Racing Down Under

Another trip in the books. As I write this, I’m on a plane somewhere over the ocean headed home from Australia! I got to go to two new tracks on this trip: Archerfield Speedway and Lismore Speedway. I also got to make three trips to Victory Lane with Bryan, so that made the trip even better. Racing down under is a little different than it is at home, so that’s what I’m going to talk about. Fans ask me all the time what it’s like and what’s different or what’s the same, so here it is.

The format is the biggest difference in the racing. That and the fact that they call midgets “Speedcars.” At both Archerfield and Lismore the format was the same. On the first night, there was qualifying, three rounds of heat races, then the B-main, and the feature. Not three heat races, but three rounds of heats. Everyone runs two different heats that are lined up by qualifying, fast time starts 10th in Heat 1 and 9th in Heat 5. After the first two rounds of heats, a third set of heats is determined by points (inverted). On the final night at both tracks there was a shootout, (think qualifying at Kokomo on a Sunday night) which determined the feature lineup. The top 4 cars in points would run the gold shootout – 4 laps of group “qualifying” and the fastest lap starts on the pole and so on. Clear as mud? Good.

Bryan used to ask me to go look at the track with him when we’d go to new places and he stopped asking after I said, “Let me guess… It’s round and brown?.” I mean a racetrack is a racetrack is a racetrack, right? I’ve obviously been to enough races at different tracks to know that’s not true. So for starters, we are very lucky in America! We have good tracks. And lots of them! Not saying that there aren’t good tracks in NZ or AUS, but we’re definitely spoiled with the number of nice racetracks across the country.

Archerfield is a 3/8 mile racetrack and it’s kind of similar to Lawrenceburg. Archerfield’s corners have a drastic change from the straightaways like Lawrenceburg, especially in Turns 3&4. It’s almost like going up a hill and then it shoots you back down it. Both nights are Archerfield produced decent racing, but the track got a little rough on Saturday. I think it’s because I leave the track with Bryan and I have to listen to him, but I’ve learned to like a slick track much more than a rough one.

Archerfield Speedway

Archerfield Speedway

I like to rate racetracks not only on the track itself, but also on the concession stand and bathrooms. I didn’t make it to the concession stand at Archerfield, but I did unfortunately visit the bathroom. It was like Terre Haute’s pit bathroom, but worse. In other words, it was a little scary.

Butt sweat. That’s the other thing I remember about Archerfield. It was so hot. 39 degrees Celsius. It was the hottest 39 degrees I’d ever been in! Bryan almost passed out in Victory Lane on the second night and me being the wonderful girlfriend I am sprinted back to the “chilly bin” in the pits to get him a water. I had to stop halfway back and take a drink of it myself!

Lismore Speedway is the second track we went to during this trip. Lismore was my favorite of the two, even though it was a longer drive by an hour or so. For starters, we stopped at a really good little Italian diner on our way to the track on Friday and I had the best meatball sandwich ever. I digress. Back to the track talk. Lismore was way out in the middle of nowhere, so we felt right at home. The scenery around the track reminded me of what we’d see around tracks in Pennsylvannia. Lots of trees and hills, really pretty. Lismore has a really unique shape, (and unique victory lane celebration, but I’ll get to that later) like a “D.” I stood and watched at what would be the backstretch normally, but there wasn’t really a straight part of the track. Turn 2 went right into Turn 3.

Lismore Speedway

Lismore Speedway

It was hot at Lismore, but not butt sweat hot, so that was a plus. The bathrooms were nice (for a racetrack), but the concession stand was a bit of a let down. I smelled the steak sandwiches on the grill and they smelled so good it got my hopes up. I got a steak sandwich and was less than impressed, but the hot chips weren’t bad. People laugh when I tell them about my concession stand critiquing, like you might be now, but when you visit 50+ in a year you can be picky!

Bryan won both nights at Lismore, which leads me to the one-of-a-kind Victory Lane celebration. Instead of just pulling into Victory Lane, Lismore decided to get creative and add something fun for the fans. On Friday when Bryan pulled into Victory Lane he was guided up onto a rollback truck. The truck then did a lap around the track with Bryan and his car (and The Voice of the POWRi World Midget Championship – Aaron Drever) on the back. On Saturday when he won he told his crew guys and car owners and myself to jump on and go for the lap with him. That was a first! But it was fun and the fans were into it, down by the fence waving and hollering.

That about covers it! Next on the racing schedule is the USAC Sprint Car Winter Dirt Games in Florida at Bubba Raceway Park and Eastbay Raceway Park. I’m looking forward to going to Florida, but I’m going to enjoy the next two weeks at home first!

Chili Bowl 2015: Top 5

It was a fun week, as always. Here are my Top 5 favorite things from the 2015 Chili Bowl! 1. Racers For Autism: Bryan and his car owner, Joe, hosted a charity event on Monday before Chili Bowl – Racers For Autism. The party ended up being a huge success and was the perfect way to kick off the week! We spent a lot of time and effort planning the event, so to see it all unfold perfectly was really rewarding. Even more rewarding – we are donating over $40,000 to the Autism Society! I still can’t believe how much money we raised. We had a goal of $10,000, so being able to donate more than four times that amount is pretty incredible. I want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make the party a success! Thank you for donating items, buying tickets, participating in the auction, purchasing raffle tickets and most of all, thank you for coming!! I owe a big thank you to Kelly Bacon who brought me some wonderful volunteers to help run the event! And of course Bryan and I owe a big, big thank you to Joe Dooling for being such a great car owner and giving us the ability to put on an event like this! The whole thing was Joe’s idea; I just helped him plan it out! If there’s a guy in the pit area who has a bigger heart than Joe, I haven’t met him yet. I was happy to help him put the event together. The coolest part of the night was looking around the room and seeing all of our friends there! It felt really good to have their support the night of the event and then to hear all of their positive feedback following the party. Mark it on your calendar for next year… We’re going to do it again and it’s going to be even bigger!! 2. Chevy: Who doesn’t love Chevy Clauson? (Well I know a couple people, but they’re just mad that a dog is more famous than they are!) Chevy was once again a big hit at Chili Bowl! If I had a dollar for every time someone came up and asked to pet my dog or take a picture with my dog, I’d have a lot of dollars. Chevy loves people as much as they love her! Chevy was a busy pup during the week with lots of walks to be taken and people to be kissed, but she found time to sit with me at the t-shirt table selling her “Drooling for Drillers” shirts (We sold out – in partial thanks to Danica for her impromptu autograph session on Thursday night. Seriously, Chevy and Danica? Who wouldn’t buy a shirt?!). Chevy got to debut her GoPro fetch mount in Tulsa and she even wore a LoudPedal camera, so I’m excited to see if they used any of that footage for their video! The best part of the week in regards to Chevy was her firesuit. Simpson made Chevy a suit to match her dad’s and it might have been the cutest thing in the building all week… except for Levany Bacon and Owen Larson. IMG_6350 3. 63 Special: Oh, the 63 Special most definitely deserves a spot on this list. If you didn’t drink any 63 Special during the week, you missed out. We concocted a perfect drink mix and kept it flowing in the BCI pit all week. I found that the 63 Special tasted best in a styrofoam Bush’s Chicken cup. Bryan was on drink making duty every day, except Friday when Ricky took over, which is ironic considering he doesn’t drink! He might not drink it, but he can mix it! On Tuesday, after a liquor store run, the front of the trailer looked like an all-you-can-drink Skyy Vodka and cranberry juice bar. By week’s end those supplies, and others, were dwindling. I can’t give away the ingredients of our secret drink, but I can promise you it’ll make another appearance! 4. Big Daddy: Who hasn’t seen Chris Windom’s Big Daddy vine? First of all, if you haven’t seen it you can watch it here (or if you have seen it a hundred times already, go ahead and watch it again): https://vine.co/v/bQjDbF1DmWQ. It exploded during Chili Bowl after the video leaked out during a night out at the Hard Rock. It all started as an innocent showing of the video to a group of friends, then someone had the idea to tweet it, and next thing we knew it had tens of thousands of views. Six seconds of hilariousness that led to Chris forever being known as Big Daddy. He’s probably hoping that we’ll all forget about it, but what kind of friends would we be if we let that happen? This video is pure gold. The best part about it is that it stayed under wraps for more than a year, but all it took was a couple retweets from our more famous friends (Thanks, Tony!) and now everyone knows what to call Windom! 5. Rico: Rico Abreu. If Bryan’s going to lose to someone, it might as well be someone I like! I was happy to see Rico get a Driller. Chevy likes Rico too, so she was tail waggin’ for him! We sat in the stands and watched Rico win his feature on his prelim night. In fact, you can hear us (mostly me) yelling our congratulations at him on the video from Wednesday night! I’ve known Rico for a couple years now and we always seem to have fun when we’re all together. Rico’s one of the few guys at the track that I really consider a friend. He’s a genuine person, his whole family’s great, so it’s nice to see the good guys win. The other thing I really like about Rico is that he respects the sport. He hasn’t been racing for a long time, but he has a really deep respect for the history of the sport and the drivers that made it what it is, so that’s cool to see. I’m excited for him and everything he has going for the future!

Role Reversal: My Racing Debut

There’s a new driver in the family… Just kidding! I did, however, make my racing debut in a midget at Bryce Townsend’s Open Wheel Experience. That was quite the way to end our trip in New Zealand! When I first came to NZ with Bryan four years ago, he asked if I wanted to drive a midget… I said yes, so he was going to talk to Bryce and set it all up. Well, I chickened out before he could even get it scheduled. This time around it was a Christmas present and it was sorted before we even got to NZ, so no backing out this time!

Me, Bryan, & Bryce Townsend

Me, Bryan, & Bryce Townsend

I was a little nervous when I woke up that morning and it was time to head to the track. I couldn’t act like it though… I’m tough! I can handle driving a racecar! It wasn’t so much the actual driving that I was nervous for, but I was really not sure what to expect when the midget got pushed off. I asked Bryan probably ten times that day, “So, what’s it feel like? Like what do you do when the push truck pushes you?”. I had all kinds of questions and things running through my mind, but Bryce and his team made me really comfortable and showed me everything I needed to know. When we first got to Patetonga Speedway, I took a few laps in the push truck with Bryce to get a feel for the track. On the backstretch there was a little bit of a ditch that ran parallel to the track and Bryce made note to tell me to avoid that! He showed me where he wanted me to run on the track – right in the middle (the safest place to avoid hitting anything).

Getting suited up!

Getting suited up!

After my laps in the truck it was time to get suited up and get behind the wheel! I have to say that I think I looked pretty good in that United Truck Parts firesuit! Bryan helped get me all geared up – suit, gloves, earplugs, and helmet, – and then they buckled me in! When Bryce pulled the seatbelts for the final time and walked away I thought, “Oh crap. What have I gotten myself into!?.” I felt the push truck start to push me then the next thing I knew I was on the gas!

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Two thumbs up!

Ok… “on the gas” might be a stretch. I spent most of my laps at a high idle, but I did hit the gas! I never hit anything and I never got out of control. I felt like I was flying – even if the video looks like I was driving in slow motion! Driving a midget was a really fun experience and totally different than I had imagined! Patetonga is a pretty big track with fairly long straightaways, but I felt like I was going in a really tight circle. I never felt like I was driving straight. I saw Bryce grab the checkered flag and I was relieved because my neck was starting to get tired from holding my head up! Well, he must have grabbed the flag a little too soon because I felt like I drove around that place for another 10 laps before he anyone waved it. My favorite little Kiwi, Cooper, finally waved the checkered flag for me! When I got done Coop told me he was upset because I forgot to hold the number one in the air after I won! (Bryan did it when he won the Chili Bowl and Cooper watches the video all the time!) I told him I wasn’t good enough for that yet, but maybe next time!

Cooper waving the checkered flag

Cooper waving the checkered flag!

When I pulled in I felt like a had just ran a marathon. My hands were shaky, my fingers hurt from squeezing the wheel so tight and my forearms were aching, but I had a smile so big that you could see it from under my helmet! I didn’t attempt a cagestand… I think I’ll leave that up to Bryan! And while we’re on the subject, I think I’ll let Bryan keep his job as driver too! He did make a pretty cute trophy boy, but I’ll leave the racing up to him. I’ll continue my “backseat driving” from the grandstands… I’m much better at that than actually driving anyways!

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Victory kiss from the trophy boy!