Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Long Racing Story - Short Lease on Life

Bryan Clauson 1989-2016
The joke I tell on myself is that when my marriage fell apart and I got divorced about 10 years ago, I bought camera equipment instead of furniture and went racing again. And normally after I shoot a race, I am writing a post about my experiences during the race weekend. This weekend was anything but normal however, and while this post will be about experiences, this one involves a racer who is suddenly no longer with us:  Bryan Clauson.

I am no seer or sage but believe it or not, I wrote the title to this blog post prior to this past weekend as I had intended to reflect on all the people in racing who have helped me as a photographer through the years. I wrote the first line then too but got sidetracked and haven't been able to come back to it until now. Racing can be a cruel mistress and this weekend proved that once again when Bryan Clauson succumbed to injuries August 7th from a wreck the previous night.

Bryan at Indy 2016; he was fast in anything he drove
I was in Marne, Michigan from Friday night through Sunday morning shooting the ARCA Racing Series 200 at Berlin Raceway for ARCA. Our race ended about 11 Saturday night and as I finished up my editing at the track and began to check social media, I started to hear about a serious wreck involving Clauson at the Belleville Nationals USAC midget event. When that kind of news comes out, you fear the worst but hope for the best, but by Sunday morning on my way back to Indy, it was becoming clear how truly serious Bryan's wreck had been. I posted a couple of photos I had taken of Bryan and wished him well and a speedy recovery on social media hoping to add my small bit of support for his family and friends. Sunday night the "prayers for Bryan" requests started circulating online and a photo attributed to the front yard of his parent's home in Noblesville signaled potentially grave consequences from the accident. Monday morning that was confirmed and I have read and echoed many testimonials to Bryan since yesterday morning.

Bryan at Kokomo Speedway 2009; he raced the Indy 500  then won there this year
Racing will never be safe and for those of us involved in it, we know that but accept the risks anyway. As a photographer, I've photographed many drivers who have been injured or worse. I have stood next to them and listened in on conversations with their crews, friends and families. I have talked to them, encouraged them to "have a good day" and watched their eyes through my lenses to see and capture their intensity and emotion. I know these people. I do not have close personal relationships with many of the drivers I cover but I am around enough racetracks to feel the ups and downs which come from this notoriously tough sport. Ernest Hemingway once said: “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” I believe that more now than ever, especially after all the losses in motorsports the last few years.

Ayrton Senna. Dale Earnhardt. Dan Wheldon. Tony Renna. Justin Wilson. Paul Dana. Jason Leffler. Alan Simonsen. Kevin Ward, Jr. Josh Burton. Marco Simoncelli. Scott Kalitta. Jules Bianchi. Now we add Bryan Clauson to that list of drivers who, along with many others,  have paid the ultimate price. I wish their families and loved ones peace and Godspeed to one and all. We will not forget. It still hurts like hell every time we lose a friend in racing.

To see more of my photos of Bryan racing through the years, please click on the following link.

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