Former NASCAR racer Bryan Clauson dies from crash injuries

FILE - In a Saturday, May 21, 2016 file photo, Bryan Clauson, a driver for the May 29, 2016 Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race, is shown after he qualified at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Dave Parker, File)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (AP) — Bryan Clauson, considered the top dirt-track racer in the country, has died from injuries suffered in an accident at the Belleville (Kansas) Midget Nationals USAC midget race. He was 27.

His death was announced Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A statement from his family was read that said Clauson died Sunday evening and “fought to the end.”

Clauson was leading the race Saturday night when he crashed passing lapped traffic. His car rolled and was hit by another competitor. He was airlifted to a hospital in Nebraska, and died surrounded by his family.

Clauson was on pace to compete in 200 races this year. He had 27 victories in 116 starts, and led three laps in the Indianapolis 500 in May.

FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2007, file photo, Bryan Clauson smiles in his car during qualifying for the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 auto race, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)
FILE – In this Oct. 4, 2007, file photo, Bryan Clauson smiles in his car during qualifying for the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 auto race, at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

A four-time USAC national champion, Clauson was aiming to become the winningest driver in series history.

He 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 had another wreck during the weekend.

After that crash Friday night, 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.

Many top NASCAR drivers immediately took to Twitter to ask for prayers for Clauson.

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