Indiana native Bryan Clauson ready for special Indy 500 return


If it has four wheels, Bryan Clauson has likely raced it in his career.

At one point or other, Clauson has competed in NASCAR, ARCA, IndyCar, Indy Lights, sprint cars and midgets and more.

Included in his career highlights are being a two-time USAC National Sprint Car champ, a two-time USCA National Midget champ, three-time USAC National Driver’s champ and two-time National Midget Driver of the Year.

But there’s something about racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that has always been No. 1 on the 25-year-old Noblesville, Ind., native’s list.

In 2011, while competing on the Indy Lights circuit, Clauson took the pole and finished fifth in the Firestone Freedom 100.

The following year, Clauson stepped up to the big time and fulfilled his dream of racing in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Driving for Sarah Fisher Racing, Clauson unfortunately didn’t exactly have the finish he hoped for, ultimately completing just 46 of the 200 laps due to handling issues. He started 31st and finished 30th.

But as Jim Nabors likes to sing about being back home again in Indiana, Clauson is likewise back in his home state and preparing to compete in his second Indy 500 start in the 99th edition on May 24th.

“It’s good to be back, it’s been a long three years since we’ve been here,” Clauson said in a recent teleconference.

This second go-round is particularly special for Clauson, as he’ll be representing one of the 500’s long-time sponsors, Jonathan Byrd Racing.

Byrd, who owned the well-known Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria restaurant in the Indianapolis area, passed away in 2009 at the age of 57 due to cardiac arrest.

“It’s exciting to come back with KVSH and Jonathan Byrd (and) obviously Jonathan Byrd is making their return to the Speedway,” Clauson said. “It’s a special time for everybody involved and we’re excited.”

Byrd began sponsoring teams in the 500 in 1985, including the 1996 race-winning car of Buddy Lazier and Panther Racing.

Byrd’s last year of sponsorship at Indy was in 2005, but a decision was made last year to return for this year’s race – marking the 30th anniversary of Byrd sponsoring a team at Indy – and to join forces with KVSH Racing.

The choice of Clauson was a no-brainer. Jonathan Byrd II, elder son of the late Jonathan Byrd, announced nearly a year ago that the company would return to sponsor a car in the 2015 Indy 500.

“Not only is Bryan going to be our Indy 500 driver next year (2015), it’s our intention that he be our Indy 500 driver for the next 15 years,” the younger Byrd said at the time. “He is a great fit for our brand, and we hope to be in the BC (Bryan Clauson) business for many years to come.”

Having passed his 500 refresher test, Clauson is going to have a busy month between the 500, practice, qualifying and several sprint car and midget races thrown in for good measure.

But Clauson likes the variety he’ll experience this month.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in my career running every night of the week basically in anything from USAC,” he said. “We’d run a quarter mile on Friday, a dirt mile on Saturday, and head to Anderson Sunday in a pavement car. So you kind of learn to adapt.

“You just kind of got to come in, hit the reset button, and try to think back to the things I did right in 2012. There were some things I did wrong. So you try and make note of those and try to remember not to do that again and you kind of almost start from scratch.”

Knowing he’s had an IndyCar ride for the month of May for a year has been both important and comforting for Clauson.

“They were pretty serious about this program and obviously they wanted to plan it out, you know, by announcing it a year in advance,” he said.

“It’s been a lot of fun to kind of go through the process with not only them, but the team as well, and build a program basically from the ground up that hopefully will be around for a little while.”

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