Before I dive into this I should fill you all in of my plans for 2014. Well, let’s back up even further for just a minute. Let me introduce myself to you with the short and sweet version: My name is Lauren Stewart. I am a 22-year-old marketing student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis. Jacksonville, Illinois is my hometown, born and raised, but after some time in Tampa, Florida, I now call Indiana home. I am proud to be a self-classified crazy dog lady. Our pup, Chevy, goes everywhere we go and she has more friends than most human beings! Even though she sheds entirely too much and I always have to have a lint roller within reach, I love her to pieces. Check her out on Twitter (@ChevyClauson) to see the racing world through the eyes of a dog. You know that phrase “Home is where the heart is,” right? Well, I like to say, “Home is where the hotel is.” In 2014, I’ve spent the night in my own bed 5 times, but you won’t hear me complaining! If you don’t know already, I’m the lucky girl who gets to call Bryan Clauson mine! Sometimes, like when it’s laundry time after a night at the races and he hands me his stinky, sweaty nomex and firesuit, I’m not sure about the “lucky” part, but there are a million other times when I know I really am blessed to be a part of Bryan’s crazy life and be able to do the things we do! I’ve grown up in racing and I can’t imagine my life without it, but that’s another story we’ll cover at a later time! Back to my plans for the year – I am going to write about all of the adventures our fast-paced, hectic lifestyle brings us! So sit down, buckle up, and enjoy the ride!
So, let’s talk about this year so far! One of the biggest perks of dating a racecar driver is the fact that you can’t race in the snow, so they always find somewhere warm to go during the winter! Bryan and I rang in the New Year in Auckland, New Zealand. This was the third year I made the trip over with Bryan and, as always, I had a wonderful time! It’s always fun to see and catch up with our Kiwi friends and we always get lucky enough to make some new ones! Racing people are the best people you will ever meet. We see our Kiwi friends once, sometimes twice, a year and they welcome us in with open arms! Our Kiwi friends have become family to us and we can’t thank them enough for everything they do for us when we’re over! Shaun and Fleur, if you’re reading this, give Coop a cuddle for me!! There is plenty of time for sightseeing, pool lounging, and losing money at the casino while we are in New Zealand, which is always fun (except the losing money part), but the best part of the trip is always the racing! Western Springs Speedway is such a cool place. It’s hard to compare it to anything else because it really is one of a kind. The fans are so into the racing over there and really support the international series, so that makes it a lot of fun. The atmosphere is comparable to a Chili Bowl or Knoxville Nationals, just so much excitement in the air. BC couldn’t have started the year off any better than he did. He kicked off his 2014 season by winning the 40-lap “King of the Springs” race. After the races that night I figured celebrating by drinking beverages provided by BC’s sponsor was the best thing to do. And that was the night I learned I liked a Japanese beer called “Asahi.” The 50-lapper was the final of the four international races, and the only one Bryan hasn’t won in his four years of competing in the series. That race came down to the last few laps and man, was it exciting! Michael Pickens, who, by the way, is a Kiwi hero, was leading and Bryan was running second, but catching him. I paced the entire 50 laps and had to watch the last five peeking through my fingers I was using to hide my eyes. I normally don’t get too worked up, but I know how bad Bryan wants to win this race so I was nervous for him. Pickens ended up having the better car that night and he came out on top. I don’t know if there is anything quite like Michael Pickens winning at Western Springs. The fans absolutely adore him there and they cheer loud enough to make sure he knows it. It’s pretty cool to get to see, even if they were cheering because he beat Bryan! The 50-lapper is still missing from Bryan’s resume, so don’t worry Kiwi fans, he’ll be back to go after it again!
We were greeted by -20 degree weather, 15 inches of snow, and a cancelled flight when we got back to America. In the words of Chuck Gurney we were, “Six racers trying to get home to see family, dogs, and a new truck.” So what’d we do? Road trip from Chicago to Indy! Thanks to the driving skills of Jerry Coons Jr. and Pete Willoughby we arrived safely in Brownsburg, IN around 6:00 in the morning. I spent the next couple days trying to get back on a normal schedule, but my 7:00 am to 3:00 pm eight-hour naps made that quite difficult. After a few nights of watching every infomercial known to man, I finally forced myself to get back on a somewhat normal schedule just in time to head to the Chili Bowl! So that’s where I’m at now, on a plane with my pup in her kennel under the seat in front of me and our next stop is Tulsa, Oklahoma!
Chili Bowl, here we come!