Bryan Clauson dies from race injuries

Bryan Clauson succumbed to injuries suffered in Saturday night’s USAC midget crash in Belleville, Kan., two racing officials confirmed today.

The Noblesville, Ind., driver had just taken the lead in the 39th Belleville Midget Nationals when he came upon a lapped car approaching Turn 4. Upon contact with that car, Clauson’s car flipped end over end several times before landing in the middle of the dirt track. A trailing car driven by Ryan Greth could not avoid hitting him, sending both cars tumbling.

Amateur video caught most of the Lap 14 incident, including the final impact. After a lengthy extrication, Clauson was airlifted to Bryan Medical Center West in Lincoln, Neb., where he died Sunday.

Clauson is survived by his parents, Tim and Diana, sister Taylor and his fiancé, Lauren Stewart.

Former USAC champion Tony Stewart said Clauson “had a bright future.”

Clauson, 27, has been regarded as the nation’s top short-track dirt-car driver for much of the decade. He won four USAC national championships in all – two in sprint cars, two more in midgets. He had started three Indianapolis 500s since 2012 and led three laps in this year’s race before finishing 23rd.

Proof of his versatility, Clauson finished this year’s 500 and drove to Kokomo Speedway, where he won a 30-lap sprint car race. Also in his career was a win in a stock car race in the ARCA series, and he was the fastest qualifier for NASCAR Xfinity Series and Indy Lights races.

Clauson also had a bad crash in Friday’s preliminary race in Belleville, and he tweeted thanks to makers of his safety equipment and chassis manufacturer. In almost the same location as his Saturday night crash, Clauson couldn’t avoid hitting the stalled car of Morgan Frewaldt. The impact did not injure either driver, although Clauson’s team tweeted that he was sore the day after.

The Belleville High Banks is a half-mile dirt oval 200 miles northwest of Kansas City and is one of the fastest tracks in the U.S. Clauson was aiming for his fourth victory in this event; he won last year. He had started ninth in this race.

Clauson was in his 116th start of the season. He was bidding to compete in 200 races this season. He won Wednesday night’s midget race in Beloit, Kan., for his 27th victory of the year.

Clauson’s first Indianapolis 500 start came with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, but mechanical issues forced him out of the car after only 46 laps. His second start came as a Byrd’s Racing/KVSH entry last year, and he ran 61 laps before crashing. He completed all but two laps of the recent race in a Byrd’s/Dale Coyne Racing entry.

Saturday night’s race was won by Chad Boat, the son of former midget champion and IndyCar Series driver Billy Boat.