From Richie Murray
INDIANAPOLIS (October 20, 2016) — One year ago at the “Jason Leffler Memorial,” we were fortunate enough to witness a classic Bryan Clauson performance.
On the gas, smooth and steady, never flinching a muscle, Bryan was able to fend off a relentless Rico Abreu during the final 12 circuits of an intense 40-lap feature to take the victory on the one-eighths-mile bullring.
This Thursday night at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Illinois, there will certainly be a void with the absence of Bryan. It’s the difficult reality we’ve all had to accept over these past two months.
However, the Clauson name will still retain a presence in this year’s “Leffler Memorial” with the formation of a new team fielded by Bryan’s father, Tim Clauson, and Priority Aviation’s Richard Marshall.
The Clauson/Marshall Racing No. 39 will be raced this Thursday night by Bryan’s close friend, former roommate and current NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. of Olive Branch, Mississippi.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of this team and to drive this car in honor of Bryan for the rest of the year,” Stenhouse said. “It’s special for a lot of reasons. Bryan had a passion for the ‘Leffler Memorial’ and it’s special with it being Tim (Clauson)’s first race back working on the car. Bryan let me race for him over the years and it’s always been fun driving his car, especially for this race.”
Tim is looking forward to returning to the track and being surrounded by his friends in the racing community as well as working with family friend Stenhouse behind the wheel once again.
“It will be great getting back to the track and seeing all of our friends again, first and foremost,” Clauson said. “On the competition side of things, though, we’re bringing a really nice racecar. Bryan, like most race car drivers, didn’t really want anybody else driving his car, but Ricky is the exception. Ricky represents Bryan on so many levels. He’s an ambassador to the sport and to our family. For our first race back, there’s nobody else we’d rather have in the car than Ricky.”
The Clauson/Marshall partnership is a continuation of what the Clausons and Marshall began in the late 2000s to provide young up-and-coming drivers an opportunity to race their team’s midgets, giving back to the sport just as Bryan was making the transition to NASCAR, following a similar path that a four-time USAC National champion took nearly a decade earlier – the namesake of Thursday night’s race, Jason Leffler.
“When Bryan first went down south, Jason was the big USAC guy and Bryan was the new kid in town,” Clauson recalled. “Last year at Wayne City, I remember listening to Bryan speak in victory lane. He spoke about Jason with such reverence. It was in that moment, I realized the respect Bryan had for Jason, our sport and its history.”
Stenhouse’s most recent USAC National Midget starts came for Bryan Clauson Racing during a pair of races at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis, Arkansas back in June of 2016. Stenhouse only managed finishes of 16th and 9th, an appearance most noteworthy of him incidentally creating a viral video in which he flipped down the back straightaway during Friday night’s feature, but managed to land on all four wheels and keep going.
However, it was Ricky’s friend pitted right next to him where the word ‘perseverance’ was on full display.
“We had motor problems with Bryan’s car all day Saturday and all of us kept digging and digging with our crew and Ricky’s dad. After struggling all day, we wound up winning that night. Whenever Ricky and I talk, that weekend is the first thing to come up.”
It was a special bond that Bryan and Ricky had, not only through racing together, but also off the track. A bond that Ricky describes as more like family.
“Bryan was kind of like my older brother,” Stenhouse said. “I moved in with him back in North Carolina. We spent every day and night together going to basketball games, golfing, bowling and rodeos. We have a lot of similarities with the way we presented ourselves. We had a great friendship and had a lot of fun.”
Stenhouse will pilot the Priority Aviation – B & H Contractors – Elk Grove Ford/Spike/Stanton SR-11 for Clauson/Marshall Racing Thursday night at Wayne City. Marshall, along with Brodie Hayward and Matt Wood, played an essential role in Bryan’s career, not only through their sponsorships, but through their friendship over the years.
Watch Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and the Clauson/Marshall Racing number 39 this Thursday night, October 20th in the 4th annual “Jason Leffler Memorial” at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Illinois.
Pit gates open at noon with the front gates opening at 5pm. Cars hit the track Hot laps at 6pm and racing getting underway at 7pm. General admission tickets are just $15. Pit passes are $35.