The Associated Press

Sprint Car driver Bryan Clauson has died following a harrowing accident in the Belleville (Kansas) Midget Nationals USAC midget race over the weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway confirmed Monday morning.

The Noblesville resident had been airlifted to a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, following the Saturday night crash.

Drivers, others react to death of Bryan Clauson

Clauson was considered the nation’s top short-track dirt-car driver. He won four USAC national championships and was participating in his 116th race of the season on Saturday night.

His schedule this year was on pace for 200 starts, and that included a 23rd-place finish in the Indianapolis 500.

The 27-year-old had started three Indianapolis 500s and was a development driver for Chip Ganassi in NASCAR, where he competed in 26 races over the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He also spent several seasons driving for Tony Stewart’s sprint car team. Stewart said after the NASCAR race on Sunday he hoped to see Clauson’s parents and fiancee, Lauren, soon.

“That kid drove for us for a long time and did a great job and never went anywhere,” Stewart said. “I don’t care what happened, no matter how bad his day was, he always found a way to smile with it. Him and Lauren being engaged, kid had such a bright future.”

Clauson was a three-time winner and the defending champion at Belleville. He flipped off the guard rail between turns 3 and 4 while leading. His car rolled several times and was hit by another car.

It was his second wreck of the weekend.

He started seventh on Friday night before he suffered a vicious wreck. After that accident, he posted on Twitter his appreciation for his safety equipment, his chassis manufacturer and his team for getting his car ready for him to race Saturday night.

Statement from Bryan Clauson family:

Last night, the 7th of August, we said goodbye to our son, my fiancé, our friend, Bryan Clauson. He was surrounded by family and friends and we were grateful that we could experience his final moments with him.

Our Bryan fought to the end with the same desire that he demonstrated behind the wheel of all the various race cars he would park in victory lane. However, we were more proud of our Bryan that took a moment to make a young fans day, or demonstrated his uncommon kindness and appreciation toward his friends, family and fans.

We would like to thank everybody who has shown their concern toward us and kept us in their prayers. We will never be able to truly thank you. We would also like to thank the staff at Bryan Medical Center who stood and fought with our Bryan since he arrived here early yesterday morning.

We know that our Bryan is also your Bryan and that you would like to participate in honoring him. A service will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a date and time to be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, or to make a donation, people may direct their contributions to the USAC Benevolent Fund website at http://usacbf.org/cash-donation/ or checks should be made out to the USAC Benevolent Foundation in the name of Bryan Clauson. The address is 124 E Northfield Drive, Suite F #129, Brownsburg, IN 46112.

Thank you for being a part of our Bryan’s life.