When it comes to speed in the water, Tyler Clary is among the world’s best. He is seeking to gain speed in a race car, too.
The 23-year-old from Riverside, Calif., won the gold medal in the 200-meter backstroke during the Olympics last summer in London. Last weekend at Sebring International Raceway, Clary was among the 32 participants in the inaugural Skip Barber Racing School INDYCAR Academy shootout. He placed 13th, accumulating 264.75 points in the four sessions.
“I’ve been around racing a long time, so it’s amazing to finally be here in a position where I can drive,” Clary said. “It’s more experience. What I’ve noticed with this group is that I’m on the lower side of experience, which is kind of frustrating at first. But to make it here with less experience is kind of inspiring. I’m just going to take as many chances as I can get to get as much experience as possible on track and keep moving forward.”
Andre Gomes, a 25-year-old computer technician from Nashua, N.H., won the shootout and the opportunity to begin his path on the Mazda Road to Indy developmental ladder system with a sponsored ride in either the 2013 summer or winter Skip Barber Regional Race Series.
The unique program included four on-track sessions, with drivers receiving a maximum 70 points per session. The points were awarded on the fastest lap of each session (35 points) and the fastest average lap of that session (35 points). Points were then awarded on a descending scale for the rest of the group as they would be given in a Skip Barber Race Series event.
After getting his first experience against this level of competition Clary knows he has to “pick up the pace” and is willing to continue his quest as a competitive race car driver.
“I hadn’t had any road racing experience before my three-day racing school at all so I applied for the academy and was optimistic that I might make it,” Clary said. “But, realistically, out of all the people that applied, I didn’t think I would be chosen. With all the people that have been doing stuff like this for so long, I didn’t think I would actually make it.
“So when I got that phone call, I was pretty elated.”
Clary's parents were fully supportive of his swimming exploits but not as enthusiastic at seeing him climb behind the wheel of a race car.
“My parents aren’t all that excited but all of my other friends think it is really cool, and it’s something that I’m really passionate about,” Clary said. “I definitely want to keep myself out from behind a desk, as a job, because that would drive me absolutely nuts. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.
“Obviously, I have to thank my friends and family. Absolutely have to thank INDYCAR, Skip Barber Racing School, Mazda and BFGoodrich; seriously without this we wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity. This is the pilot event. It’s going great. And I hope to see it continue on in the future.”