Vacation Rookie

Well I’ll start by saying Bryan and I are definitely vacation rookies. We got so sunburnt our first day in the sun that we didn’t go to the beach any more after that and I avoided being in a bikini until after dark, but we did have a really good time in the Dominican Republic! A much needed and much anticipated vacation was on tap for us last Monday. The Sunday after Knoxville we headed to Little Belleville for the POWRi Midget race. BC won (after restarting 21st after a flat tire early on), so it made the drive worth it. We were up and at it again early on Monday morning, but that time was for fun! We stayed at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana and I have to admit it’s the first vacation I remember taking that didn’t start or end at a racetrack. We did do a family vacation to Florida for a college football game when I was in high school, but I puked up Denny’s spaghetti in the backseat of an overcrowded Monte Carlo for hours so I don’t really count that trip as a vacation.

Bryan’s pretty spontaneous, especially when it comes to things most people take time to really think/plan out, so it didn’t surprise me when he booked a trip to the Dominican Republic while we were driving home from a sprint car race in Minnesota. We’ve obviously traveled together before (like 3 days a week on average), but like I said we’ve never done a “real” vacation so I was pretty excited for it! I had the countdown app on my phone and everything. We landed in Punta Cana around 3:00pm on Monday and by the time we got settled into our room at the Hard Rock it was close to dinnertime. We were both so tired from the past week in Knoxville that we were in bed and asleep before 9:30pm. I know, I know, total party animals. I decided my all-inclusive eating and drinking could wait until Tuesday to be enjoyed because I was just too tired to have fun!

Vacation really started on Tuesday and it was just about the perfect day. We hung out in the pool for most of the day (hence the terrible sunburn) where I enjoyed the swim-up bar and the delicious strawberry daiquiris. After our fun in the sun at the pools and beach we headed to the resort’s spa. IF YOU EVER GO TO PUNTA CANA YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE HARD ROCK’S ROCK SPA. Yes, it’s that important that I needed to type that sentence in all caps. It was the best massage experience I’ve ever had! I loved it. We did the couple’s massage, but the best part was everything that went with it. They had a steam room, sauna, mud room, ice room, refreshing showers, hot tubs, and a big pool with jets and waterfalls. I hate the word “amazing” because I think it’s overused and extremely cliché, but that’s exactly what this place was! Definitely the best part of the trip. Except for maybe the part where we won $300 playing blackjack. That was a highlight too.

On Wednesday we went horseback riding on the beach which was a fun experience. It’s one of those things that’s cool to be able to say you have done it at lease once in your life! The bruises on my buthigh area (that’s the part of your leg where your thigh and butt come together) probably disagree on how fun the horseback riding was, but it could be worse. I could have a tailbone that’s in “deep pain” like Bryan. After horseback riding we had to recoup for a little bit, so more relaxation in the form of a nap was in order. I headed to the pool after the sun started to go down to avoid increasing the redness on my already crispy shoulders and chest. Since he was being a little whiny about his now injured tailbone, I left Bryan in the room to nap for a little longer. Surprisingly he met me at the pool not long after, so I knew there was a chance of another vacation in the future! I was worried I wore him out the first couple days and he would never take me on vacation ever again. We enjoyed a big dinner that night and hit the casino again, but didn’t have as much luck on the blackjack table that night.

All in all our vacation was a perfect little getaway! Now it’s back to racing reality. I spent today catching up on online orders, so if you’ve ordered a BC (or Chevy) shirt in the past month you should be getting it in the mail soon! After we got those orders dropped off at the post office my mom and I headed to Lincoln to watch Bryan and my little brother race. BC won the midget feature and man, it was a fun, nerve-wracking race to watch!! I like when my brother and Bryan race at the same track on the same night. It’s like one big family get together, even though we make my mom sit in the stands. Trust me, it’s better for everyone that way.

We’ve got a big weekend ahead still. Bryan’s racing in the Silver Crown race tomorrow afternoon at the Springfield Mile and Macon tomorrow night in the midget. On Sunday we’ll be in Sun Prairie for the USAC/POWRi midget show. When we get home on Monday morning it’ll be the first time we’ve been home for more than 12 hours in a month!

P.S. I owe my parents a BIG thank you for keeping the pups while we were on vacation. We usually just drop the dogs off and say, “we’ll be back in a week!” and they never complain or say no. Chevy’s an angel so I know she’s not a problem, but Stewart on the other hand… He’s the reason I said a BIG thank you was owed. He’s getting better, but he’s still fully in the puppy stage. Hopefully he outgrows that quickly! If not… I might have to take my dad up on his offer to adopt him!

P.S.S. How long does a sun burn last?!

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What day is it?

Facebook always asks me (and the millions of other people who login multiple times a day), “What’s on your mind?.” I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen that question over and over and never really stopped to answer it before or the fact that I haven’t written in over a month so my mind is overflowing with things to talk about, but either way, here it is: exactly what is on my mind on this beautiful Thursday, (wait, it is Thursday right?) afternoon. I’m in Belleville, Kansas at the historic place known as The Belleville High Banks.

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Rainbow over the pits at the High Banks – 7/31/14

Race season is in full swing and we’re in the middle of summer, so I’m to the point of the year where I don’t even know what day it is when I wake up. I can tell you where Bryan’s racing at tonight, the next night, or next week, but ask me what the date is and I definitely won’t be able to tell you that! We left home on Monday for this trip and the first stop was in Beloit, Kansas. Bryan won the midget race that night, so that started off what will hopefully continue to be a good week for the 63 team! (Side note – BC blew a motor in the feature tonight, so fingers crossed Saturday goes better!) The best momentum you can have going into a big race weekend like the Belleville Midget Nationals is a win at the previous race. Chili Bowl was huge for gaining momentum at the beginning of the year with a new team, but with a handful of rainouts at the start of the outdoor season and a very dominant Keith Kunz Motorsports lineup, BC didn’t get back to victory lane in the 63 until the final night of Midget Week at Kokomo. That happened to be Bryan’s birthday, so he gave himself a nice 25th birthday present too!

Victory Lane in Beloit, KS - 7/29/14

Victory Lane in Beloit, KS – 7/29/14

Beloit was a pretty cool night at the races because it was the first time I’ve heard Rusty Kunz tell old stories and talk about some of the accomplishments he’s achieved throughout his racing career. It started when we were all in the trailer hanging out before things got going that night and someone started talking about the Chili Bowl. Rusty was telling stories about different drivers he had worked with in Tulsa and his memories ranged from drivers who had taken home a driller on Saturday to guys who had missed the A-Main by one spot and even a couple guys who were still racing when the sun was up on Saturday. Rusty said sometimes it’s just luck and sometimes, like this year, everything just falls into place. 2014 was uneventful (in a good way) for the 63 team and Rusty said at the end of it he looked at Todd, one of his crew guys, and told him he couldn’t believe how easy it was! “That place will humble you,” was my favorite quote from the conversation. Hearing a guy like Rusty Kunz talk about a race, a race he has won multiple times, with such awe and respect is really neat. That’s what makes races like the Chili Bowl so huge – when you’ve got the best in the business eager to get there and take their shot at winning year after year.

The only race that compares to the Chili Bowl is the Knoxville Nationals. Knoxville and Chili Bowl – those two are on their own level and man are they fun! I like that they are almost exactly 6 months apart because it adds to the appeal of each event. Once you leave Tulsa you can start the countdown ‘til Knoxville and when you leave Knoxville in August you know Chili Bowl is less than 6 months away. I tell people that the Chili Bowl is like an indoor version of Knoxville and vice versa. Everyone in racing wants to be at these two events, fans, drivers, owners. The difference – you get guys from different types of racing to run a midget at the Chili Bowl, but Knoxville collects a crowd of 100+ winged sprint car drivers from all over the country, even world for that matter. The similarities – huge crowds, the anticipation, the excitement when you get to the racetrack, and of course, the week-long party that surrounds both events. We’ll be in Knoxville in three short days and I cannot wait! I love everything about the Knoxville Nationals. Everything. This year will be a little different because Bryan is racing the Buffalo Wild Wings 82, but I’m looking forward to that much more excitement being thrown into the mix! We have t-shirts and everything, so he’s practically a professional winged racer now. Shameless plug – 82 merchandise is available online here: http://www.bryanclauson.com/BC-Merchandise-d1-T-Shirts-c1. I still get quite a bit more nervous watching him in a winged car than I do in anything else, so if you’re looking for me on Thursday (B’s qualifying night), chances are I’ll be at Dingus taking the edge off before the racing action gets started.

I love learning about the history of the sport and hearing old stories from back in the day. Some of my favorite moments in racing are when I get to witness history first hand and you know you are watching something special – like watching Donny Schatz win seven of the last eight Knoxville Nationals, seeing Dave Darland inch closer and closer to the all-time record for USAC Sprint Car wins, or seeing Kyle Larson sweep the USAC portion of the 4-Crown (although I admit, I was cheering for Bryan pretty hard during the silver crown race – he ended up finishing 2nd.) Speaking of Darland, if you’re a race fan you need to read his new book. I read it during Sprint Week and really enjoyed it. I’ve grown up in racing and I’ve heard my dad and grandpa talk about old racers and races, so I have an appreciation for learning about stuff like that. I’m sure we’ll mosey over to the Museum here in Belleville tomorrow and we always go to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame when we’re in Knoxville. Me, my dad, and Bryan stopped at Speedy Bill’s museum in Nebraska earlier this summer and it was fun to walk around and check everything out with them.

My favorite thing I took away from Dave’s book was when he was talking about a bad night at the races. He said that just because he finished poorly, something broke, or he crashed doesn’t mean he has to take that with him after the race is over. Fans are still going to want to talk to you and shake your hand, even if you had a bad night. Dave said the best thing about a bad night as that he’s pretty lucky and chances are he’ll be heading to another racetrack the next night where he’ll have the opportunity to go at it again. I thought that was a pretty neat perspective to have on things. I get so upset when Bryan runs bad, usually more so than him. Not too long ago he started on the pole at Kokomo at a local show and finished 4th. First to fourth. I was not impressed, especially because I drew the 1 for him in the redraw! Bryan shares Dave’s perspective on things, maybe it’s something you develop when you’ve been doing it long enough. Bryan once told me no matter how bad he finished or things went on the track, it’s a good night if he’s leaving the racetrack walking and talking. Both Dave and Bryan have been around the sport for a long time and they understand that bad things, really bad things can happen, so there’s no sense in getting all bent out of shape over something that won’t be relevant tomorrow. I like that perspective. I think it’s pretty cool that while reading that part of Dave’s book I thought of Bryan.

Bryan is very, very humble and he would never talk about his accomplishments to this point as being record setting or anything special, but he’s accomplished so much and I think he has a resume to be proud of! He’s won the Chili Bowl, the Belleville Midget Nationals, Turkey Night, Indiana Sprint Week, Indiana Midget Week, started on the pole at Daytona, he’s a USAC Sprint Car Champion and USAC Midget Champion, he’s raced in the Indy 500… and he won a World of Outlaws heat race earlier this year! Winning is fun, but it’s not quite everything. You have to enjoy winning and to do that you need to like working with the people on your team, have a good relationship with your car owner, and it makes it a lot more fun if you have fans cheering in the stands who are just as excited about a win as you are. Bryan has all of these. At the end of the night after winning Tuesday in Beloit Rusty came over to Bryan and they shook hands. Bryan thanked Rusty for all of his hard work and Rusty thanked Bryan right back. It was a small, tiny detail of the night, but it was genuine and it captured the mutual respect they have for each other. I think it’s really cool and something that most young drivers don’t do these days, but I could be wrong. It’s that extra little effort that could really go along way in the end. They won’t win together every night, but I guarantee there will be a handshake at the end of every night and that’s what matters the most.