Ten years might as well be 100 for a family that loves racing as much as the Byrds.
On Friday, Jonathan Byrd’s Racing announced it would be returning to the Indianapolis 500 in 2015 with two-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion Bryan Clauson as its driver.
The Byrds’ most recent representation at the “500” was Jaques Lazier’s 16th-place finish in 2005.
Former Greenwood resident Jonathan Byrd passed away in August 2009 at age 57.
Representing the family at a news conference Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were Byrd’s widow, Ginny, and sons Jonathan and David.
“These children of mine have been crazy about racing since we started racing in 1982. They’ve kind of grown up with this passion. Their dad gave it to them,” Ginny said.
“When David started talking to me about this and he sent me Bryan’s resume, I’m reading it and thinking, ‘How old is this kid?’ He’s 24. I’ve got purses older than this. But we are excited as a family to be coming back to Indy. We’ve missed it. It just seems like this is the right time. All the planets have aligned. “
Clauson took part in the 2012 Indianapolis 500, starting on the inside of Row 11 for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.
He completed 46 laps before mechanical problems stopped him for what would amount to a 30th-place finish.
MEET THE DRIVER
Name: Bryan Clauson
Born: Carmichael, California
High school: Noblesville (2008)
Career highlights: Won USAC National Sprint Car Series championship in 2012 and 2013 ... won seven USAC Sprint events and had 21 top 5 finishes in 2013 ... Made starting grid for 2012 Indianapolis 500, finishing 30th driving the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman/Curb Agajanian Honda ... 2010 USAC National Midget Car Series champion ... USAC National Drivers Champion three consecutive years (2010-12).
Knowing he’s getting the opportunity to redeem himself proved music to Clauson’s ears.
“It’s hard to put into words after 2012 and the last couple of years not being able to come up with anything. I wasn’t sure if we would be back or when I’d be back. I was happy to get a phone call from David when I was out in Phoenix two or three months ago while I was racing out there, and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea. Why don’t we meet up.’ We got together and, sure enough, when he pitched it to me it was pretty crazy,” Clauson said.
“I never thought it would come together this fast. Obviously, it’s an honor to be part of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing and the legacy that they have here at the Speedway kind of speaks for itself. Everything they’ve done here is so special. It’s an exciting time for myself and my family.”
“I’ve been coming here since I was 8 or 9. I left 2012 (race) a little bit heartbroken. I felt we had a better month than the way it finished,” Clauson added. “Since that day I vowed to get back here and find a way. The right opportunity hadn’t presented itself. Obviously, this is a situation I feel is fitting on all fronts.”
Jonathan Byrd’s Racing had previously been involved in 15 Indy 500s with 17 different drivers from 1985-2005. Its best finish was Scott Brayton taking sixth in 1993.
“In 2006, 2007 we come out every year and we’re not a part of it, and now we’re going to be a part of it ... it kills us. We love this place so much. The ‘500’ means so much to our family not only personally, but to our business. I missed being a part of it,” Jonathan Byrd II said.
“Not only is Bryan going to be our Indy 500 driver next year, it’s our intention that he be our Indy 500 driver for the next 15 years. He is a great fit for our brand.”
Clauson, who turns 25 in June, is a three-time USAC National Driver’s Champion and twice National Midget Driver of the Year. His short-track expertise is like that of previous Byrd-sponsored drivers Rich Vogler and Stan Fox.
And what would Jonathan Byrd say to the news his family is going racing again?
“In some regards, I think he would say, ‘What took you so long?’” Ginny said. “He would say, ‘Come on, kids. Let’s go racing’. That was always his motto.”