Tyler Clary hopes to one day become a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He’s learning from the best.
Clary, the 2012 Olympic 200m backstroke champion, moved to Charlotte, N.C., joining the SwimMAC Carolina team in March. They happen to train at a pool where six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson works out.
Clary and Johnson have been exchanging advice, swim strokes for driving tips. The swimmer is so serious about it that he skipped out of the Charlotte Grand Prix meet on Saturday to hang out with Johnson in the pits and watch him compete at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It has been a boon for Clary, a noted motorsports enthusiast with speedway driving experience who has developed a seven-year plan, according to The Associated Press. Clary, 25, wants to switch sports after the Rio Olympics and get behind the wheel in various NASCAR series before reaching the ultimate, the Sprint Cup, by 2021.
“I’m one of those guys who has a screw loose,” Clary said with a smile, according to the AP. “I’d rather go out with a big, fiery crash than slowly dying in my bed as an old guy.”
As far as swimming goes, Clary has plenty of work ahead of him to make his second Olympic Team. He’s always had to race against Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in his best events, the 200m back and both individual medleys.
And though Lochte has dealt with injury and Phelps took 20 months off after London, there are new threats such as 20-year-old Chase Kalisz in the medleys and three-time Russian Olympic backstroker Arkady Vyatchanin, who is looking for a new country to represent, possibly the U.S.
“It was definitely a factor moving down to Charlotte that it is the heart of NASCAR,” Clary said, according to TeamUSA.org, “but swimming is what pays the bills right now so that has to take the front seat.”