Stenhouse, Larson honor late friend at Bristol

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson meet with the media at Bristol Friday. (Getty Images)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson meet with the media at Bristol Friday. (Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The outpouring of support for Bryan Clauson continued at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson honoring the memory of their close friend with special helmets and paint schemes.

Clauson died at age 27 from injuries suffered during an Aug. 6 accident in the Belleville (Kansas) Midget Nationals.

Like Stenhouse, Clauson got his start in NASCAR racing as a development driver for Roush Fenway Racing, but after 26 starts in the XFINITY series, with a best finish of fifth at Kentucky, he returned to open wheels and established himself as one of the all-time best in USAC competition.

In Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, both Stenhouse and Larson will wear helmets sporting the initials “BC” in honor of their friend. With the blessing of sponsor Fastenal, Stenhouse’s car will feature a paint scheme reminiscent of the one Clauson ran seven years ago.

“Bryan was a great friend of Kyle’s and mine,” Stenhouse, 28, said on Friday at Bristol. “I moved to North Carolina, and he was already there. Even though he was younger, I kind of always looked at him as an older brother, because he kind of did everything before I did.

“He let me move in with him, and we had a lot of fun in North Carolina. He showed me the ropes of stock car racing, and then, obviously, he was the best there was at running sprint cars, so to be able to run his paint scheme. His family is super excited, and we are, too, at our team.”

On Aug. 11 at the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, Stenhouse led the field on a parade lap in the winged sprint car Clauson was to have driven in the competition.

Larson and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Rico Abreu were on hand as competitors during the off week. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon were there to support charitable efforts, which included an auction on behalf of the Clauson family on Aug. 12.

Gordon flew the Clausons back to Indiana on his plane that afternoon. On Saturday night, Stewart’s sprint car driver, Donny Schatz, was five feet short of his 10th Knoxville Nationals title, finishing second to race-winner Jason Johnson.

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