After moving to Charlotte in March to train with SwimMAC Carolina, Clary was thrilled when he heard that Johnson usually swims a couple of times a week at the team's main training pool, the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. Coach Dave Marsh arranged a meeting between the two, and they quickly struck up a friendship.
Clary is working with Johnson, who swam on his high school team, to improve his stroke. Johnson is passing along plenty of helpful tidbits about racing.
"I know that he has a passion for motorsports and wants to get involved," Johnson said. "I'd love to help. He's a great guy."
For now, Clary is trying to get as much practice time as he can in late-model cars. Next year, he hopes to enter a few races in the K&N Pro Series East, a regional circuit owned by NASCAR. In 2016, he'll be fully focused on swimming through the Olympics, but plans to shift to racing as soon as he's done at Rio, with an eye toward landing a full-time ride in the Truck Series the following year.
"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," Johnson said.
Marsh made it clear to Clary he didn't want him coming to Charlotte unless swimming was his primary focus until the Olympics. Besides, another gold medal at Rio would likely enhance Clary's chances of moving to NASCAR, especially when it comes to lining up funding.
"Everybody's told him, 'The best thing you can do to get a better NASCAR (deal) is to swim faster,'" Marsh said. "That's where his reputation is, that's where his branding is, that's where his unique name is."
Clary can't wait to get started.
"I'm one of those guys who has a screw loose," he said with a smile. "I'd rather go out with a big, fiery crash than slowly dying in my bed as an old guy."
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in Concord, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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