By Peter Turford, Ontario Oval On Dirt columnist
There are 3 things in life that I really like: dogs, guys that race at every opportunity and short track drivers running the Indy 500. That was Bryan Clauson. My son introduced me to Bryan at Eldora in 2014 at the 4 Crown Nationals. I gushed like a Fanboy while talking to him about Indy – I was barely holding up my end of the conversation.
I was actually embarrassed. Normally, I don’t really put drivers on a pedestal and, while I knew Bryan was a winner, it wasn’t like he was running at an impossible level where others had no chance. In a Schatz like way, he would win without being overly spectacular. I was not concerned about being a tongue-tied boob, as I knew I would have plenty of future opportunities to talk to him and would probably be a little more coherent.
At the start of the season, if you had asked me for my prediction regarding Bryan Clauson’s Circular Insanity Tour at the start of the year I would have said, “He’ll come close, but with rain-outs etc. won’t quite make 200”. The only other comment I might have had (Kevin Eckert mentioned this as well) was that I always fear for a driver’s safety when running 225+mph at Indy. Once he was passed Indy I never thought again or had a concern about his safety. Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares did I see this horrific ending coming. The possibility never remotely occurred to me.
To be more than honest, his passing has eaten me up more than any other driver in recent memory. The closest I can think of were both in 1982, Gilles Villeneuve and Jim Shampine. I’ve witnessed first hand more fatals than I care to remember but this one seems like a whole new level of pain. I now think it is because of social media and podcasts. We blame Social Media for most of society’s ills today, but in this case I am not. What Social Media has done, is made a racecar driver from Noblesville, Indiana seem like my next door neighbour.
I just plain knew too much about Bryan and those close to him. Even worse, everything I did know about him, made me like him even more. I first really got tuned into Bryan when he ran his first Indy and later listening to him being interviewed on MRN’s Winged Nation. While I knew of him, the Winged Nation interview really got my attention for some reason. To be honest, I think it might have been when he mentioned his dog, Chevy and Chevy’s active presence on Twitter. I am one of those ridiculous over the top dog lovers and this grabbed my attention. No more than a day or 2 later I am following Chevy Clauson on Twitter – oh yah and Brian Clauson too, as well as his girlfriend and later fiancée, Lauren Stewart.
From that point on, I knew an awful lot about what was going on in their lives. I knew about every race win (Chevy would say ‘Barked it!’). I knew when Chevy got a little puppy brother – Stewart- and, in retrospect what is saddest of all, I knew when Bryan and Lauren got engaged. Sadder still, I saw Lauren’s recently posted pictures of her Bridal Shower in July. These people had literally become closer to me than I’d like to admit – and I’d only ever met Bryan and only once! In an earlier column I wrote about the effectiveness of Lauren’s assistance to Bryan’s career. She did her job well and because of it, today, I am crying with her even though we have never met and are 500 miles and a country apart.
Back to Bryan, TJ Buffenbarger of TJSlideways.com said it best, with words to the effect of, he was a great driver, but an even better person. Not a bad way to be remembered. Finally, I have to add that when my sons, Jeffrey and Darryl, wanted to start a racing website that would give drivers a chance to tell their story, one of the first guys to step up was Bryan Clauson. He described the 4 harrowing qualifying laps at Indy for their site, The Drivers Project. You can read his story, Four Laps in May here.
Ironically and tragically, the most recent article they posted was his description of this year’s Indy 500, which you can read here.
For that act of kindness to my sons alone, I will always be indebted to a very kind good person who was also one hell of a throttle stomper. Now, please, let me get back to tearing up like a 6 year old.
Last word to Amy Swindell…
“Look the people you love square in the eyes and tell them “I love you”. You never know from one day to the next what can happen. No text messages, no cards, no nothing but square in the eyes, the only way that matters. #prayersforBC“
The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOvalOnDirt.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Peter Turford at firstname.lastname@example.org.