FUZI: Pitside Chatter
GAYLORD, Mich. — When thinking of the title “Veteran Racer,” often it is images of gray hair and vintage photos that come to mind, but with two USAC National Midget titles to his credit, 22-year-old Bryan Clauson is definitely more the teacher than the student when it comes to driving an open-wheel race car.
The young driver grew up in a California home where sprint car racing was more than a hobby, it was a passion.
“I had a pretty neat childhood,” stated Clauson “I grew up at places like Chico (Silver Dollar Speedway), Placerville and other tracks that were synonymous with sprint car racing on the West Coast. My dad [Tim Clauson] raced winged sprint cars when I was little so I grew up knowing racing from the time I was a day or two old. When I was 5 years old my dad got injured and had to sit out for a while, when that happened he got me started in quarter midget racing. I’ve been racing ever since and loving every minute of it.”
It didn’t take the junior Clauson long to pick-up his dad’s winning ways, while in California Bryan managed to win four Western States Championships and amass nearly 200 victories.
In 1999, Tim’s job relocated the family to Indiana, and although 10-year-old Bryan had to make some adjustments, the easiest one was behind the wheel of a race car. In his first full season as a Hoosier, Clauson captured 30 victories and the National Quarter Midget Championship.
Seeking a new challenge 2001, Clauson strapped in behind the wheel of a 600 mini-sprint, and then began competing with the Kenyon Midget series. By the middle of the 2003 season, a newly 14-year-old Bryan was itching to strap into a full-sized sprint car and made his debut at Kokomo (Ind.), in 10 starts Clauson never failed to make the A main and despite a short season, captured the track’s rookie of the year honors.
Clauson continued to impress on the Indiana sprint car scene throughout his early teens, but his sites were steadfastly set on USAC. Just after his 16th birthday, Clauson’s dreams became a reality when he made his USAC sprint car debut at the Buckeye Nationals at Limaland Speedway in Ohio, an event that changed the course of history as the youngster pulled off a top-three finish in the prestigious event.
Since 2005, Bryan Clauson has become a household name for USAC fans, with two Belleville Midget Nationals wins, two Turkey Night Grand Prix victories, two Indiana Midget Week titles, and a host of other achievements it is no wonder; but his successes have not been strictly in open wheel.
In 2008 Clauson was a staple in the NASCAR Nationwide series and managed to post two-top 10 finishes, a single top five, a pole position, and finished second in the rookie of the year chase.
2009 saw Bryan back where he considers home, the USAC Sprint, Midget, and Silver Crown tours, “I’m just having a ball doing what I’m doing with USAC. If the opportunity comes along to drive something at an upper level I’ll jump on it, but if not I am truly happy doing what I’m doing.”
As the USAC National Drivers Champion in 2010, Clauson received an Indy Lights sponsorship for 2011. In addition to competing in USAC’s three premier open wheel divisions full-time, Clauson also competed in every oval-track Indy Lights event and the experience was invaluable.
Playing quad-duty certainly didn’t slow the Noblesville, Ind., driver down any as he raced his way to the top of the leader board time and time again, capturing yet another National Drivers Championship.
With a successful season in Indy Lights in the books though, his 2012 USAC sponsorship will be put towards the ultimate goal — Indy. Clauson is slated to slide down into the new DW12 IndyCar at the historic brickyard event in May, from there, there is no telling what is in store for the talented young driver who despite a hectic schedule piloting a sprint car, midget, and Silver Crown cars, still views racing as his number one passion.
“We run 90-92 races on the year, and I try to do a little bit of golfing, and a bit of relaxing; but even though I race for a living when I have an off weekend I won’t hesitate to drive anything. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of success and a lot of fun along the way,” Clauson said.
With an infectious smile, and a passion for racing that is undeniable, Clauson has become the fan favorite of many, and there is no doubt that an interest for Indy racing will be renewed for many this year all because of a young Indiana midget driver who will already have short-track laps in the 2012 books before even sitting in his Indy car for practice.