who she was racing with. Clauson did not rule out her trying out dirt racing.
“I don’t know if we’ll see her on dirt or not,” said Clauson. “You know we may go do some playing in the midgets just to give her a taste of our world. I tell you what, I don’t think that girl gets near the credit she deserves not only for what she does in the race car, but how hard she works to be able to be in the race car. That’s one of the reasons I had made a promise to her last year when she didn’t qualify for a lot of things she did out of the race car and I really learned what a great race car driver she is this month as well.”
Mann knows that the team is focused on their USAC program but is looking forward to maybe expanding the program in the future.
“Right now this is a one race program, but after this result I am extremely hopeful that we are in year one as opposed to this being one year.”