TULSA, Okla. — If not for one very special GT American winged outlaw micro sprint, the Key and Clauson families may never have crossed paths.
Instead, the two are inextricably linked, thanks to one race car and one driver that taught the racing world the meaning of the term ‘a racer’s racer’.
On New Year’s weekend in 2003, Bryan Clauson brought a red and white GT American house car, built by the Golobic family, to the Tulsa Expo Center to compete in that year’s Tulsa Shootout. Bryan’s father Tim was the east coast representative for GT American, and the then-upstart was one of the company’s house drivers.
Competing in both the Stock and Winged Outlaw classes, the younger Clauson started on the front row of both main events that year and promptly won the Outlaw main event, creating the beginning of a long legacy for that particular chassis.
After a change in ownership for several years, the car was eventually sold to Texas’ Scott Key, who bought the car for his son Noah to drive as Noah made a move upward from the mini-outlaw karts to the bigger micros.
As Key learned the ropes in a car that Clauson once drove, the two racers eventually met at a race at Miami County Speedway in Peru, Indiana; where Bryan wasn’t racing that night but took time out of his duties helping another team to advise Key with some small pointers to aid him in his race craft with the micro – the beginning stages of a racing bond between one racer looking to mentor another, teacher and student, so to speak.
With Tim Clauson continuing to aid Scott Key with setup help and Bryan furthering Noah’s driving style behind the wheel, both families remained in touch over the next couple of years as racing took them in and out of each other’s paths.
Fast forward to Aug. 6, 2016.
The Keys were competing at I-44 (Riverside) Speedway in Oklahoma, while Bryan was driving a USAC national midget at the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.
On their way home, the Keys received a phone call that would alter their world every bit as much as the rest of the racing community.
“We actually raced this car at I-44 Speedway the night that Bryan’s accident happened in Belleville,” said Scott Key. “We were on our way home when I started getting texts and phone calls from people who were there (at Belleville) that were getting information. You didn’t want to think the worst, but it put a lot on our minds during that drive.”
Even though it wouldn’t be until just over a day later that the racing world lost Bryan Clauson, that Saturday night, the Keys made a commitment to honor their friend, colleague and racing mentor.
“That night, Noah and I decided to make our Shootout car look like it did when Bryan won with it as a tribute,” Scott Key added. “Our cars had always been black with a No. 14 on them, so we had to get quite a bit of new stuff to make this happen. We had to get a whole new body to make the car white and then got it re-wrapped with the tribute graphics. Several people stepped up to help … which made this very special and emotional.”
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