Versatile race car driver Bryan Clauson died Sunday night following injuries sustained in a hard crash at Saturday night’s Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas, his family announced Monday. He was 27.
“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 motor sports.”
Just after taking the lead on Saturday night, Clauson climbed a guard rail between Turns 3 and 4 and flipped “heavily” before being struck by a car driven by Ryan Greth, according to USAC’s Twitter account. The race continued after a red flag period and was won by Chad Boat.
Clauson ran in three Indianapolis 500 races – including this May for the 100th running, where he finished 23rd and led three laps – and had a brief NASCAR Xfinity Series career, but he was best known for his talent in the dirt racing world. He was a beloved driver who racked up wins at an impressive pace.
“Bryan’s passion for our sport was unparalleled,” Miller said. “He was a leader not only on the track, but in the pits with his fellow competitors.”
He won two USAC national sprint car championships and two USAC national midget car championships in addition to a win in the prestigious Chili Bowl (2014) – one of more than 170 feature wins during his career.
Clauson also was a three-time winner of the Belleville Nationals, where he was racing as the defending champion Saturday night. The event was one of 200 he planned to drive this year as part of his “Chasing 200” tour.
A Northern California native, Clauson had another big crash just one night earlier at the same track.
“Took a tough hit last night, but the guys have me another hot rod ready for tonight’s Belleville Midget Nationals!” he tweeted just hours before his fatal crash. “Thanks to @SimpsonRacing and @SpikeChassis for keeping me safe!”
Clauson was planning to marry fiancée Lauren Stewart next February. The driver was popular among dirt racing fans; his dog, Chevy Clauson, has its own Twitter account with more than 4,000 followers.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jeff Gluck