The death of racecar driver Bryan Clauson on Sunday night was felt in Columbus.
Joss Moffatt has known and raced against Clauson for 13 years, including a USAC race at Twin Cities in North Vernon. They came in as non-wing sprint-car rookies together when Clauson was 14 and Moffatt was 24.
That year, Clauson won six sprint-car features.
“He’s probably one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen,” said Moffatt, who was friends with the Noblesville native. “He did things most people couldn’t in a racecar.”
Clauson sustained injuries in a crash while leading the Belleville (Kansas) Midget Nationals on Saturday night. He was airlifted to a Nebraska hospital, where he died Sunday at the age of 27.
Although Clauson owned 112 USAC wins, several series titles at various levels of racing and ran in three Indianapolis 500s, Moffatt said he hadn’t changed much from when they first met.
“He is a great person, him and his dad,” Moffatt said. “They’re the kind of people that would give you the shirt off their back. A lot of racecar drivers that get to a certain level when they win a lot, they don’t act very humble, but he did, and that’s what I appreciate about Bryan.”
Another local driver, Matt Arrington, met Clauson one time about 10 years ago while working with Moffitt on his car at Bloomington Speedway. They were pitted next to Clauson.
“He seemed like a really nice guy when I met him,” Arrington said. “He was pretty unknown back then. From what everybody has said about him, he maintained that personality.”
Clauson spent several seasons racing for Tony Stewart’s sprint-car team. Last month, the pair raced together on the new dirt track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that was being presented to Stewart as a gift for his impending retirement from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion tweeted his thoughts after receiving the news of Clauson’s passing:
“It’s a very sad day today losing @BryanClauson. Just remember God is in control and has a plan for all of us. Bryan was a great driver/guy!”
Midget cars, the same series of racing that Clauson was driving in Saturday when he was injured, race each summer at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Neither fair board president Larry Fisher nor fair board racing director Troy Foist can remember Clauson ever running at the local fairgrounds.
But the local fair board made improvements to the fairgounds track this year to help increase safety for drivers and fans.
“It’s a sad day,” Fisher said. “He was a good driver and a fine young man. It’s one of the sad things about racing. If you can drive for Tony, you must be pretty good.”
“He was an amazing driver,” Arrington said. “It’s awful. I think the whole racing community is pretty heartbroken right now. We’ve definitely lost one of the greats of all time. He was so talented. It’s definitely a sad day.”