Tyler Courtney was quite content with his position at TOPP Motorsports. So much so, he had no thoughts of leaving.
And why would he? Courtney just polished off his best season and was looking forward to contending for the AMSOIL United States Auto Club National Sprint Car title next season.
But racing, whether you are a driver or a team owner, is a business in which you expect the unexpected. And Courtney was about to get the opportunity of a lifetime … one he couldn’t pass up.
On Thursday, Courtney was named the driver of the Clauson/Marshall Racing Sprint Car team during an announcements ceremony at the USAC exhibit during the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis.
But there is more. Clauson/Marshall, which features Tim Clauson and Richard Marshall at the helm, has teamed up with NASCAR star Ryan Newman to form Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing.
“This is really cool,” Courtney said. “Ryan said he always wanted to do this, and he was just waiting for the right opportunity, and I’m glad I get to be a part of his endeavor back into grass-roots racing.
“He knows that this is where he wants to be, so he is really excited, and we are all just as excited. It’s big to go racing with Tim and the rest of the Clauson/Marshall Team. They are a big family over there, and I’ve been through a lot with them over the last two years. Hopefully, we keep going on what we have built and have a great 2018.”
Clauson/Marshall is known for its success in the Midget ranks, but the plan all along was to expand to other divisions.
Thanks to Newman, the organization is ahead of schedule. And with Courtney in the mix, an all-out assault on the USAC National Sprint tour just made sense.
“We knew we were going to run a Sprint Car at some point,” Marshall said. “Our initial goal with starting the company a year ago was to get on the track with a midget, have some on-track performance, and kind of take baby steps.
“Frankly, the Sprint Car idea was part of a three-year plan in Year 3, so we are ahead of ourselves. Ryan is a great friend and is passionate about the sport, and we talked about it a couple of times. He called one day and said, ‘I got to do it, let’s do it.’ He helped nudge us into it.”
Continued Marshall, “Tim [Clauson] has been Tyler’s mentor since Day 1 … Bryan [Clauson] was, too. Tyler started working in the race shop to earn a seat way back then, so we are keeping it in the family.”
Hiring Courtney wasn’t some gift out of obligation because of friendship. The 23-year-old Indianapolis, Ind., driver earned it.
In 2017, few were Courtney’s equal. Behind the wheel of the TOPP Motorsports entry, the upstart captured a series best six wins and was fourth in points in only his second full season with the USAC National Sprint Series.
Courtney also won in five different divisions last season, including the Silver Crown and Midget cars, as well as CRA and West Coast divisions.
“Last year was a year I never thought I would have,” Courtney said. “The most I had ever won in a year was two times.
“This is a big opportunity. I had a great 2017, but you always want to get better. Hopefully, 2018 will be bigger than 2017.”
Despite Courtney’s relationship with Clauson — he lives five minutes from the shop — this wasn’t an easy move to make. Especially with the success he’s had over the last year driving for the TOPP Motorsports group.
But Clauson/Marshall/Newman made Courtney an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he is hoping to reward their choice with more wins and a USAC title.
“I’m just looking forward to building on what I’ve already gained as a driver on and off the track,” Courtney said. “Hopefully, I will make these guys proud.
“As a career choice, I felt I had to do this to take the next step to solidifying my spot in USAC and motorsports in general. I won a lot of big races, but there are a lot more we can win out there.
“I’m really looking forward to it. Tim’s Sprint Car results speak for themselves. He won a championship with Bryan in 2012, so hopefully, we can keep going on what they built.”