An Air Force cadet during World War II, Bryan began racing hot rods after the war, moved into midget cars in 1947, and joined the USAC Championship Trail in 1953. He drove Indy cars for less than seven years, but won 19 races, three national championships and an Indianapolis 500 in that brief time.
His big break came in 1954 when mechanic Clint Brawner gave him a chance to drive the new Dean Van Lines car. He finished second at Indianapolis despite a broken spring, a broken shock absorber, and spray from a broken oil line that burned his left leg. He won the last four races of the season to win his first driving championship.
Bryan won the championship again in 1956 and 1957, and he won at Indianapolis in 1958, narrowly avoiding a terrible crash that killed Pat O'Connor and knocked 17 of the 33 starting cars out of the race. Afterward, Bryan announced he wouldn't defend his championship in 1959.
He did finish second in the Monza Race of Two Worlds in Italy, which he had won in 1957, and he won one of the three stock car races he entered. His 1960 Indy ride lasted 152 laps before motor problems forced him out. Then Bryan agreed to return to dirt track racing as a favor to two old friends, the owners of the Langhorne, PA, track. His car, a Watson - Offenhuaser, flipped on the first lap and he died immediately