Chasing 200 Documents the Tragic Death of the Last Dirt Track Driver to Race the Indy 500

bryan clauson putting on race helmet during his attempt of the 100th annual indy 500
Chasing 200, Remembering Bryan ClausonFloRacing/YouTube

Eight years ago, Bryan Clauson raced his third and final Indy 500 before he tragically lost his life after sustaining injuries while leading the Belleville Midget Nationals in August of 2016.

Wednesday night, FloRacing released a film about Clauson’s life, Chasing 200. The film looks at Clauson’s rise to success in the dirt and asphalt short track world as well as his 2016 attempt at racing 200 times in a calendar year. The film includes archival footage of Clauson's 2016 season and interviews with his racing competitors, family, and friends.

During this Ironman attempt, Clauson lost his life, but also where he cemented his legacy. Chasing 200 was planned and organized in 2015; with the help of 10 different teams across the racing worlds of silver crown cars, midgets, winged and non-winged sprint cars, and IndyCar. Clauson and his crew created an ‘outlaw’ season unlike any other. Jumping from car to car and series to series, chasing the biggest paydays and the most exclusive victory lanes


The 100th running of the Indy 500 was during this window, and it was Clauson's 58th race since January 1st, 2016. That Indy 500 would come to mark that exact midway point of his historic 2016 run, as his final race entered was his 117th.

In footage included in the documentary, Clauson’s fiance, Lauren Stewart, asked the future 2023 Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden what he thought of Clauson's plan, “I think he’s nuts! It’s very easy to state how I feel; I think he’s crazy."

Kyle Larson, who’s attempting the allusive 'Memorial Day Double' this weekend, was a close friend and competitor of Clauson. In old footage, he said that if he could, he would join him. “I don’t think it’s insane at all. If I wasn’t Cup racing, I would probably be racing 200 with Bryan Clauson."

Later that night, Clauson pulled off his version of a ‘double,’ leaving Indianapolis Motor Speedway after finishing 23rd and leading laps under caution and heading down to Kokomo Speedway to compete in a midget race. Clauson won that race and brought fans of the dirt world and IndyCar world together. Kokomo would delay hot laps 40 minutes so Clauson and fans could make it from the speedway in time.

This is what Clauson always wanted to do; his skill and determination made waves through the racing community early; he was winning national races at 16 years old and signed as a development driver with Chip Ganassi before that at 15. As the years march forward, we’re looking at drivers getting development deals early and early, but Clauson’s was considered rare in 2005. His heart and personable nature helped Clauson make connections around the racing world; this, mixed with skill, is what made him uniquely able to pull off something like Chasing 200.

Road & Track talked with Bryan’s sister, Taylor McLean, over Zoom to talk about the film and her brother's legacy. Mclean was 22 years old and seven months pregnant with her first child when Clauson passed. McLean now spearheads the Driven 2 Save Lives Campaign, an Indiana Donor Network program in her brother's honor after the racer helped save seven lives through organ donation.

Mclean recalled how each of Clauson’s Indy 500 runs was special, from his first in 2012 to the 100th running in 2016, but the year before meant the most to her as she was able to spend time alongside him as a track intern.

“I think for me, although it wasn't necessarily his best run at Indy, 2015 was really special, McLean told R&T, “I got to be a part of his press conference and be involved on that end and in my own capacity and to be able to see him in the bullpen after he qualified. It was really cool for me to be able to combine my personal and professional life at that time.”

This year, as Larson gets ready to run the double, it doesn’t go unnoticed to McLean that he’s the first major dirt racer to return to the Indy 500, and she knows how much it would mean to her brother to know that his friend was the one to get it done, "It’s not lost on me that he's really the first dirt-track racer since Bryan died to attempt to run the Indy 500 and now qualify."

nascar sprint cup series bass pro shops nra night race practice
Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Kyle Larson both sported tribute helmets to Bryan Clauson on August 19th, 2016, for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. This was the first Cup race since Clauson’s passing.Blaine Ohigashi - Getty Images

"Bryan and Kyle were really good friends," McLean told R&T. "To see him have that success and see people draw parallels between them, I know Bryan would be really proud of him, and it’s been fun to see that invigoration back from the dirt track racing world back into the Indy 500 because of Kyle and what he’s doing. I hope to see a lot of dirt track t-shirts at the Indy 500 this year.”

When Clauson ran his double, he and then-girlfriend Stewart ushered around 200 race fans between IMS and Kokomo Speedway so that they could experience the hype with them. In the documentary, Clauson explained that around 50 of them were dirt track fans who had never been to Indy, and around 20 were IndyCar fans who had never experienced a dirt race. Clauson brought dirt racing back to the center of American auto racing, a tradition that stretches back to the greats like A.J. Foyt and continues on with Larson.

While races No. 58 and No. 59 of the proposed 200 are a natural peak of Clauson's 2016 season, they also mark the beginning of summer, when every dirt track runs regular weekend shows and that national series shell out their biggest paydays. Here is where Clauson could start to stack his starts, racing in multiple races a night if he continued to plan everything right.

Weeks and weeks of hard racing and double duty led to the first weekend in August when the Knoxville 360 Nationals in Iowa and Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas were set for the same weekend.

Clauson crashed on the first night of the Belleville Midget Nationals, and while there was a contingency plan to bring him back to Knoxville for the 360 Nationals, he was determined to defend his three championships at Belleville. He passed 12 cars in the feature and took the lead before the ultimately fatal crash in his 117th race of the year.

Belleville is considered by dirt track racers as one of the scariest places to run, with blind high speed corners it can be disorienting to the toughest drivers. Clauson was uniquely good at Belleville and one of only two drivers to win the Belleville Nationals three times, the other being Jerry Coons Jr, who joined Clauson in the USAC Hall of Fame this year.

Bryan’s father, Tim Clauson, recounts in the film that his son once told him that when you’re leading at Belleville, you’re the most badass race driver at that moment. Clauson died the most bad-ass race car driver, but his legacy far surpassed the wins.

“I’ve always said that the history books will one day fade,” McLean told R&T. “We just had someone tie his number of feature wins in a sprint car; I think it was Kevin Thomas Jr. Eventually those statistics… his name won’t be included in those anymore."

"The legacy that he left outside of the race car is what is going to live on forever truly," McLean continued, "I’ve always feared the day when people stop saying Bryan’s name, and this is one way for that to never happen. So, although it is about Bryan, the reason that I pour so much of myself into what I do every day with Driven 2 Save Lives is because of Bryan; it is truly so much bigger than him. It’s about the hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for life-saving transplants.”

#ParkedIt and Grasshoppers

Clauson’s legacy also lives on through the success and accomplishments of those who loved him. This is shared through the #ParkedIt and the sight of a grasshopper.

The hashtag started so Clauson could quickly share with fans his victories while chasing 200; it grew to a celebration of success for racers and beyond. Stenhouse Jr and Larson will scream it in NASCAR victory lane, and McLean's son uses it to celebrate his Little League wins.

“I think the best part about #ParkedIt is that it means different things to everyone," McLaren explained to R&T. “To some people, it's as simple as winning a race [and] parking it in victory lane."

"For some people that’s where it ends, but then other people use it for any kind of success that they have in life. My kids always say that they 'parked it' when they have a big achievement. My son won an all-star baseball youth game last night, and he said, ‘I parked it, Mom!’ To see it carry through and have different meanings for different people is really special.”

Loved ones of the late racer also receive messages in grasshoppers that seemingly appear out of the ether in moments of great stress or celebration. A few days after his death, a grasshopper crawled out of the firesuit that Clauson was wearing, and they’ve been appearing ever since.

“There was a grasshopper in Bryan’s Belleville suit and that grasshopper hopped out after the accident, McLean recounts, “Ever since that moment, there have been grasshoppers showing up where there shouldn’t be. People who were close to Bryan kept seeing grasshoppers."

"It was my mom who actually looked up the spiritual meaning of grasshopper and they can only move forward, they can’t move sideways or backwards. So when you see a grasshopper, it tells you that you are doing what you are meant to be doing and reminds you to continue to move forward every day and not look back on the past. I think that’s Bryan’s way of telling us to continue to move forward without him and that it’s okay to move forward without him.”

As purses and interest grow yearly in national midget and sprint car events, dirt track t-shirts continue to dot the stands of IndyCar and NASCAR, and fans contemplate becoming donors, Clauson’s legacy lives on. If you’re ready for an emotional watch, head to FloRacing to exclusively stream Chasing 200; the film is included in its annual streaming membership.

You Might Also Like