Bryan Clauson was looking for a way to give his fans something special. The 25-year-old race-car driver from Noblesville, Ind., by way of Carmichael, has a lot of fans who love IndyCar racing and even more who follow his exploits as a sprint-car driver. So how to combine the two groups and give them one special memory?
The answer: the “Indiana Double.”
Clauson drove in the 99th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, finishing 31st after making contact with the wall on Lap 61. A couple of hours later, Clauson was strapped into the cockpit of a wingless sprint car for the Kokomo Klassic in Kokomo, Ind., and finished second in a photo finish behind Kevin Thomas Jr.
“When we put the trip together for Indy, we sat back and asked, ‘How do we make this cooler?’” said Clauson, who was born in Sacramento and lived in Carmichael for five years before his family moved to Noblesville. “I knew that the Klassic was running in Kokomo about an hour north of Indy, so why not get a bus trip together and take some fans to the double?”
Kurt Busch was the latest NASCAR driver to attempt the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 double, but the logistical problem with that adventure was the vast majority of his fans only had the opportunity to watch one race in person and the other on TV. On Sunday, more than 90 of Clauson’s fans got to see both races in person by riding a charter bus the 60 miles between the two events
They also got to see Clauson clip the wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at approximately 200 mph when two drivers in front of him made a move and he couldn’t get tucked back behind them, he said. The loss of his draft pushed him into the marbles – the small, loose tire fragments that centrifugal force throws to the outside of the track – and he damaged the right side of his car enough to end his race.
“I was upset because my team (Jonathan Byrd Racing) worked so hard on the car,” Clauson said. “But I got to decompress for a few minutes, and then it was time to get into the bus and go to Kokomo.”
In the 30-lap main event, Clauson rode the low groove while Thomas was up high. Clauson had worked his way from 13th to second and battled with Thomas for five laps before Thomas was able to narrowly beat him.
“Man, that was a lot of fun,” said Clauson, who still has a grandmother (Jackie Clauson) and an aunt and uncle (Corrie and Terry Clauson) who live in Carmichael. “We had sprint-car fans who had never been to an Indy 500, and we had a lot of IndyCar fans who had never been to a dirt track. We all had a great time, and we’ll try to do it again next year.”
Dirt is Clauson’s preferred surface and said he loves coming West and racing at Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway, as well as in Stockton and Antioch. He’s a two-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion, a two-time USAC National Midget Champion, a three-time USAC National Driver’s Champion and two-time National Midget Driver of the Year. He also drove in the 2012 Indy 500, where he finished 30th after mechanical issues with his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda forced him out of the race on Lap 46.
For a video clip on the double from a fan’s perspective, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1ryEVVAkAI
Civil War Series continues
Auburn’s Andy Forsberg leads a large contingent of 360cc winged sprint car drivers to the Placerville Speedway on Saturday for Round 7 of the Civil War Sprint Car Series.
Forsberg is coming off a victory Saturday in the 16th Annual Mel Hall Memorial race at Marysville Raceway. But it’s rookie Robbie Price who leads the early championship points chase. Price, 17, is from Cobble Hill, British Columbia.
For more information, go to www.placervillespeedway.com.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.