Racing takes the hits
This has been a tough week for racing, particularly in USAC open wheel and for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series participants.
Sunday a week ago, Alexis DeJoria suffered a fractured pelvis when her NHRA Toyota Camry Funny Car slammed the wall during the first round of eliminations. This occurred during the 29th Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in northern California. She gingerly lifted herself from the race car once it stopped but was in obvious pain. DeJoria did not compete in the final leg of NHRA’s Western Swing.
This past Friday night, USAC standout Bryan Clauson was in an accident at Belleville, Kansas while racing a USAC National midget and in preparation for the Belleville Nationals on Saturday night. He wasn’t injured when he came upon a stopped car and had no way to avoid it.
Unfortunately the same wasn’t true on Saturday night when defending race winner Clauson, having just completed a run from ninth starting position to the lead of those Belleville Nationals, came upon a slower car and was vaulted, end-over-end through the third and fourth turns of the racetrack. Once stopped he was then t-boned in the cockpit area with the car lifted into the air from a side position, landing on its tires.
This time there was no escape for the 27-year-old residing in Noblesville, Indiana, who died from his injuries a day later.
Most likely we won’t again see the likes of Bryan Clauson in the racing community. A man totally dedicated to his racing art, be it on dirt or pavement, in midgets, sprints, ARCA and NASCAR stock cars and in Indy Lights and Indy cars. If it had four external and one steering wheel, Bryan Clauson would drive it, with fiancee Lauren Stewart and their two dogs, Chevy and Stewart by his side.
Clauson’s 2016 quest was to race 200 times during the calendar year and he’d completed well more than half that number, securing 27 victories. His most recent win came in Kansas last Wednesday.
The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was Clauson’s third try at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and he was a prodigious practicer for the race (352 laps in practie), hoping to improve from his two previous tries. Clauson also raced in midgets and sprints leading up to this 200-lap contest and, after posting a 23rd place finish at Indy and leading three laps (from 28th on the grid) in a Dale Coyne Cancer Treatment Centers of America Honda (he renamed his dog Honda for the balance of the race meeting), Clauson won again that night in Kokomo, Indiana, driving a sprint car.
Just who he was – how we’ll remember him.
Clauson’s accident occurred Saturday night; on Sunday NHRA drag racing Funny Car star Courtney Force escaped serious injury when she had an accident so similar to Alexis DeJoria’s that it was eery. The youngest daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, racing in her first round of eliminations, had an experience that paralleled her competitor’s as her Chevrolet Camaro veered right, she corrected and the car turned left.
Force escaped serious injury after being sent to hospital for examination. X-rays of her left elbow and shoulder, her right knee, together with a CT scan of her head and cervical spine came back clear. She’ll be sore for a few days, no doubt, but likely won’t have to miss the next race in Brainerd, Minnesota two weekends from now.
Racing is dangerous. It’s the Cruel Sport, after all. We have to accept that injuries and death can and will occur at any racetrack – to competitors, workers, officials, media and fans. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Prayers for quick recovery to the NHRA duo of Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force. Heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the friends, family and community that surrounded Bryan Clauson with the love and support anyone needs to compete at such a high level. In any case, these injuries and this death are tearing me apart. You?
By Anne Proffit