AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser.
For decades, these names burned themselves into the consciousness of the US motor racing industry and their lights will continue to shine for many years to come.
That foursome represent a supremely talented group – top drawer in fact – that took on short ovals, road circuits, super speedways and in one case the world and won. They also represent a group that reigned supreme on the dirt tracks that held so many midget races over the years, but in recent decades – bar one or two exceptions – the road from dirt track ovals to IndyCar has virtually dried up.
Sure, their were still some North American heroes to cheer on – the likes of Al Unser Jr., Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal gained many plaudits during their respective careers, but their history began on the permanent road courses, street circuits and paved ovals of the CART-era.
Step forward Bryan Clauson. The 21-year-old is the reigning USAC National Drivers and Midget Series champion and having secured a notable scholarship from the Road to Indy campaign, Clauson will be contesting six Indy Lights races this season for Sam Schmidt Motorsport. It is an interesting side-step for Clauson, who at one time raced in NASCAR’s Nationwide and ARCA series’ part-time, but as opportunities narrowed, the Californian found himself back on the USAC trail and on the road to his first title.
Whether Clauson can ever fill the shoes left by the likes of Foyt, Andretti, Rutherford or Unser remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – with advertising campaigns such as the one below, the weight of expectation may be pushing hard on the young man’s shoulders.
- AJ Foyt – USAC National Champion (7 times), Indianapolis 500 winner (4 times), Le Mans 24 Hour Race winner (1967).
- Mario Andretti – 1978 Formula 1 World Champion, Indycar Champion (4 times), 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1974 USAC National Dirt Track Champion.
- Johnny Rutherford – 1980 CART Series Champion, Indianapolis 500 winner (3 times), 1965 USAC National Sprint Car Champion.
- Bobby Unser – USAC National Champion (twice), Indianapolis 500 winner (3 times)
- Bryan Clauson – 2010 USAC National Champion