The 2004 racing season was one full of success for Bryan Clauson.
The Noblesville sprint car driver earned six feature victories in the Armstrong Farms sponsored sprinter. He had 20 top-three finishes, finished second in the Bloomington Speedway points chase as well as winning Rookie of the Year honors. He won at five different tracks, including Paragon, Kokomo, Lincoln Park and Lawrenceburg.
Oh, and by the way, he's just 15 years old.
The Noblesville High School sophomore includes playing basketball and hanging out with his friends as hobbies he enjoys. But racing is much more than a hobby for Clauson, it's a talent.
After the success he had last year, Clauson's schedule is getting much more ambitious this year.
Clauson kicked off his season by competing at the 2005 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Ok in January.
Competing against some of the best drivers in the country over the three-day event, Clauson battled some car problems and strep throat to take a ninth place finish in Friday's C Main event.
"Although the results from the Chili Bowl weren't as good as we had hoped for, there were so many positive things that I took away from the weekend," commented Clauson. "I was fortunate enough to team up with J.J. Yeley, and I learned so much from him by watching his conduct and interaction with fans. He showed me a lot about professionalism and taught me a lot of little things that can seperate a good driver from a great one."
Clauson has been honing his driving skills for quite some time and has had success at every level.
In 2000, he won a national championship in quarter midgets before advancing to become the youngest driver ever to win a NMMA 600 micro midget A Main at age 12. In his rookie season in the NAMARS Kenyon Midgets he won the National Championship and Rookie of the Year.
He made his sprint car debut at age 13 at Kokomo Speedway was named the track's Rookie of the Year while making every A Main event.
This year Clauson will expand his efforts to include some pavement dates with USAC as well as some possible World of Outlaw dates. "I'm driving for B & L Motorsports but will have all the same sponsors from last year," noted Clauson of his expanded program. "Armstrong Farms sponsored our dirt program last year, but this year I'll be driving for B & L on dirt, but Armstrong Farms will be helping with motors and be sponsoring our USAC pavement sprint car."
This Spring, Clauson will begin with the opening Midwest Sprint Car Series dates at Terre Haute and in Canton, Ill. before local dates at Bloomington, Lawrenceburg, Lincoln Park and Haubstadt heading into May.
As the Summer heats up, Clauson will compete with USAC at Eldora, Limaland, Toledo and Mansfield on pavement before returning for Indiana Sprint Week.
"We tried to run against the best competition possible last year hoping to prepare ourselves for this year," said Clauson. "A lot of races last year we were running with USAC-caliber competition. On most nights we were running against (Kevin) Briscoe, (Dave) Darland, (Jon) Stanbrough and (Shane) Cottle."
Clauson feels that the level of competition he faces each week will be a direct benefit to him as a driver down the road.
"It has always been an important part of our program, even from the early stages, to not just run where we can 'cherry pick' good finishes. I think that kind of approach is what makes a driver's learning curve accelerate. And in my case, should prepare me for national competition."
August will bring some big dates for Clauson and the B & L Motorsports mount.
On August 6 the team will compete at the Mopar Nationals at Eldora Speedway in Ohio before hitting Oskaloosa, Ia for the Ultimate Challenge and a $30,000 to win show. On August 27 he'll return to Lawrenceburg to the site of what Clauson calls his biggest win to date. "The first win I had at Lawrenceburg was probably my biggest win," noted Clauson. "It was the Dick Gaines Memorial event. I ran 30 laps wheel-to-wheel with Dickie Gaines (it was a race being held in his father's memory), so that was pretty special. It came down to the last five laps and we were able to get the advantage and pull off the win."
Clauson also mentions Lawrenceburg as one of his favorite tracks along with Tri-State. "I love Tri-City Speedway because you have to be up on the wheel and on the gas. I also really like Lawrenceburg, not just because of the great racing surface, but also, at that race track, you can interact with the fans a lot more than at most places and that's something I really enjoy."
While Clauson has proven to be a fan favorite at area tracks, he has designs on following in the same steps as some of Indiana's best known drivers, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman who began in the sprint car and midget ranks before moving on to the big time.
"Like most drivers I'd like to race professionally whether it's in NASCAR or the IRL. Right now I'm leaning more towards NASCAR because they are working so hard right now with driver development and bringing up young drivers while the IRL doesn't really have something like that," said Clauson."
Though Clauson has learned plenty on the race track, he still understands the value of his continuing education in the classroom. "There is no doubt in my mind that I will go to college. I'm interested in pursuing a degree in engineering. If I were given an opportunity to race professionally, I might have to put that on hold for awhile, but I do intend to continue my education in the future."
Whether racing or engineering is in the plans for Clauson down the road, the future appears very bright.