Bryan Clauson (June 15, 1989 - August 7, 2016) was an American racing driver. Best known for his achievements in dirt track open-wheel racing, Clauson also competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Indy Lights, and IndyCar Series and was a former development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Clauson made the majority of his Xfinity Series starts for team owner Chip Ganassi in 2008. He had one pole position (Daytona in July 2008) and one top-five finish (fifth place, Kentucky in June 2008) in his NASCAR career.
Clauson died on August 7, 2016 from injuries sustained in a crash the night before at the Belleville Nationals midget race on the half-mile dirt oval in Kansas. Clauson was airlifted to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, but did not survive. He was 27 years old.
Racing career Edit
Clauson made his USAC National Sprint Series debut just two days after his 16th birthday on June 17, 2005 at Limaland Motorsports Park, Ohio garnering a third place podium finish. On October 8, 2005, Clauson won the Open Wheel Oktoberfest Midget race at Columbus Motor Speedway, Ohio, becoming the youngest driver in USAC history to win a National feature event at 16 years, three months and 23 days of age. On August 12, 2006, Clauson recorded a historic USAC Sprint/Midget doubleheader "sweep" at Salem Speedway, Indiana winning both the 30-lap Midget race and 50-lap Sprint race held the same night, only the 24th such sweep in USAC history.
On August 31, Clauson scored his first career ARCA win at the Gateway International Raceway. Two months later he began competing in the NASCAR Busch Series, driving the #41 Memorex Dodge Charger for Chip Ganassi. He competed full-time during the 2007 season in the USAC National Sprint and Midget Series as part of the Keith Kunz Motorsports stable.
Despite his move to NASCAR, Clauson returned to his dirt-track roots on Jan. 12, racing in the Chili Bowl, an indoor Midget race in Tulsa, Okla., featuring some of the top names in racing, such as Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Jason Leffler, Gary Scelzi, Cruz Pedregon, and Tim McCreadie. After starting the feature mid-pack, he finished fourth overall.
In 2008, Clauson started the season in the #41 Polaroid/Texaco Havoline Dodge for Ganassi in the Nationwide Series, but was replaced by Kyle Krisiloff. He now drives the #40 Fastenal entry for Ganassi, filling in for Dario Franchitti in select races. He won his 1st pole at Daytona in July, but was replaced Full-Time by Franchitti the week after.
He was set to make his Cup debut at the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway driving the #40 Target/Motor Storm: Pacific Rift Dodge but qualifying was rained out and the team, which did not have enough owner points, did not qualify. His second attempt at his Cup Series debut ended the same way at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Qualifying was rained out for the race on October 26, 2008; he would have driven the #40 Guitar Hero World Tour Dodge. In his first actual attempt at Texas, Clauson failed to qualify.
Clauson was supposed to drive the #40 in the Nationwide Series full-time in 2009, but the team shut down after Fastenal left the team. He won the Turkey Night Grand Prix in November.
Clauson joined the Tony Stewart Racing Silver Crown team in USAC 2010. During this season he was successful in winning the USAC National Midget championship for his own team, as well as the first-ever USAC National Drivers championship. Clauson earned a $300,000 scholarship to compete in all 6 Indy Lights oval races in 2011.
Clauson ran the 2012 Indianapolis 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, but finished 30th with mechanical problems.
Clauson won the USAC Sprint Car Championship in 2012, and repeated in 2013.
Following the 2013 season, Clauson replaced Jerry Coons Jr. in the Joe Dooling/Rusty Kunz number 63 Westin Packaged Meats Esslinger powered Midget. On January 18, 2014, he won the Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa Expo Center, while teammate Michael Pickens, driving the number 63 Dooling Machine, Esslinger powered midget, flipped with 11 to go. Later that year, the Gold Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway were postponed after a 5-hour rain delay, the next day they resumed racing and he led all 25 laps of the race for his first Gold Crown Midget win, holding off Christopher Bell in the No. 71 KKM midget.
Clauson returned to the Indy 500 in 2015, driving for the KV Racing Technology/Jonathan Byrd's Racing team, finishing 31st after an accident while moving out of the way for a faster car. He also competed in the "Kokomo Classic" at Kokomo Speedway later that evening, where he finished 2nd to Kevin Thomas, Jr. in a photo finish.
In 2016, Clauson attempted to make history with a schedule consisting of 200 races. The "Chasing 200 Tour: Circular Insanity" included Winged Sprint Car, Non-Winged Sprint Car, Midget, Silver Crown races and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in the Dale Coyne/Jonathan Byrd's Racing #88.
The IndyCar Series announced during its series banquet on October 4, 2016 that Clauson was named INDYCAR Nation Fan Favorite driver as voted on by the fans, making him the third driver in IndyCar Series history to posthumously win the Series' Most Popular Driver award.
Clauson was fatally injured in an accident on August 6, 2016, during the 39th Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. Amateur video showed his open-wheel sprint car flipping in Turn 4, where it was struck by another vehicle. Clauson was airlifted to a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was pronounced dead the following night. His death was confirmed on the morning of August 8, 2016 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a statement from the family was read.
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who was a longtime team owner for Clauson's sprint-car efforts, extended his condolences and thoughts to Clauson's family after finishing fifth in Sunday's NASCAR race at Watkins Glen International:
"It sucks when it's anybody in racing. It's hard when you lose them, but it's even worse when they’re somebody as close to you as Bryan was."
Clauson was a registered organ donor, which contributed to five lives being saved.
Various tributes from the racing community were made in honor of Clauson. For the Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, drivers ran a BC decal on the A-post of their cars, while race winner Justin Marks dedicated his victory to Clauson. The following week, at the Cup Series' Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran a Fastenal scheme modeled after Clauson's 2008 Nationwide Series car.
Personal Life Edit
Clauson attended Noblesville High School in Noblesville, Indiana. He is survived by his parents, Tim and Diana, sister Taylor and his fiancée, Lauren Stewart.