INDIANAPOLIS – Bryan Clauson was happiest when he was behind the wheel of a race car. In fact, the happiest day of his life may have been earlier this year on May 29, when he had his best Indianapolis 500 finish in the afternoon and drove a sprint car to the feature victory at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway that night.
Clauson, 27, died Sunday evening from injuries sustained in a crash the night before at the Belleville (Kan.) Nationals midget race on the half-mile dirt oval. Clauson was airlifted to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb., but did not survive.
“This is certainly a sad day for the racing community as a whole, and on behalf of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we send our deepest condolences to the family of Bryan Clauson,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “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. 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.”
Clauson was considered the nation’s top short-track dirt-car driver with four U.S. Auto Club national championships – two in sprint cars and two in midgets – as well as wins in prestigious events the likes of the Chili Bowl, Turkey Night Grand Prix and Belleville Nationals.
In the mold of old-school racers like A.J. Foyt, Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Stewart, eager and willing to race anything anywhere, Clauson set a goal in 2016 of competing in 200 races, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Driving the No. 88 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Honda for Dale Coyne/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, Clauson finished a career-best 23rd in this year’s Indy 500 and led his first laps in the historic race.
Saturday’s race at the Belleville Nationals, where Clauson was the defending champion, was the 116th on his trek toward 200. He picked up his 27th feature win this season in the midget race Wednesday night at Beloit, Kan.
Clauson is survived by his parents, Tim and Di, his sister Taylor and fiancée Lauren Stewart. A memorial service in his honor will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a date soon to be announced.