Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spencer Bayston Story

From the Pantagraph
April 23, 2015 6:30 pm • By Bruce Yentes Like most 16-yearold high school sophomores, Spencer Bayston has some classes he likes more than others. "There's a construction class that I really enjoy, where we'll actually build a house our junior and senior year," he said. Unlike most 16-year-old sophomores, Bayston also will be getting acclimated to racing a high-powered sprint car while simultaneously learning how to read a blueprint. While it's still unclear how he'll fare in pounding nails according to specifications, his attempt at building a racing career has gotten off to a resoundingly successful start. Two weeks ago, the youngster outdueled reigning series champ Zach Daum to capture a POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature at Belle-Claire Speedway in Belleville. He'll try to repeat the fete this weekend when the POWRi series visits Central Illinois and Jacksonville Speedway on Friday night, before competing at Macon Speedway on Saturday. While winning a national touring series event is certainly a feather in one's cap, Bayston's most impressive accomplishment may have come earlier this year. That's when he outran well over 300 entrants, many of them familiar names to the most casual of racing fans, for one of only 24 starting spots in the iconic Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla. That came to the delight of car owner Bryan Clauson, who also provides Bayston with some coaching and tutoring. When it comes to wheeling a midget or sprint car, Bayston would be hard-pressed to find a better mentor. Although only 25, Clauson already is a three-time USAC National Sprint Car Series champion, has been a runner-up in the NASCAR Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series rookie chase and has an appearance in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 on his resume with another on the slate a month from now. Clauson's father, Tim, serves as "crew chief" on Bayston's POWRi midget and sees some similarities between Bayston and where his son was 10 years ago. "Bryan had more experience when he was 16 than Spencer has, but I'd say there are a lot of the same characteristics," Tim Clauson said. "Speed-wise, instinct-wise, he's got that." The thing that most impresses the elder Clauson about the up-and-coming Bayston is the youngster's character and eagerness to learn. "We try to find young kids that we feel have the talent to get to the next level and we try to give them our experience, equipment and knowledge to speed up the learning curve," Clauson said. "The one thing about Spencer that sets him apart from most kids is his maturity. He understands it's a process and he never gets ahead of himself. Early on he would have flashes of brilliance, but he never got a big head and thought he was better than he truly was. That was especially good, because there would then be nights when we would really struggle." Bayston says there were indeed ups and downs in last year's season that netted him POWRi Rookie of the Year honors. "We'd have a few good nights with good finishes and then right after that I'd be awful," he said. "I'd spin out, wreck the car or make mistakes. "It could be a humbling experience, but Bryan was always there, coaching me and telling me what I was doing right or wrong. It was always in a positive way and he kept up my confidence. Tim Clauson said that after some early struggles, by mid-season Bayston began consistently running among the POWRi leaders, putting himself in a position to win. In finally happened in just the third race of his second season. Bayston first appeared on Clauson's radar as a 14-year-old when he won 10 of 15 main events and the championship in the Mel Kenyon Midget Series, an Indiana-based "spec" series. Prior to that, Bayston raced a quarter-midget and a 600cc Micro Sprint, primarily for the simple fun that it provided through a family outing for he and his father, Brett. The Baystons' fun extends beyond racing. They also enjoy spending time together in the outdoors and in the late fall and early winter they've had occasion to wend their way through the harvested corn and soybean fields of Livingston County, hunting pheasant together. The family resides in Lebanon, Ind., but Brett Bayston grew up in Chatsworth and was a member of the final graduating class at Chatsworth High School before it consolidated into the Prairie Central school district. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he took a job with the Edward Jones brokerage firm in Marion, Ind. It was in Marion that he met his wife, Shari. Spencer has an older sister, Grace, who is a senior at Lebanon High School. His grandparents, Gerald and Helen Bayston, still live in Chatsworth and frequently attend his races, as does an uncle, Bart, who lives in Jacksonville. Those races this season will include a focused foray into USAC midgets. Bayston also will split his time between POWRi midgets and some regional sprint car racing in Indiana. A move into the more demanding and powerful USAC national sprint car ranks shouldn't be too far off, but with Clauson's guidance, they're taking it all one step at a time. Bayston had his first sprint car test at Paragon Speedway in southern Indiana the Sunday after winning his first POWRi feature at Belleville. "He looked natural in it," Clauson said. "As good as he ever has." Contact Bruce Yentes at

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