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Clauson Lives On At Chili Bowl

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 10 2017

The late Bryan Clauson is on the minds of the country’s top dirt racers this week in Tulsa. (INDYCAR/LAT USA file photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Indiana Donor Network is teaming up with Clauson-Marshall Racing to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through Driven2SaveLives®. The campaign, which launched in 2016 around the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, now is expanding into dirt track racing with the hope of registering fans to become donors in honor of the late Bryan Clauson.

The announcement was made Tuesday from the pits at Tulsa Expo Raceway, home to dirt-track racing’s biggest event of the year and Bryan’s favorite, the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. Clauson died in August 2016 following an accident in the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. As a registered donor, Bryan saved five lives as an organ donor and will enhance the lives of countless others as a tissue donor.

“While Bryan was known for his on-track persona, the decision he made to be an organ and tissue donor will forever be his legacy,” said Tim Clauson, Bryan’s father and co-owner of Clauson-Marshall Racing. “As a family, we are humbled to honor Bryan and his donation decision through Driven2SaveLives and the racing community we love. What donation did for our family _ the light it provided us in our darkest hours _ will stay with me for a lifetime. I will be forever grateful.”

The new partnership means the Driven2SaveLives campaign will have a presence at dirt track races around the country in 2017. Indiana Donor Network, one of 58 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S., will activate the campaign alongside Donate Life America and counterpart OPOs to spread the lifesaving and healing message of donation and transplantation. LifeShare of Oklahoma is joining Indiana Donor Network at the Chili Bowl Nationals to share Bryan’s story and help people become registered donors.

“The work we do within the donation and transplantation community is both a privilege and a responsibility _ we get to make a difference,” said Kellie Hanner, president and chief executive officer at Indiana Donor Network. “Driven2SaveLives gives race fans a platform to talk about donation and transplantation. This means that everyone who helps to spread this campaign’s message not only gets to honor the donation decision but also gets to be a part of Bryan’s lasting legacy.”

Clauson-Marshall Racing will field six drivers in the Chili Bowl _ Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind.; Shane Golobic of Fremont, Calif.; Jason Johnson of Eunice, La; Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Olive Branch, Miss. The sixth driver has yet to be announced. Their cars and driver suits will carry Driven2SaveLives branding.

Driven2SaveLives initially started as a partnership between Indiana Donor Network, Stefan Wilson and KV Racing Technology. The goal was to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation around the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, in honor of Stefan’s late brother, INDYCAR driver Justin Wilson. Justin died in August 2015 from injuries sustained in a crash at Pocono Raceway . As a registered donor, he saved five people with his gift of life.

Indiana Donor Network is one of 58 designated organ recovery organizations in the United States and coordinates organ, tissue and eye donation throughout the state. Indiana Donor Network is devoted to public education about donation and transplantation with the goal of saving and enhancing more lives. For more information about Indiana Donor Network or to register your decision to become a donor, visit IndianaDonorNetwork.org.

Some facts to consider:

_ More than 120,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. 
_ In the U.S., another person is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. 
_ Each day, 22 people on average in the U.S. die because a donated organ wasn’t made available in time.
_ Approximately 90 percent of Americans support organ donation, yet only 50 percent are registered.

The Vacuworx Invitational Race of Champions will roll into its ninth year Tuesday during the opening night of the 31st annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire in Tulsa, Okla. A field of 20 former VIROC winners, Owner Champion choices and Chili Bowl Driver champions are set for the 20-lap shootout inside the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Normally a $2,500 to-win event for select drivers, this year’s race will bring an added bonus to the winner thanks to Doug and Mary Harris with HE&M Saw as well as Greg and Kim Stewart with Fast Lane Racing Apparel. In honor of Bryan Clauson, the winner will walk away with an amount celebrating Clauson’s No. 63 _ $6,363.63.

The 2014 Chili Bowl champion, Clauson died as the result of injuries sustained during the Belleville Midget Nationals in August. “We talked about different ways to honor Bryan’s many successes on the track,” said Greg Stewart, whose daughter, Lauren, was engaged to Clauson. “Paying the winner of the VIROC $6,363.63 seemed like the thing to do. Bryan will always be our favorite Chili Bowl Champion.”

Doug Harris added, “Bryan embodied the spirit of competitiveness and kindness that we at HE&M Saw believe in. We are proud to be part of honoring the 2014 Chili Bowl champion.”

Nevada’s Tanner Thorson is the defending VIROC champion. Earning his entry into the event via the National Midget Driver of the Year honor, his VIROC triumph gives him a permanent slot into the annual Tuesday shootout. Without the win, Thorson would have been in again as back-to-back New Mexico Driver of the Year.

In eight previous VIROC races, the Swindell name has ruled with Sammy taking four and Kevin one. The only other winners include Brad Loyet, Kyle Larson and Tanner Thorson.

The 2017 edition of the VIROC will include:

Sammy Swindell, Germantown, Tenn. _ Has four wins in the VIROC, along with five in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. But it’s been two years since Sammy topped the VIROC and the veteran is looking to bounce back from a 2016 DNF.

Thomas Meseraull, San Jose, Calif. _ Under the banner of Rusty Kunz, Meseraull will make his debut in the VIROC. Meseraull is no stranger to success at the Chili Bowl with five A-Feature appearances.

J.J. Yeley, Phoenix, Ariz. _ Yeley walked out of VIROC VIII with a 13th-place finish. J.J.’s best outing came in 2005 when he finished runnerup to Sammy Swindell.

Brad Loyet, Sunset Hills, Mo. _ Winner of VIROC II, Loyet spent the latter half of the 2016 season running Sprint Cars and Midgets across the Midwest with success in both. Loyet advanced three spots in VIROC VIII to finish 16th.

Jerry Coons Jr., Tucson, Ariz. _ Behind the wheel of the Wilke-Pak No. 5, Coons Jr. has appeared in four previous VIROC events with a best finish of fifth in 2013. Coons currently has the record for most consecutive A-Feature starts with 13-and-counting.

Dave Darland, Lincoln, Ind. _ Darland is back in the Ralph Potter/Kruseman entry for the VIROC. He will spend the rest of his week driving for Brad and Brandon Gray.

Donny Schatz, Fargo, N.D. _ A Chili Bowl Rookie, he will take a spot in the lineup on Bryan Clauson’s credentials.

Daryn Pittman, Owasso, Okla. _ On the card with owner combination Pittman/Zarounian, the 2017 shot at a VIROC win will be the Oklahoma native’s first attempt.

Cory Kruseman, Ventura, Calif. _ Twice a Chili Bowl Champion, the VIROC has continued to elude the Californian. In last year’s edition, Cory was only able to muster a 14th-place showing.

John Heydenreich, Bloomsburg, Pa. _ The 1990 Chili Bowl Champion will make his third attempt at the VIROC in 2017. He will be in the John Gibbons-backed No. 22h.

Tracy Hines, Wilkinson, Ind. _ Despite being somewhat retired from racing, Hines is far from inactive. The 2005 Chili Bowl Champion has been in all eight previous VIROCs, with this past year’s resulting in a career-best tying third-place finish.

Danny Stratton, Riverside, Calif. _ Making his first appearance in 2016 for car-owner Andy Bondio, the California shoe ended his first run with a ninth-place finish.

Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y. _ McCreadie will pilot the second Bondio entry. McCreadie’s 2016 VIROC run ended with a 10th-place finish.

Tanner Thorson, Minden, Nev. _ The defending VIROC champion is one of four drivers for Keith Kunz  qualifying for this year’s event. Thorson came from fourth to win in 2016.

Christopher Bell, Norman, Okla. _ One of three Oklahoma drivers in the VIROC, Bell charged from 16th to fifth in last year’s VIROC. This year’s invitation is the fourth for Bell, the choice of car-owner Keith Kunz _ and a rising star in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Damion Gardner, Concord, Calif. _ “The Demon” has been in all but one VIROC, and came close to winning in 2014. In the 2016 edition, Damion came across the line 15th in a Bob East machine.

Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, Calif. _ In via his VIROC win in 2014, Larson is another shoe for car-owner Keith Kunz. While Larson has been in five VIROC showdowns, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular has a streak of three top-five runs going into 2017. Kyle finished second in last year’s race.

Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, Okla. _ Teaming with Frank Manafort and Joe Dooling, Bacon is fresh off his second USAC National Championship and enters the VIROC on Dooling’s credentials.

Chad Boat, Phoenix, Ariz. _ Racing again for Lawson/Boat, the son of versatile open-wheel star Billy Boat has seen action in the VIROC four times with a best finish of fourth in 2013.

Rico Abreu, Rutherford, Calif. _ The defending Chili Bowl champion is in the fourth Keith Kunz-built VIROC ride. A 12th-place finisher in the 2016 VIROC, Rico has competed in the VIROC since 2015.

VIROC Champions _ Tanner Thorson (2016), Sammy Swindell (2015, 2012, 2011, 2009), Kyle Larson (2014), Kevin Swindell (2013), Brad Loyet (2010).

Tuesday’s schedule/Warren CAT Qualifying Night plus ninth annual VIROC (all times CST):


Building Opens, 9 a.m. 


Pit Pass Booth Opens, 11a.m. 


Hot Laps, 4 p.m.


Races, 5 p.m.

Multi-day Pit Pass $220/Single-day $45

Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals Champions

Year _ Driver (Owner)

2016 _ Rico Abreu (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)

 2015 _ Rico Abreu (Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian)

 2014 _ Bryan Clauson (Joe Dooling/Rusty Kunz/Curb Records) 

2013 _ Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records) 

2012 _ Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records) 

2011 _ Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records) 

2010 _ Kevin Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records)

2009 _ Sammy Swindell (Swindell Motorsports/Curb Records) 

2008 _ Damion Gardner (Jason Leffler)

2007 _ Tony Stewart (Tony Stewart Motorsports)

2006 _Tim McCreadie (Steve Smith) 

2005 _Tracy Hines (Wilke – Pak)

2004 _ Cory Kruseman (Andy Bondio)

2003 _ Dan Boorse (Dan Boorse) 

2002 _ Tony Stewart (Keith Kunz) 

2001 _ Jay Drake (Keith Kunz)

2000 _ Cory Kruseman (Andy Bondio)

1999 _ Dan Boorse (Dan Boorse) 

1998 _ Sammy Swindell (Pete Willoughby) 

1997 _ Billy Boat (John Lawson)

1996 _ Sammy Swindell (Rusty Kunz/Jay McKinnie) 

1995 _ Donnie Beechler (Zarounian Motorsports)

1994 _ Andy Hillenburg (Keith Kuntz/Rusty Kunz) 

1993 _ Dave Blaney (Ralph Potter)

1992 _ Sammy Swindell (Dave Ellis)

1991 _ Lealand McSpadden (Andy Bondio) 

1990 _ John Heydenreich (Tony Finley)

 1989 _ Sammy Swindell (Jack Runyon)

1988 _ Scott Hatton (Jerry Hatton) 

1987 _ Rich Vogler (Bob Lowe)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 10 2017
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