By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
The racing community was shocked and saddened by the passing Sunday evening of 27-year-old Bryan Clauson, who succumbed to injuries suffered in a midget racing crash Saturday night during the "Belleville Midget Nationals" in Kansas.
Clauson was leading the race at the time of the accident as he clipped the tire of a slower car and flipped into the guard rail before careening back onto the track where he was hit by the car driven by Ryan Greth after it had stopped flipping.
It took medical crews nearly half an hour to remove Clauson from his car and he was placed in a waiting ambulance. He was later transported by helicopter to Bryan Medical Center West in Nebraska.
The death was confirmed during a press conference Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Clauson family issued the following statement:
"Last night, the 7th of August, we said goodbye to our son, my fiancé, our friend, Bryan Clauson. He was surrounded by family and friends and we were grateful that we could experience his final moments with him.
"Our Bryan fought to the end with the same desire that he demonstrated behind the wheel of all the various race cars he would park in victory lane. However, we were more proud of our Bryan that took a moment to make a young fans day, or demonstrated his uncommon kindness and appreciation toward his friends, family and fans.
"We would like to thank everybody who has shown their concern toward us and kept us in their prayers. We will never be able to truly thank you. We would also like to thank the staff at Bryan Medical Center who stood and fought with our Bryan since he arrived here early yesterday morning.
"We know that our Bryan is also your Bryan and that you would like to participate in honoring him. A service will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a date and time to be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, or to make a donation, people may direct their contributions to the USAC Benevolent Fund website at http://usacbf.org/cash- donation/ or checks should be made out to the USAC Benevolent Foundation in the name of Bryan Clauson. The address is 124 E Northfield Drive, Suite F #129, Brownsburg, IN 46112."
Clauson was one of the most accomplished drivers in the history of the United States Auto Club (USAC). He captured his 100th USAC feature earlier this season with a victory during the "Winter Challenge" at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria, Ariz., to become just the sixth driver to reach that plateau. His 112 career USAC wins rank behind only USAC Hall of Famers Rich Vogler, A.J. Foy, Sleepy Tripp and Mel Kenyon.
"It is with extreme sadness that we must accept this devastating news," said USAC CEO/President Kevin Miller. "This is one of the darkest days in the history of the United States Auto Club. Not only have we lost one of our greatest USAC Champions, we have lost a true ambassador for all of motorsports. Bryan's passion for our sport was unparalleled. He was a leader not only on the track, but in the pits with his fellow competitors. There is a tremendous hole in the hearts of our community today as we grieve his loss along with his family and friends."
"Bryan was a mentor, a competitor, and a close friend," USAC Series Director Levi Jones said. "I am truly saddened by his loss and we will miss him dearly in our sport."
Clauson became one of the most popular drivers amongst dirt track fans because of his passion for the sport, his approachability and his desire to give back to the sport and its fans. The Noblesville, Ind. driver was rarely without a smile on his face and always made time for a photo or autograph for fans young and old. He carried the torch for dirt track fans into the realms of NASCAR with 26 starts in the Nationwide Series before returning to dirt track racing in 2009. He also made numerous starts in the Indy Lights Series and made three Indy 500 starts, including a 23rd-place finish this past May.
This calendar year, Clauson was in the middle of an ambitious racing slate that he billed the "Circular Insanity Tour." His goal was to race 200 times in 2016 and Saturday's race was his 116th of the year. He had won 27 features, including a Wednesday victory in Beloit, Kan. In a true testament to his talent, Clauson included wins in a USAC Midget and Sprint Car this year along with victories in a winged sprint car in the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) and with the All Star Circuit of Champions. He'd also made several starts with the World of Outlaws.
The sport of racing ran deep in Clauson's veins as he made his first USAC start two days after his 16th birthday. He won the USAC National Drivers Championship three times, won two USAC National Sprint Car titles and a pair of USAC National Midget titles.
Earlier this summer, Clauson was a winner in the June 2 sprint car A-main at Lincoln Park Speedway during USAC Midget Week. He finished second in the midget A-main to Tanner Thorson that same evening.
Clauson won the 2014 Chili Bowl Nationals and other career highlights included winning the Turkey Night Grand Prix, Oval Nationals, Western World Championship, Belleville Nationals, Kokomo Smackdown and Hut Hundred.
Clauson is survived by his parents, Tim and Di, his sister Taylor and fiancée Lauren Stewart. Funeral arrangements are pending. A memorial service in his honor will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a date soon to be announced.