FISHERS, Ind.—A tragic crash, a life taken too soon. Now, one year after race car driver Bryan Clauson lost his life on the track his family is talking about how their lives have changed, and their new mission to promote organ donation.
From their workshop in Fishers, Tim and Diana Clauson hold back tears, at times, when talking about their son, Bryan.
“He was always smiling, always joking,” said Bryan’s mother, Diana Clauson, “always having a good time because he loved what he was doing.”
Bryan started racing as a young child and gradually built a career that many were envious of.
When he died in August of 2016, he was on his “Chasing 200” tour, and pursuing a fourth win at the prestigious Belleville Nationals.
“I said to him, if you could write your exit plan, what would it be? And he didn’t even hesitate, he said ‘leading Belleville’” said Tim Clauson, “he said, because if you’re leading Belleville, whether it’s lap 1, 5 or 40, at that moment you are the most badass race car driver in the world no matter what else is going on in a race car that night.”
The conversation between father and son now seems ominous.
Bryan started the race in ninth place, but about 13 laps in he took the lead. Somewhere between turns three and four, Bryan’s car flipped and was struck by another driver on the dirt track.
“It was truly an accident,” said Bryan’s father, Tim Clauson.
His father stood and watched in the pit, as his mother and fiancé sat in the grand stands. Everyone saying the same thing, Bryan was driving at a level he’d never before achieved.
“My instant reaction when it started happening as to run down to the pits, and I did,” said Diana Clauson. The dirt track was packed with people trying to get Bryan out of his #63 car. Diana said she looked to her husband, but stood back, leaning on the comfort of a stranger who took her hand and let her cry on his shoulder.
At a Nebraska hospital, the Clausons would learn that their beloved son would not live past the age of 27. They circled his hospital bed and learned they had 72 hours to say goodbye before Bryan’s organs would be harvested and then donated to save five other lives.
“The part that I hang on to is the lives that he said,” said Diana, “this part of the process has been very healing for me.”
As they surrounded Bryan, Tim Clauson said something dawned on him, “somewhere out there, there were at least five other people who were surrounding their loved ones and celebrating this gift. For me personally, it gave me that light I needed in a very dark moment.”
Bryan donated his heart, lungs and kidneys, as well as tissue.
His heart now beats in the chest of Dan Alexander, a middle aged man who lives in Nebraska. The Clauson family had the chance to visit and meet with Alexander, hold a stethoscope to his chest and hear Bryan’s heart beating strong.
“I love you buddy,” Diana whispered as she tearfully listened to Alexander’s heartbeat.
The Clauson’s lives had changed forever. But instead of wallowing in grief, they’ve channeled this tragedy into a campaign to raise awareness about organ donation.
The Clauson-Marshall Racing team, owned by Tim Clauson and Richard Marshall, bears two logos: one with their name, and a second which reads “Driven 2 Save Lives.” As of September 6th, the campaign inspired 6,623 people to register to become organ donors in Bryan’s honor.
“To be able to continue this journey through Bryan and the gifts he gave has really been incredible for us,” said Tim.
The Clausons never imagined they would receive such a response from the racing community and beyond. But as they’ve learned since their son’s passing, Bryan Clauson touched countless lives around the world.
His family will be honored by the Indiana Donor Network for their work promoting organ donation across the country at a special gala this Saturday, September 9th.
To register to become a donor, you can sign up online through Driven 2 Save Lives: https://driven2savelives.org/ .