From Lonnie Wheatley
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (November 16, 2016) – Another piece of the Chili Bowl Nationals puzzle is now in place for Clauson-Marshall Racing as the team is excited to announce the addition of Tyler Courtney to its 2017 driver lineup.
This January’s event at the Tulsa Expo Raceway inside the River Spirit Expo Center will mark Courtney’s sixth Chili Bowl outing after earning Rookie of the Year honors at the event in his Chili Bowl maiden voyage under the Bryan Clauson Racing banner in 2011.
“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” Courtney said. “When Tim (Clauson) and Richard (Marshall) approached me with their plan for this year’s Chili Bowl, there was no way I could say no. To even be considered to be on their ‘super team’ that Bryan had talked about bringing down there is an honor.”
Affectionately tagged “Sunshine” by Bryan Clauson in 2010, Courtney is no stranger to the Clauson family and Clauson-Marshall Racing. It’s a relationship that began when Courtney showed up at the then Bryan Clauson Racing shop looking for any opportunity to go racing.
“Tyler came to us basically with nothing but a desire and a will to drive race cars,” Tim Clauson recalls. “We explained that he would need to work for an opportunity and if willing to put in the work, we would give him a shot at the end of the year in one of our Midgets.”
Courtney jumped at the opportunity.
“That summer I met a kid who grew into a young man and all the while worked his tail off for just one opportunity to drive a race car,” Tim Clauson continues.
The hard work paid off. Bryan and Tim decided “Sunshine” had earned his opportunity and readied a Bryan Clauson Racing Midget for his debut after the team had clinched its first USAC championship. And a slew of family, friends and essentially everyone Courtney knew showed up to cheer the young racer on.
It was a night full of anticipation.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. His instructions were simple, to go out and have fun, that he had nothing to prove. Go 80% and let’s make some laps,” Tim Clauson says. “I don’t think Sunshine knew at the time that we had already planned on taking him to the Chili Bowl as a driver; that was a surprise for later. That night was about a kid who worked all summer for a shot and here it was.”
That’s where the fairy tale came up short. Sunshine started to pick up the throttle as he came off of turn four, hustling into turn one only to spin and turn the car over. The car was done.
“I wasn’t sure who was more disappointed; Tyler and his throng of fans or Bryan,” Tim Clauson relates. “Bryan knew and appreciated the work that Tyler put in for his chance and knew if not for Tyler and the others on the team that year, that the success we had wouldn’t have been possible.”
Tim wondered if he would even see Sunshine again. But, when he rolled into the shop the next morning, there sitting on the curb in wait was Courtney.
“I asked him what he was doing there and he said something that I’ll never forget; ‘Tim, I figured if I could tear up your race car, then I can help tear down your race car’,” Tim Clauson recalls. “Just as he had proven all summer, he was there because he wanted to become a racer. Not a driver, but a racer, and he was willing to do whatever it took to do just that.”
Bryan and Tim went on with plans for Courtney and the 2011 Chili Bowl. It was a decision that resulted in Rookie of the Year honors for the team.
Courtney has since gone on to establish himself as a top contender in the Sprint Car and Midget ranks, all the while racing with the same respect and reverence that Bryan exemplified during his career.
“Sunshine becomes a part of about every conversation I have with young drivers about how to earn an opportunity,” Tim Clauson explains. “When we decided that we wanted to honor Bryan’s wishes by ‘bringing a badass team to the Chili Bowl’, there was no doubt that one of the seats would be filled by Sunshine, who has represented not only himself but Bryan and our family so well over the years.”
Courtney is appreciative of another opportunity.
“As most everyone knows, Bryan was a huge influence in not only my racing career, but my life,” Courtney explains. “I truly believe that without the help of Bryan and his whole family, I’m not who I am today and that quite literally without Bryan, I am not ‘Sunshine’.”
Team co-owner Richard Marshall is equally excited to welcome Courtney to the Clauson-Marshall Racing stable for the Chili Bowl Nationals.
“This race team is a labor of love by all involved. Tim and I want our drivers to share Bryan’s values on and off the track; a die-hard work ethic, team-driven results and a long-term view of the sport,” Marshall says. “Sunshine clearly embodies all of these. Jennifer and I are honored to have Sunshine in a CMR seat.”
Courtney goes on to say that, “Getting to be a part of Clauson-Marshall Racing that is going to embody everything that Bryan did and wanted to do for our sport of racing is simply awesome, that’s the only way to describe it.”
“What I have always loved about working with anything that involves the Clauson family is that it’s always done like a family and as a family, while still maintaining the professional aspect as well,” Courtney continues. “In the short amount of time I’ve been around Richard and Jennifer (Marshall), they have made me feel right at home and I can’t thank them enough as well for letting me be a part of this new journey in their life.”
Courtney wraps up with a popular sentiment among the racing world. “I can’t wait to get to Tulsa in January.”
Additional information regarding the Clauson-Marshall Racing team and upcoming Chili Bowl plans will be available in the coming weeks.