|Bryan Clauson (left) & Dave Steele (right). (Stacie Girard & John Mahoney Photos)
USAC GREATS CLAUSON AND STEELE
INDUCTED INTO NATIONAL SPRINT CAR HOF
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Knoxville, Iowa………A pair of USAC’s greatest competitors has been inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame during a ceremony Saturday at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa.
USAC champions Bryan Clauson and Dave Steele are among eight inductees of the class of 2018 that also includes Lance Dewease, Scott Gerkin, Emmett J. Malloy, Steve Beitler, Bob Mays and Oscar “Red” Garnant.
Clauson was one of the most decorated and accomplished drivers in the history of the United States Auto Club, becoming just the sixth driver to reach 100 USAC feature wins during a career as well as the youngest to reach the feat. His 112 career USAC wins rank sixth all-time behind only USAC Hall of Famers Rich Vogler, A.J. Foyt, Sleepy Tripp and Mel Kenyon and 2017 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Dave Darland.
Bryan ranks seventh on both the USAC National Sprint Car and USAC National Midget wins list with 41 and 38 wins, respectively, in each division. He also scored two career USAC Silver Crown victories.
In his final season during 2016, Bryan had already racked up 15 USAC wins by the first week of August and had made his third career start in the Indianapolis 500 earlier that May, leading three laps at the midway point of the 100th running of the famed race.
The Noblesville, Indiana driver won the USAC National Drivers Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012; the 2012 and 2013 USAC National Sprint Car Championship; the 2010 and 2011 USAC National Midget Championship; the 2013 and 2014 “Indiana Sprint Week” title, the 2009, 2011 and 2016 “Indiana Midget Week” title; and the 2012, 2013 and 2016 “Eastern Storm” titles.
Clauson succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash while leading the “Belleville Midget Nationals” in August of 2016 at the age of 27.
Steele was one of the United States Auto Club’s most revered racers during the 1990s and 2000s. The Tampa, Florida native ranks 14th on USAC’s national win list with 60 victories between 1996 and 2007.
Steele was a dominant force on the pavement tracks, which accounted for all 60 of his USAC National wins. Despite only competing in half the races, or less, on the schedule throughout most of his career, Steele’s win totals rank in the top echelon of USAC’s record book. His 16 Silver Crown wins are the fourth most all-time while his 26 Sprint Car victories rank 16th and his 18 Midget wins put him 35th on the list.
Steele gained a reputation as the man to beat on the pavement, winning a staggering 12 USAC features at Indianapolis Raceway Park (1 Silver Crown, 6 Sprint, 4 Midget and 1 Midget special event) during his career. His first USAC National Midget win came during the “Night Before the 500” at the .686-mile oval in 1998.
In 2002, Steele put on one of the most memorable performances in USAC history when he won two National Midget features in one night at IRP. After winning the first feature, Steele started the second event from the 22nd position. Quickly cutting his way through the field, Steele took the lead by lap 12 and, by the end of the 25-lap feature, was $50,000 richer. He remains the most recent driver to win two USAC National Midget points races in a single day.
Steele stands behind only Jack Hewitt, Kody Swanson and Brian Tyler on the USAC Silver Crown career win list. Yet, no driver has led more laps or owns more pavement wins (16) in the series than does Steele.
The accolades for Steele within USAC are nearly endless. He was a two-time winner of the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in 2001 and 2003. He was a force on the Indiana high banks, winning eight Sprint features at Winchester Speedway and three times at Salem Speedway. He captured three Silver Crown races at Richmond, Va. in a four-year span between 2002 and 2005. Steele won at least one race in all three of USAC’s national divisions in the same season on six occasions (1998, 2001-2005), the most in club history.
Steele was a three-time Tampa Bay Area Racing Association Sprint Car champ in 2005, 2009 and 2013. He also made his way into other racing avenues with the Indy Racing League, where he made three starts in 1998, as well as NASCAR’s Busch Grand National Series (now Xfinity Series) in which he made a pair of starts during the 2000 season.
Steele died in March of 2017 after a crash on the opening lap of a Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series-sanctioned event at Bradenton, Florida’s Desoto Speedway. He was 42 years old.