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Bryan Clauson legacy serves as inspiration for new organ donation incentive

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While popular racer Bryan Clauson was tragically taken from us in 2016 in a racing accident, his spirit and legacy continues to grow.

A longtime resident of Indiana, Clauson is serving as the inspiration for a joint partnership between the Indiana Donor Network and Clauson-Marshall Racing to promote organ, tissue and eye donation, and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives initiative.

Driven2SaveLives launched prior to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, a race that Clauson competed in. The organization spawned from a partnership between Indiana Donor Network, Stefan Wilson and KV Racing Technology to honor IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was killed in a racing incident in August 2015 at Pocono Raceway.

Justin Wilson was a registered organ donor and his death allowed five individuals to receive his organs to save their own lives.

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Now, with its new partnership with Clauson’s old racing team, Driven2SaveLives is moving into dirt track racing.

The announcement came Tuesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which this week is hosting the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

Clauson-Marshall Racing will have six drivers competing in the Chili Bowl and will carry branding on cars and fire suits by Driven2SaveLives. Those drivers are Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Courtney, Shane Golobic, Jason Johnson and Donny Schatz. The sixth driver has yet to be named.

On August 7, Clauson, a four-time USAC champion, succumbed to injuries suffered in a crash the night before in a USAC race in Belleville, Kansas.

Clauson was a registered organ donor and, in death, provided organs to save the lives of five strangers who suffered from a variety of life-threatening conditions without organ exchange.

“While Bryan was known for his on-track persona, the decision he made to be an organ and tissue donor will forever be his legacy,” said Tim Clauson, Bryan’s father and co-owner of Clauson-Marshall Racing. “As a family, we are humbled to honor Bryan and his donation decision through Driven2SaveLives and the racing community we love.

“What donation did for our family – the light it provided us in our darkest hours – will stay with me for a lifetime. I will be forever grateful.”

As such, Driven2SaveLives representatives will be on hand at a number of dirt track races around the country.

Indiana Donor Network is one of nearly 60 organ procurement organizations in the U.S. and will activate Driven2SaveLives in dirt racing along with Donate Life America.

“The work we do within the donation and transplantation community is both a privilege and a responsibility – we get to make a difference,” said Kellie Hanner, president and chief executive officer at Indiana Donor Network. “Driven2SaveLives gives race fans a platform to talk about donation and transplantation. This means that everyone who helps to spread this campaign’s message not only gets to honor the donation decision but also gets to be a part of Bryan’s lasting legacy.”

Here are some facts about the importance of organ donation from Driven2SaveLives:

* More than 120,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.

* One person is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes in the U.S.

* Each day, 22 people on average in the U.S. die because a donated organ wasn’t made available in time.

* Approximately 90 percent of Americans support organ donation, yet only 50 percent are registered.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).