Bryan Clauson, a sprint-car specialist who made 26 career starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, died Sunday. He was 27 years old.
Clauson crashed Saturday night during a U.S. Auto Club (USAC) midget car race at the Belleville High Banks, a half-mile dirt track in Belleville, 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 late Sunday. His death was confirmed on Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a statement from the family was read.
“NASCAR extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Bryan Clauson, a passionate competitor whose love for racing fueled his unmatched positive spirit,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said in a statement. “He was a dear friend to many in the racing community, and he was loved and respected by all who knew him. He touched the lives of so many in our motorsports family, and his warm presence and relentless enthusiasm will be missed.”
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart was a longtime team owner for Clauson’s sprint-car efforts. He extended his condolences and thoughts to Clauson’s family after finishing fifth in Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International.
“Yeah, terrible thoughts. 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, the 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.”
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 had set a preseason goal of competing in 200 open-wheel races this year. That ambitious schedule included a start in the 100th Indianapolis 500, where he placed 23rd in his third effort at the famed Brickyard. According to his personal website, Clauson had accumulated 27 wins in 94 races this season.
Clauson, a native of California and a resident of Noblesville, Indiana, was a seven-time champion across three divisions of USAC racing. He also was champion of the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals in 2014 and scored a win in the ARCA stock-car series in 2007 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
USAC President Kevin Miller said, “This is truly one of the darkest days in the history of the U.S. Auto Club.”
Representatives from Indianapolis Motor Speedway also expressed their sympathy to Clauson’s family and friends.
Donations in memory of Clauson can be made through the USAC Benevolent Foundation at USACBF.org.