By: Tanner Watkins
May 22, 2019 | 10:00 AM
Three USAC National Series midget championships, three USAC National Series driver’s championships, two USAC National Series sprint car championships, a Chili Bowl victory and three Belleville Midget Nationals triumphs still don’t compare to Bryan Clauson’s three starts in the Indianapolis 500.
While Clauson was one of the most talented sprint car drivers to ever grace this planet, his father will tell you that Bryan’s truest joy came from being a driver in the Indianapolis 500.
“Bryan was a racer to the core, and because he was a racer to the core, that’s what got us to the Speedway in 2012,” said Tim Clauson, Bryan’s dad and an advocate for Driven2SaveLives. “I always say that his short track stuff, he loved that, but this is where he got to live his childhood dream – that’s being an Indy 500 driver.”
In 2019, Clauson’s dream lives on through his father Tim, Driven2SaveLives and Clauson-Marshall Racing. The No. 39 Chevrolet being driven by a close friend, Pippa Mann, has successfully qualified for Sunday’s race and will roll off the grid with Bryan’s name on the side of the car.
It was in August 2016 when Bryan passed away after sustaining injuries during a sprint car race in Lincoln, Nebraska. Though in that difficult time of losing Bryan, a beautiful moment was allowed to shine through as his family learned that Clauson previously registered to become an organ donor.
Tim says it pretty much saved him in the darkest moments of his life.
“I don’t make any bones about it – it probably saved me,” admits Clauson. “And so from the donor perspective, I feel like it’s important that that side of the story is shared – the recipients and all that from the donor side, being able to share our stories is important to me.”
As co-owner of Clauson-Marshall Racing and an advocate for Driven2SaveLives – the campaign that was founded in the spirit of Bryan Clauson and the late Justin Wilson to elevate the conversation of organ donation – Tim works to keep Bryan’s memory alive while giving others the courage to make an impact with such a simple choice.
A large part of the Driven2SaveLives initiative is using motorsports to engage in conversations about organ donation. By aligning with Mann for this year’s Indianapolis 500, Clauson was able to not only bring a family friend to the world’s largest race, but someone he could trust and count on – on and off the track.
“To be able to do (the Indy 500) with Pippa – who has been such a great advocate through organ donation and was a friend to Bryan while also supporting our family the last three years – to get to do it as a group is pretty special.
“From a pure business standpoint, we needed to have a veteran in the car. We needed somebody that not only knows their way around the racetrack but also the business aspect of it too is very important.
“We wanted to take that variable out so being able to do that with Pippa made business sense,” Clauson continues. “From a personal standpoint, what she did last year after not making the show… she stayed and advocated and honored Bryan and honored our family in ways I could have never expected her to with not making the race.”
By uniting with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and dirt short track events across the country, Clauson and Driven2SaveLives have the opportunity to make real impacts on people’s lives.
The proof lies with the real-life families and individuals who have struggled while losing a loved one, eventually being saved by the thought that in their darkest hour, that person became a hero.
“We get to travel the country 365 days a year racing midgets and sprint cars while talking about organ donation,” Clauson states, “and that’s probably been the most special part – to have people come up and share their donation story.
“The first time somebody did that was a week after we lost Bryan, and what they told me was that they had a donor heart but they never got to meet the donor family. They said they always felt this guilt. But with our family and Bryan and all of that, they could put a face to it and it meant the world them to be able to do that.”
In the Clauson-Marshall Racing garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a larger-than-life photo of Bryan Clauson on the wall. After qualifying right on the bubble this past Saturday, Mann insists that Bryan had a hand in the team’s successful qualifications run a few days ago.
If Bryan is indeed roaming the Speedway grounds this weekend, he will surely be ready for one wild ride on Sunday – and there is likely no place that we would rather be.
Header image by Matt Fraver/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.