Bryan Clauson, a two-time USAC National champion, turned his first laps on a street course in Long Beach in the Toyota Pro Celebrity race.
He’ll make his first trip to the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Clauson, an open-wheel racer backed in part by K&N, ran into a tire barrier midway through the Toyota Pro Celebrity race during the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He didn’t complete the entire 10 laps of the race, but he said racing at Long Beach was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer to get the opportunity to be with super people and the personalities and everybody that’s in this group is phenomenal,” Clauson said. “To get the opportunity to be a part of it and to spend some time with these people has been amazing. You learn a lot about how to be successful in life when you’re around successful people. It’s been a lot of fun and we definitely had a great time.”
Clauson was one of four pro drivers in a field of celebrity entrants that included Adrien Brody, Adam Carolla, Kim Coates and Brody Jenner. The pros had to start 30 seconds behind the celebrity drivers around the 11-turn street course. Carolla won the race. Clauson crashed near the end.
The 22-year-old USAC driver said the group of drivers for the pro celebrity race had a lot of chemistry.
“I can’t say there is anybody in the room that I didn’t connect with,” Clauson said. “Some guys, Cain Velasquez, Jim Jonsin, probably a little closer with. The guy I kind of buddied up to the first day, Brody Jenner, there are few guys that we kind of have our little pack there. Everybody gets along great. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve not only been able to hang out in training, but go out afterward and hang out and become friends.”
Part of winning the 2011 USAC National championship included a scholarship to put toward the Izod IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. He won the USAC National championship in 2010 and used the scholarship he won that year to enter some Firestone Indy Lights races. He had the option of using the 2011 scholarship money in the Indy Lights Series or toward an entry in the Indy 500.
“At the time, there were only three Indy Lights ovals, and doing that again wasn’t going to be that beneficial,” Clauson said. “We were faced with two options, running the road course side of things or put it toward something on the Indy 500 side. The tough part with the scholarship programs is they’re one-year deals. Money’s not there again next year unless you win. Learning the road courses would have been great, but at the end of the day, if I won every road course I was in, I would still be facing trying to find funding to break into the IndyCar Series.”
He will be driving the No. 39 car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at the Indy 500 in May.
Clauson said he plans on racing in the USAC Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown series in addition to racing at Indianapolis. Because of the Indianapolis 500, he won’t be able to race a full USAC schedule. His team uses K&N filters and products on its USAC Midget and Sprint car teams.
“This opportunity with the 500 is a great opportunity,” Clauson said. “There’s always jobs that come around in May, so that’s kind of the thought behind it. We feel like we got a pretty good handle on things. Hopefully in a few weeks here, we’ll have things firmed up and be able to focus on the race itself.”
Even though his day ended early in Long Beach, he said before the race that it would have been quite an accomplishment to win a race during the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“Probably behind Indy, it’s the second-biggest race on the Indy car schedule,” Clauson said. “There’s a lot of history here. You walk through the pit area and everybody talks about wanting to win the Long Beach Grand Prix right after Indianapolis. It’s definitely a race that carries a lot of clout. To be part of it in the Toyota Pro Celebrity race is a great opportunity.”
Photo: USAC champion Bryan Clauson made his first appearance in the Pro/Celebrity race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He will be racing for Sarah Fisher in the Indianapolis 500 in May. (Credit: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach)