Words at a time like this are so hard to come by, but we'll try our best. Bryan Clauson would have appreciated that sentiment. After all, when you're attempting to compete in 200 races in a calendar year, trying your best night in and night out is a challenge, and it's not meant for many. It was meant for him though. He gave his best, every night.
We have lost someone very special in Clauson late last night. And what made him so special for us is quite frankly too much content to fit in one story...
|Pat Miller Photo|
You see, he unified us as a dirt racing fan base. No matter what division you follow most, you'd heard of Bryan Clauson. Whether you followed modifieds, late models, or things without fenders, you knew about him and respected him, because he could do it all. He even united us for an annual asphalt race. Whether you followed the Indy 500 or not, tell us you weren't rooting for him and we'll call you a liar. He represented us. He was the dirt journeyman making a living driving anything, on the big stage at Indy, and it made us proud.
Today's outpouring of emotion on social media is evidence that he had fans in every corner of the country, at every track, whether they ran midgets or sprints, or not. He was a generational talent, uncommonly talented. When you think of names like Foyt, Bettenhausen or Jack Hewitt, you think of the old days when drivers would race anything, anytime, anywhere for any amount of money. Clauson did all of that, and he'd fit right in the conversation with the aforementioned names. He was a throwback in an era where drivers are more increasingly specialized. He was refreshing. He was a reminder that the same spirit that fueled those legends still existed. However, all of those sentiments are just a part of why we're so sad today.
He was our friend. All of us, every member in this sport from fan to official, to sponsors to we could go on and on, all of us felt like we knew him. He had that kind of effect. Maybe it's because he shared so much of his journey with all of us on social media, maybe it was because he did so many great things off the track. His kind and gentle nature penetrated even the most hardened souls. Maybe it was the smile, as contagious as any smile we can think of. You can almost imagine him saying to himself "There's no place I'd rather be, than right here at the track." when you saw that toothy grin.
And now, we have to say goodbye. And it hurts more than anything we've experienced in the sport in recent memory. It hurts knowing that he won't be with us physically in the flesh, talking with anybody that would like a word, making time for fans, all fans, no matter what his result was, and putting on the show come feature time. He won't be there to tell all your friends "Hey, this guy does dirt 24/7 and he can wheel anything, think Montoya can to that? " come Indy 500 time.
Bryan Clauson, you will be missed, more than you could have ever imagined, because you were so humble and so dedicated, so workmanlike, and so happy that it was infectious. And we need more of that, and the powers that be have taken that from us. We're grateful for the times we got to see you race, and took selfies together, and talked in the pits endlessly, but sad that your journey on earth has come to an end. There'll be other talented drivers, kids are born every day. But there was only one Bryan Clauson, and his spirit, passion, and love of the sport and of people...that might just never be matched again.
Farewell our friend......