Just being here, in the field at the Indy 500, is an accomplishment for Bryan Clauson. The rookie driver is soaking it all in, happy to be in the field, despite starting on the inside of the final row. For a rookie making his first start in an IndyCar, it doesn't get much better than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The story of how Clauson got here, though, is far from ordinary. Eight days ago, things were looking good for the young driver. His car was running well, turning in laps over 223 miles per hour on Pole Day. His first lap was among the fastest of the day to that point, and there wasn't much of a drop-off as he ticked off his second and third laps.
And then disaster struck. As Clauson hit the apex of the first turn, his tires came loose, sending his No. 39 car careening into the outside wall. Clauson was fine, walking away from the accident without serious injury, but his car was not. The left side sustained serious damage, forcing massive repairs if he hoped to make the field
With just one night -- less than 24 hours -- between the crash and Bump Day, Clauson's car had to be rebuilt. For his Sarah Fisher Hartman racing -- a small, two-car operation -- the crash meant a long night of work, and even then there was no guarantee they'd have Clauson up and running as his final chance to make the Indy 500 approached.
This is the story of Clauson's Indy 500 journey and the team that makes the whole operation go.
The small team worked together through the night rebuilt much of the car, including the whole left side, the engine and the turbo. For a small operation, without the support the titans of the sport -- the Andrettis, Ganassis and Penskes -- have, it was a minor miracle.
Clauson turned in a qualifying time of 214.455 mph, good for 31st in the field of 33. His chances on Sunday are slim, but just making the field after his Pole Day crash is an accomplishment of incredible proportions. The chips are stacked against him, just as they were one week ago as the No. 39 team worked through the night.
But for a rookie stepping into an IndyCar for the first time, and doing so at the Indianapolis 500, Clauson has already had an experience he'll never forget.