INDYCAR: Daly To Pay Tribute To Clauson At Pocono

August 21, 2016 GMT

LONG POND — Conor Daly remembers Bryan Clauson as a great person who loved racing. They shared a car in the developmental Indy Lights Series in 2011. Daly drove the road courses, Clauson drove the ovals. For this year’s Indianapolis 500, they were teammates with Dale Coyne Racing. Both are from Noblesville, Indiana. The city honored them May 23 with “Conor Daly and Bryan Clauson Day.” On Aug. 7, Clauson died from injuries suffered during an accident in a United States Auto Club midget race in Belleville, Kansas. He was 27. “He was an absolutely true racer,” Daly said. “The only thing on his mind was winning and getting to the next race. He had a great family around him who are all involved in racing. He’s was just a special guy. It was cool to be able to know him.” Daly is honoring Clauson this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Instead of his usual No. 18 Honda, the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie is driving the No. 88 Honda in the ABC Supply 500. That was the car number Clauson drove to a 23rd-place finish in this year’s Indy 500. Also, the car will sport “BC Forever” decals, as will the No. 19 Honda of Pippa Mann, another Dale Coyne Racing driver. “To carry someone’s initials on your car who had such great recognition all across the sporting world is really cool,” Daly said. “It adds a little bit of pressure, but I really want to go out there and have a great weekend and have Bryan ride with us in spirit.” It already was going to be an emotional weekend at Pocono, remembering Justin Wilson. It was in last year’s ABC Supply 500 that Wilson was struck by flying debris from a crashing car. He died the next day from a traumatic head injury. Clauson’s death was felt throughout the motor sports world because of how diverse a driver he was. Besides IndyCar, Clauson drove 26 races in the NASCAR Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series in 2007-08, winning a pole at Daytona in July 2008. He also competed in six ARCA Series events with a victory at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois, in August 2007. Mostly, though, Clauson excelled in USAC. He was a three-time midget national champion (2010, 2011, 2015), two-time national sprint car champion (2012, 2013) and winner of the prestigious Chili Bowl in 2014. He ranks fifth in USAC history with 112 wins. “Just working as teammates was a lot of fun,” Daly said. “He came from such a different background, but to see the stuff he was doing, we were all learning from each other.” For Daly, this season has been a learning experience. He has suffered the typical ups and downs rookies endure. He has four top-10 finishes in 12 races. He was second in the first doubleheader race at Detroit and finished sixth three times, including the most recent race at Mid-Ohio, where he led 22 laps. “We’ll look to keep that going,” Daly said. “I would love another top-10 finish just for points and momentum and keep our season finishing on a strong pace.” Daly admits he thought he would be better this season on the ovals. He placed 16th at Phoenix, 29th at Indianapolis and 21st at Iowa. Now, he comes to Pocono, the trickiest oval with its unique 2.5-mile layout and three different corners. Making it through the entire race is Daly’s goal. “Five-hundred miles is a really long race and huge experience that we can gain,” he said. “I’m looking forward to just that. Getting through all the laps and making the best of the experience for next year.” And, honoring Bryan Clauson in the process. Contact the writer: swalsh@timesshamrock.com @swalshTT on Twitter