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Tony Stewart and Bryan Clauson
BC39’s Beginnings a Favorite Memory of Boles

The Driven2SaveLives BC39 has quickly become a signature event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and its beginnings have an interesting story.

The fifth edition, announced last week, will feature the United States Auto Club (USAC) NOS Energy Drink National Midget series in a standalone weekend on Sept. 27-30, 2023, on The Dirt Track at IMS.

Although brief, the event that honors late USAC champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Bryan Clauson, began with one of IMS president Doug Boles’ favorite memories.

“I started working at the Speedway in November of 2010, and it's when I really got a chance to get to know Suzi Elliott (IMS senior manager, communications),” Boles said. “Suzi and I and the public relations team would talk about our love for short-track racing, and we would always sort of joke with each other, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we had short track at the Speedway?'”

Then a unique opportunity materialized when Tony Stewart announced he would be retiring from full-time driving at the end of 2016. On July 5 of that year, Boles and the IMS staff put together the ultimate way to honor the native Hoosier who built a sterling resume of three NASCAR Cup Series championships and the 1997 INDYCAR SERIES title, along with five starts in the Indianapolis 500 and two Brickyard 400 victories. Stewart remains the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles of the Memorial Day Double -- in 2001, he finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500 and was third in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We thought, 'What's the best way to celebrate Tony Stewart? Let's take his love for short-track racing and put it at his favorite track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway,’” Boles said. “And we built this dirt track. For me, it was really a way to say, ‘Thanks Tony,’ but maybe we can prove that you could put a dirt track inside the Speedway.”

And so, the quarter-mile track located inside of Turn 3 at The Brickyard was born.

“Just seeing Tony come to the Speedway and to see the dirt in place and then watch him want to get in a race car,” Boles said. “Then having a conversation with (other) drivers because all of a sudden we had people, like one of the team owners actually saying, ‘Hey, I'll put 500 bucks up (for a race that day). Let's see how much money we can collect. Let's have a real race today,’

“And so, we started walking around. I talked to Tony and Tony said, 'Well, I'm not going to race it but put somebody else in the car, and I'll throw $500 in.’ Then I talked to our insurance agent, trying him to figure out, OK, if we do this, can we get (the necessary) insurance real quick?

“Bryan Clauson taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey man, if we race, I'm in because I want to win.’ We thought, we've done so well today, let's go back and think about this the right way and actually build a track and make it work, because what's going to happen today if we race, all of us are going to compete to try and win and you're going to end up with a crash. If that would have happened, the story will be about who crashed at the Speedway because they wanted to win it and then we'll never get to race here.”

While Clauson was just as ready to go wheel-to-wheel with anyone, Boles credits him to being “the adult in the room” as the unofficial race never happened on that day in 2016.

Tragically, Clauson was involved in a midget crash in the Belleville Nationals in Kansas the following month and passed away.

“Looking back, I wish we'd done (the impromptu race) because I wish Bryan could have said he raced at The Dirt Track, but I also think it makes the race that much more important the way that it all ended,” Boles said.

The 39-lap feature to honor Clauson debuted in 2018 and became an instant classic, with Brady Bacon taking the victory. That race serves as another special memory for Boles, which also included its own share of drama when rain pushed the race over its allotted time.

“We ended up racing past midnight and just doing everything we could do to get that race in,” Boles said.

“The (best) memory is just looking up at this full grandstand after it rained and rained and rained and to a driver, especially those drivers who didn't make the feature, who pulled cars from all over (the country) who maybe got five or six laps total over the two days, to a driver that said, 'This is the coolest thing I've ever done. I got to race here, I got to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That's still a pretty big memory for me.”

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