Off-Track


Olympic champion wants to compete in NASCAR

May 22, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Olympic champion wants to compete in NASCAR
NASCAR Fantasy Live celeb Tyler Clary wants to take his speed to the pavement

Related: See how Tyler Clary is doing in the NASCAR Fantasy Live celeb league

Well, we already know he likes to go fast and seems to have the whole 'aquadynamics' thing figured out, but what about aerodynamics?

U.S. Olympic swimmer and 2012 200-meter backstroke gold medalist Tyler Clary has already gotten a taste of NASCAR in 2014, taking part in Alyssa Milano's NASCAR Fantasy Live celebrity league, but now he wants a whiff of the sweet, sweet smell of burning rubber from behind the wheel of a car.

Clary, who moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to concentrate on his swimming career and be closer to the NASCAR world, already has his driving career path in mind. The 25-year-old wants to be racing full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by 2017 -- conceivably after he cleans up at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games -- and move up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series by 2021.

"Every time I would talk to somebody about racing, the general reaction that I would get is 'Oh, it's just some swimmer that wants to play around in a race car on a weekend,'" Clary told TeamUSA.org. "Moving down here was one of those things that would show people, 'He really is serious.' A lot more people other than me are starting to chomp at the bit to get things going now.

"It was definitely a factor moving down to Charlotte that it is the heart of NASCAR, but swimming is what pays the bills right now so that has to take the front seat."

Clary took in Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson in the pits during qualifying. The two have started swimming together at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Charlotte, and Clary hopes Johnson plays somewhat of a mentor role in his future racing career.

"I know that he has a passion for motorsports and wants to get involved," Johnson told the Associated Press. "I'd love to help. He's a great guy. I've been telling him, under the radar, if he can try to drive late models and get seat time to get that transition going, and obviously work on some sponsorship."

While his focus is still set on swimming, Clary is already beginning the transition toward getting in a car full time, taking laps in stock, open wheel and sports cars. During a charity event at Michigan International Speedway last winter, Clary took his Subaru WRX ST on the track, reaching 146 mph on the 2-mile course.

"He likes to race; he's the first guy in the water in practice," coach David Marsh said in the Team USA story. "Who can blame anybody for being more passionate about getting behind the wheel in a car and going 150 miles per hour versus going 3 miles an hour and following a black line in practice? At the same time, I don't see any lost passion for swimming. He won't like that he didn't win the 400 IM (Friday night during the Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte), and it'll still inspire him and that's fine."

And for those thinking he's too old to start his NASCAR career, remember that Danica Patrick -- while already having spent plenty of time driving in IndyCar -- didn't make the transition to the sport until age 28 and was a Sprint Cup rookie at 31. Clary will be 32 in 2021.

"Every time I get into something, I show a pretty good bit of speed," Clary said. "I just need some more lap time and more coaching and I've been a coachable athlete all of my life, so there's absolutely no reason I can't be coached to go do what those guys are doing."