By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
The tight-knit racing community is once again mourning the loss of a talented young driver. Bryan Clauson, one of the finest that USAC has ever seen, lost his life following a crash at the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas on Saturday night.
Clauson had worked his way up from a ninth-place starting position into the lead of the event. He lost control when he got wrapped up in lapped traffic. As his car tumbled through the air, he was struck by another race car at full speed. After a lengthy extrication process, Clauson was airlifted to a local hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
Well wishes and prayers began to flow in as details were kept quiet. On Monday morning, at a press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was announced that he did not survive. He was 27 years old, and is survived by his parents, Tim and Di, his sister Taylor, and fiancée Lauren Stewart.
The native Californian, who has called Noblesville, IN his home for many years, was on a mission to compete in 200 races in 2016, including the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. He was 116 races in, with 27 wins, when fate struck.
With four USAC Championships under his belt, Clauson is considered one of the best dirt track racers of his generation, but he is very much old-school. Reminiscent of guys like A.J. Foyt, Sammy Swindell, Ken Schrader, or Tony Stewart, Clauson wanted to race, and win, as often as he could.
“Anybody who witnessed Bryan behind the wheel of a race car can attest to his elite ability, relentlessness and unbridled willingness to race anything on wheels,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Co. “While he’ll be remembered most as a legend of short-track racing, his participation in the Indianapolis 500 exemplifies his fearlessness, true versatility as a competitor and the pure depth of his talent as a driver.”
While Clauson’s career began and ended on dirt tracks, he also participated in the Indy Lights Series in 2011 with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, where he split seat time with Conor Daly. He first ran the Indianapolis in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Racing, coming home 30th after mechanical trouble.
Clauson also had a brief foray into NASCAR, starting 22 Nationwide races with Chip Ganassi Racing and MacDonald Motorsport. He took the pole position at Daytona in July of 2008.
Clauson certainly has left behind an impressive racing resume, but the Bryan Clauson that I remember was an energetic young man who was always quick with a smile, and took time out to chat with his fans. He will be sorely missed.
“Our Bryan fought to the end with the same desire that he demonstrated behind the wheel of all the various race cars he would park in victory lane,” the Clauson family said. “However, we were more proud of our Bryan that took a moment to make a young fan’s day, or demonstrated his uncommon kindness and appreciation toward his friends, family and fans.”
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donatations be made to the USAC Benevolent Fund website at http://usacbf.org/cash-donation/ or checks should be made out to the USAC Benevolent Foundation in the name of Bryan Clauson. The address is 124 E Northfield Drive, Suite F #129, Brownsburg, IN 46112.