Tyler Clary’s plan: swim to Rio, drive to NASCAR

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Tyler Clary, the reigning Olympic champion in the 200m backstroke, proved on Tuesday that he can go fast outside of the pool, too. Clary participated in a semi-pro stock car race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Racing a Legends car, which can reach speeds of up to 100 mph, Clary finished 15th after a car ahead of him flipped.

This was Clary’s first competitive stock car race, but the 25-year-old has long been drawn to the track. According to the Charlotte Observer, when Clary was growing up in California he raised money for his swim team by working in the merchandise booth at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

A member of SwimMAC Carolina, Clary is committed to balancing his training for the 2016 Rio Olympics with his long-term plan for a NASCAR career.

He told USA Today:

I’m here because I’m serious about it and I want this to be my next career. I’m not joking around about it. It’s not a publicity stunt. I mean everything about what I’m doing.

Clary intends to continue racing in the weekly Summer Shootout series, with the eventual goal of reaching the Sprint Cup series.

He already has two high-profile supporters: a sponsor, Fusion Jerky, and a mentor, Jimmie Johnson. The winner of six NASCAR Cup Series, Johnson has swapped driving advice for swimming tips from Clary.

Clary sees similarities between a winning race strategy in the pool and on the track. “NASCAR is a game of margins, and you’re always trying to push that margin a little bit further to see if you can have even the smallest edge over your opponent,” he told the Charlotte Observer. “That’s really something that is hammered into our heads as swimmers every single day. We are constantly looking for that edge.”

Clary’s SwimMAC teammates, including Ryan Lochte, came out to the racetrack to support him. The two swimmers took a photo with Clary’s Legends car.