Sprint Car champion and Indy racer Bryan Clauson died Sunday from injuries suffered in a Saturday-night wreck during the Belleville Midget Nationals in Belleville, KS. He was 27.
Clauson, a promising driver who dominated the dirt-track ranks, racked up more than 70 USAC wins, including the USAC National Sprint Car Championship and the USA National Midget Car Championship twice each. Clauson won the Chili Bowl in 2014, and has qualified three times for the Indianapolis 500, including this year when he finished 23rd.
Clauson had committed to running 200 races in 2016 in what his team was calling “The Chasing 200 Tour.” Saturday’s race at Belleville High Banks Speedway was #117.
“This is truly one of the darkest days in the 60-year history of the United States Auto Club,” USAC CEO Kevin Miller said. “Not only have we lost one of our greatest USAC champions, we’ve lost a true ambassador for all of motorsports.”
Clauson had just taken the race lead on the half-mile track, according to a Racer report, when a lapped car shoved him into the fence, causing his car to go into a series of rolls before being struck hard by another high-speed car.
It reportedly took rescue workers 30 minutes to cut Clauson out of his car. The driver was breathing on his own and air-lifted to a nearby Nebraska hospital. Later that night, the American Racing Drivers Club tweeted that Clauson was in stable condition. And then Sunday, the racing world got the worst news we ever get.
Clauson is survived by his fiancée, who he was scheduled to marry in February. Clauson’s family and friends are well known and well liked within the motorsports community.
NASCAR’s Tony Stewart addressed Clauson’s passing following Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen.
“It’s a tragedy,” Stewart said. “That kid drove for us for a long time and did a great job and never went anywhere, I don’t care what happened, no matter how bad his day was, he always found a way to smile with it. Him and Lauren being engaged, kid had such a bright future, and it’s just … it was hard to start the day today in the car.
“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. I feel for Lauren today and Bryan’s parents and his sister, and I hope to be able to see them soon, but just thinking about them more than anything right now.”
You can read more about Clauson on his website here, and more about his accident from Jalopnik here.