Clauson, Byrd Racing embark on historic four-car, four-day run

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – When Bryan Clauson headed out this morning for his refresher program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 88 Cancer Centers of America Honda in the Dale Coyne/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing entry, he did more than just turn his first laps in a year in an IndyCar.

He headed out in his fourth different car of machinery in as many days, what we think is a record-setting occasion. He’s driven a winged sprint, midget, non-winged sprint and IndyCar.

He added four more races to his “Chasing 200” tour – Clauson, the 26-year-old out of Noblesville, Ind. is embarking on a cross-country tour to hit 200 races this year.

Starting on Friday night, Clauson pulled double duty between the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars and the USAC Indiana Midgets at Plymouth Speedway in Plymouth, Ind.

He finished ninth in the WoO race A Main, driving the Matt Wood Racing Elk Grove Ford/Cancer Treatment Centers of America/Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality & Restaurant Group/Americas Best Value Inn/University Loft Co 17w.

Then he won in the midget race, driving the Dooling Machine/Cancer Treatment Centers of America/Jonathan Byrd’s/B&H Contractors Spike/Stanton No. 63 midget.

On Saturday he was back in the WoO car at Haubstadt and the Tri-State Speedway and finished 18th in a race where he got caught up in a melee.

Sunday night, after making his seat fit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he did his thing in a non-wing sprint car at Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo.

In the annual “King of Kokomo” event, aboard the Dooling/Hayward Cancer Treatment Centers of America/Jonathan Byrd’s/Dooling Machine/B&H Contractors Spike/Stanton No. 63 car, Clauson finished third in the A-main. He got stuck on the bottom most of the race in a race won by Kevin Thomas Jr., who led the A-main 30-lapper flag-to-flag.

Via Byrd Racing, whose full release and update is here, here is Clauson’s updated stats to date as he heads into the IndyCar race:

  • Updated Circular Insanity Statistics: 56 races. 13 wins (3 midget, 1 winged sprint car 360, 4 non-winged sprint car 360, 5 non-winged sprint car 410). 27 top 5’s. 39 top 10’s. 28% of the season complete.

And he’s feeling very good about his IndyCar, too.

Clauson is driving the chassis previously driven by James Davison in last year’s Indianapolis 500; it was the No. 19 Always Evolving Honda for Coyne, qualified by Tristan Vautier and raced by Davison. Ironically, Clauson was also in Davison’s former No. 33 Always Evolving KV Racing Technology Chevrolet in 2015, when Byrd Racing made its return to the race along with the No. 88.

In his refresher program, Clauson posted a best speed of 220.403 mph this morning in the No. 88 car, in 57 total laps. It was second of 10 drivers who went out during the session.

In a brief catch-up with Conor Daly, who’s in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda all this season except for Indy where his car will take on a red, white and blue livery (in the process of being wrapped – may not run today), he said he was pleased with Clauson’s feedback, and that he’s happy that Clauson already feels so much better this morning than he did most of last year.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).