Bryan Clauson, one of the most decorated and versatile drivers ever to compete in the United States Auto Club, died Sunday from injuries he received in a crash Saturday night in Kansas. He was 27.
Clauson's death was announced Monday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
According to multiple reports, Clauson had taken the lead position in the dirt-track Belleville Midget Nationals. The Indianapolis Star described what happened next:
"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."
Clauson was airlifted to Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb., where he died on Sunday, according to the Star. The newspaper adds that Clauson had been considered the premier short-track dirt-car driver for much of the past 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."
At a news conference, USAC President Kevin Miller said Clauson's career was "a dream that only a few racers can achieve."
"This is truly one of the darkest days in the 60 year history of the United States Auto Club," Miller said. "Not only have we lost one of our greatest USAC champions, we've lost a true ambassador for all of motor sports."
Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Speedway, said Clauson "combined his passion and enthusiasm" with his natural talent that made him a "favorite every time he got into a midget or a sprint car."
"He possessed a humility and a character outside of the race car that made him a person that fellow competitors and fans alike enjoyed being around," Boles said during the news conference. "His spirit, his positive outlook and his thrilling talent will be missed by the entire racing community."
According to the USAC racing website Clauson was just the sixth driver to reach 100 victories in his career. His tally of 112 career USAC wins trails only USAC Hall of Famers Rich Vogler, A.J. Foyt, Sleepy Tripp and Mel Kenyon.
Tributes like these poured in on social media after Clauson's death was announced: