Month of May

The Month of May is here and gone. What a whirlwind! We had been planning, talking about, and looking forward to May for a whole year and it seems like it was over in a flash!

50264275_85204_0101_LargeYou all know Bryan did big things in May, but I had a big moment myself! I graduated (officially) from the Kelley School of Business and that was a great way to kick off the month! All of my family from Illinois and Missouri came to Indy for my graduation and they got to go to the Speedway the next day for the first day of practice. It was a wet one, but that gave Bryan some extra time to hang out with my family and show them around – which they loved, especially my 90-year-old Great Grandma Doris who often tells people Bryan is her great-grandson. (When you’re 90, you don’t worry about the details and people don’t bother to correct you!)

photo 1On the first day of practice at the Speedway I had someone say to me, “BC has the weight of the dirt world on his shoulders. How’s that feel?” … Well, that feels like an insane amount of pressure! I don’t think that was true though. I turned it around and told that guy that Bryan had the entire dirt track community supporting him and rooting for him. That is a pretty big support system and there’s not a better fan base in the world, in my opinion. Obviously the month didn’t go as planned, but I think Bryan did the dirt world proud by even being on the big stage that is the Indianapolis 500! It was so neat and so humbling to see all of the sprint car shirts walking around at the Speedway, to read all of the well wishes on social media, and to get text messages from friends from all over the country. It never got old hearing, “I’m not really an IndyCar fan and I’ve never been to or watched the 500, but I’m going to now because I have a reason to!.” How cool is that?!

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So if you liked seeing Bryan in the Indy 500 – you owe a big thank you to Jonathan Byrd’s Racing. David, Jonathan, and Ginny Byrd made BC being back at the Speedway possible. They appreciate his dirt track roots and they want him to race as much as possible. The Byrd family is committed to Bryan and they want to continue to take him to the 500. (They also support him on the dirt, as well.) I think that’s pretty cool and I appreciate them a ton. (Even if I did take a while to warm up you, David!) Jonathan Byrd’s has a rich history at the Speedway and for them to hand pick Bryan to continue their legacy – that’s a pretty big compliment!

photo 3I have to give a huge shout out to the 90+ people who did the Indiana Double with us! I came up with the idea of BC going to Kokomo after the 500 back in December. I told Bryan about it and he thought I was insane! It took a little bit of convincing, but in the end he thought it would be a great way to get fans involved and it turned out that it was. We had people do the double with us from all over the country – California, Indiana, Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, & Tennessee. Some of those fans had never been to Kokomo before and some of them had never been to the Indy 500. It was a great mix of people and they all seemed to have a great time. I spent a lot of time working on it, so I’m really glad it turned out as great as it did! We’ve already had people asking about next year, so hopefully it’s something that we can do again! I had a couple come up to me at the NSL race in Farmington last week who said they drove 2 hours that night to come watch Bryan race (on a Thursday night) because they were fans for life now after being part of the Indiana Double! I owe a thank you to everyone at Kokomo Speedway for being so supportive of my crazy idea – thank you for letting Bryan come do what he loves and for letting us bring a big group of fans to watch him! When we pulled into the parking lot on Sunday afternoon, BC said, “Man. I am happy to be here!.” And his determined drive from 13th to 2nd in the feature proved just that!

photo 4(1)Lastly, I want to say thank you to all of the fans who support, love, and root for Bryan. Like I said earlier, he didn’t have the weight of the dirt world on his shoulders, but rather the support of the entire dirt track community! Thank you for believing in Bryan. Thank you for accepting me and loving me like you do Bryan. And thank you for loving our dogs. It’s a really neat feeling walking around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Bryan and hearing people not only cheer for him, but saying hi to me and asking about Chevy and Stew, too! One fan, who was wearing a BC shirt, hollered at Bryan one day. Bryan said thank you and added, “That’s a nice shirt!.” The fan then pointed at me and said, “She sold it to me!”. And then he asked where the pups were. That’s fun. That’s why we’re in this crazy life together. So again, thank you.

The Month of May is over, but it’ll be back in 330 or so days. For now, it’s back to the regularly scheduled dirt program!

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Cross Country Crusin’ with Lauren

I’m about to start on the longest road trip of my 23-year-old life. Auburn, CA to Grain Valley, MO – 1,700+ miles. According to my map on my iPhone, we’re only “1 day” away from home! Enjoy the trip!

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Mile 1 – Shoot, I probably should have gone to the bathroom one more time before we left…

Mile 90 – I’ve been sent to the top bunk for talking too much.

Mile 92 – I have to pee, but I haven’t told anyone. I wonder when our first stop will be?

Mile 132 – I just heard the glorious sound of a turn signal and I can see a truck stop! Bathroom break! Woo hoo! And it’s three minutes after noon, so we’re right on time for lunch too! Good stop, Truck Driver Adam! Wendy’s for lunch.

Mile 154 – I’m back to riding with everyone else in the truck. Truck Driver Adam just pointed out the first unique sighting of the trip – some sort of dust tornado off to the right.

Mile 231- We are officially in the middle of nowhere. My phone is on “E” and instead of the AT&T sign it says “311-40″ … What does that even mean? Aliens? (Side note: I used think I was an alien thanks to Chuckie from Rugrats and his outtie belly button.)

Mile 255 – No cell phone service and tumbleweeds everywhere. Co-Pilot Shane is napping in preparation for his driving shift.

Mile 372 – I have to pee again.

Mile 385 – Bryan’s asking Shane (new crew chief) about his life story. Quiet guy. I like him already. Oh, and he’s won the Knoxville Nationals four times. I almost choked on a chewy sweet tart when I heard him say that!

Mile 439 – Truck Driver Adam finally stopped! Pee break number two. He’s a trucking machine. Not a big fan of stopping, so I appreciate this one.

Mile 553 – I don’t know when we crossed over, but we’re in Utah! Two states down, four (maybe five?) to go. We’ve got the new guy, Shane, behind the wheel now!

Mile 594 – It’s dark outside. We’re still trucking. Closing in on Salt Lake City.

Mile 692 – I have to pee again. And I’m getting hungry. It’s 9:43pm. I wonder if Truck Driver Shane will ever stop?

Mile 694 – I found chips in the truck! Still have to pee. Half of my problems are solved, so I can’t complain. A lot. I can’t complain a lot. I’m complaining a little because I still have to pee and now I’m thirsty, but can’t drink anymore due to the first problem.

Mile 700 – We are in Wyoming! New state for me, I believe it’s number 38.

Mile 702 – TRUCK STOP! YES. Bathroom break number three and dinner – Subway.

Mile 717 – I just changed into my pajamas and I’m back up on the bunk (my own choice this time). I’m snuggled up up here with my book and Shane’s still truckin’. Hopefully he doesn’t hit any big bumps that throw me off this thing!

(Somewhere in here I missed driving through and stopping in Cheyenne. If I were awake I would have done the Lane Frost wave. Love Lane.)

Mile 1487 – It’s alive! I just woke up. I slept through most of Wyoming and Nebraska. Adam and Shane never stopped truckin’ and we’ve only got a few hours left to go!

Mile 1500 – We’re stopped on a two lane road. Construction possibly? Big semi in front of us so we can’t see. Truck Driver Adam’s getting a little cranky. Hopefully we start moving soon.

Mile 1510 – I have declared the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska the butt crack of America. No cell phone service for MILES. No radio stations. … Get me out of this dang truck.

Mile 1540 – I have to pee. Again. I haven’t peed in over 14 hours! I’m going to need a stop soon, Adam…

Mile 1550 – We stopped! Bathroom break and lunch time. Subway again. The breaks and my needs have aligned pretty well on this trip! We must be bonding as a team already.

Mile 1611 – Are we there yet?

Mile 1620 – We’ve gone to silence in the truck. We’ve talked for over a day. No one has anything else to talk about…

Mile 1660 – One hour to go. So close. Yet so far away.

Mile 1661 – We have to go to the truck wash before we go to the shop. Ugh. Maybe I should take a nap. Sleeping is the best way to pass the time. Or I could keep reading my book. It is getting good. Or someone could talk.

Mile 1662 – I’ve decided to read. “The Husband’s Secret” by: Liane Moriarty. It’s a page turner.

Mile 1705 – We’re at the truck wash. Final stop of the trip. It took less than 15 minutes, which is tolerable after a 28 hour trip. I didn’t even have to get out to stretch my legs (or pee).

Mile 1715 – HOME! I did it. I survived. I need to shower and change clothes, but I’m still not grumpy and that is a MAJOR accomplishment. 1,715 miles in a truck and I really didn’t complain (out loud) once. Go me!

I don’t want to ride in a vehicle for a while… And by ” a while” I mean until tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re heading to Jacksonville (4 hours) to pick up our pups and then on home to Indy (another 4 hours)!

Thanks for riding along with me!

Flying into Friday the 13th

As I write this I’m sitting on an airplane (next to a not-so-good-smelling man) eating some Southwest Honey Roasted peanuts and listening to Kid Rock. I’d tell you what Kid Rock’s singing about, but I better not just in case a youngster’s reading this! Better keep it family friendly. I’m on my way to California to go watch Bryan and the 17w team make their debut! They’re racing with the World of Outlaws tomorrow in Tulare, CA… on Friday the 13th. Seriously. Who planned this schedule? I’m just about the most superstitious person in the entire world, so Friday the 13th would not be my ideal day for BC to make his first start with this new team, but no one asked me! On a positive note – Bryan’s one and only wing win happened on a Friday the 13th!

photo 2(1)So what all has happened since the last time I wrote. We’ve been to Florida, made a couple trips to Grain Valley, MO (to the 17w shop) and attended a Pacers game or two.

Florida – not much to talk about there. At least the racing part anyways! I did get to meet the newest member of the Stewart family member – Buddy the black lab. My parents found Buddy at the racetrack down there and he’s been with them for more than a month now. Dad still isn’t sold on bringing Buddy home with them, but Mom has Buddy convinced his full name is “Buddy Stewart”, so he has to go home with them now! My parents also introduced us to the Riverview Sandwich Shop – home to the world’s best banana pudding. A lunchtime dessert was the best part about our trip to Florida. It’s true – it’s the little things in life that mean the most.

World's Best Banana Pudding

Grain Valley – Well, the last trip to Grain Valley ended with me in the emergency room with a girl I had only met 12 hours before. Before you freak out – I’m fine, but my Monte Carlo… not so much. I got in an accident on the interstate driving home the other day. I was only an hour into my 7 hour trip home. Bryan was in the rig on the way to California with Cole and Adam, my parents are in Florida, and I know absolutely no one in else in Grain Valley – so we had to improvise on what to do to next. I expedited my friendship with Cole’s girlfriend, Taylor, and she really was a trooper about the situation. We met on Monday night and a short 24 hours later she had already taken me to the hospital, helped me regroup after a car wreck, and dropped me off at the airport. Oh, and she saw me partially naked in the emergency room when I was changing into the hospital gown, so really we’ve just about covered all the friendship bases. Since no one was hurt, and I’m very lucky because I know it could have been a lot worse, this is definitely one of those times we’ll be able to look back on and laugh at.

Pacers – I didn’t grow up a basketball fan, but when I moved to Indy a couple years ago I started following the Pacers. I’ve been a big fan ever since and Bryan and I go to as many games as possible. We always try to squeeze a game or two in when we’re home for more than a day. My Pacers are on a playoff push right now, so things are starting to get exciting! Paul George is rumored to be coming back soon, so I’m hoping we’ll (at least this half of we – the other half might be in CA racing still) be able to be at his return game. Racing and basketball – I’m pretty good at being a hoosier, huh?

We’re landing soon and that’s a good thing. Two hours is a long time to avoid breathing – thanks, Mr. Stinky. And he’s hogging the armrest, but oh well, you can’t win them all!

Everyone send some positive vibes, good thoughts, and prayers our way as Bryan starts a new chapter in his career tomorrow! Cross those fingers and toes and wish us luck! I’m sure this season will be filled with plenty of blog-worthy stories and adventures, so I’ll be sure to relay them on to all of you!

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!

New Year New Zealand Style

I’m sitting here at Western Springs Speedway on the first day of 2015! Of course I’m at a racetrack… Where else would I be?! I’ve celebrated the new year at Western Springs for the past 4 years and I have to say, I’m sure there are worse ways to ring in the New Year! I’m sitting here enjoying the sunshine before the races get started. Since this is the fourth year I’ve been to New Zealand we’ve got a lot of friends that are almost like family, which makes the trip even better! My little buddy Cooper Insley was the person I was most looking forward to seeing! We’ve had a blast together since I got here. We do have a little language barrier, American to 3-year-old Kiwi isn’t always easy, but we get through it!

Christmas with the Insley Family

Christmas with Tayla & Cooper

Bryan and I had the most low-key New Year’s Eve celebration last night that we’ve ever had. In fact, we barely made it to midnight! We ordered room service for dinner and then had an impromptu movie marathon thanks to the good movies that were on TV last night! Bryan was fairly content staying in the hotel room, but I made him a deal and we agreed that when I turn 25 we can officially be old (and boring) and stay in on New Year’s Eve! So with that deal being made we ventured out around 11:00pm and got really crazy. Just kidding. We got some ice cream and watched the fireworks at the Sky Tower! About halfway through the fireworks I decided I had to pee, so we called it a night and headed back to the hotel. I was in my pajamas precisely 16 minutes into the New Year and our movie marathon continued!

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Sky Tower on NYE

2014 has been a jam-packed year full of both ups and downs. I finished college, we added a new pup to the family, I had a great internship at Andretti, and of course I got to travel to countless tracks across the country and meet a ton of awesome race fans! Bryan got to run a few races with the World of Outlaws – even won a heat race! We had another good year with Tony Stewart Racing. The 20 team had their fair share of struggles, but the True Believers (Bryan, Brad, and I) stuck it out. Oh yeah, and Bryan won the Chili Bowl to start 2014, so that’s a pretty memorable moment! My favorite racing moment of 2014 is Bryan making the A-Main at the Knoxville Nationals! Celebrating that night at Dingus is definitely one of my favorite memories from this past year. It just doesn’t get much better than the Knoxville Nationals.

A look back at 2014

A look back at 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s fun to look back on the memories made over the last year. It’s also exciting to think about the future and all of the new challenges that are ahead! Here’s to 2015 – lots of happiness, adventures, and memories to be made! Wishing you a Happy New Year from New Zealand!

More than Just Words

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

I’ve read this quote probably a hundred times, but it’s never really meant that much to me. It’s always been just words. Tonight I had an “aha moment.” I thought I was having a bad night – I lost my phone charger, had to go to a group meeting for a school project, and I had misplaced my debit card. I was sitting at McDonald’s (we had to relocate when Starbuck’s closed) with two of my group members working on our project. Like I said, I was whiny and kind of in a bad mood when one of my group members said she had something to tell me. I could tell her mood had gotten more serious, but I was busy typing so I didn’t even look up from my computer. Then what she said next got my attention and made me stop and listen to her. She told me she had been diagnosed with LCIS (Lobular carcinoma in situ) – Pre-Breast Cancer. Here I was complaining because I lost my phone charger and she’s actually going through a real problem! Pre-Breast Cancer. It’s not cancer yet, and she explained it’s actually a really good thing they caught this because if it had gone untreated it would have led to cancer.

So, the quote was proven true – Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Hearing my classmate talk about what she’s going through and what she will have to continue to go through in the future to fight this made me realize that my little problems were just that – little. We’re all reminded how lucky we are and how many things we have to be thankful and I’m here to tell you to take the time to stop and count your blessings when you’re given those reminders. She went on to talk about how cancer has been in her family and how she lost her dad from cancer.

Seriously, my lost phone charger could not have seemed more irrelevant or insignificant. I have so many things to be thankful for and it was kind of an overwhelming moment. I have both of my parents. Bryan has both of his parents. Even better – both of our parents are married! That’s not so common these days. I have four grandmas and my grandpa, and a great-aunt who is pretty much like a grandma. I have a crazy little brother who I love more than he knows. Two adorable pups. I’m getting ready to graduate college in a week. It’s things like these that I take for granted, but tonight I was really thinking about how lucky I am.

Count your blessings, people. Be happy. Be kind. Be thankful for the things you have. And remember, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Beneath the Bag: University Students Share the Contents of their Backpacks

Note From Lauren: This blog post was an assignment for one of my marketing classes at school. I had to research/observe students using backpacks and then write about what I discovered.

Who knew university students were so attached to their backpacks? I’m not talking about being physically attached to their bags – yes, they carry them all over campus and to and from the too-far-from-the-buildings parking garages, but I am here to tell you how students are emotionally attached to their bags.

As I sat in the IUPUI Campus Center on a busy afternoon observing students and their backpacks, I couldn’t help but focus on a few students who were sitting quietly amid the hustle and bustle. As I watched these students, one boy and two girls, I noticed they all had one thing in common. Their bags were all very close to them, even touching them.

The first girl I noticed had a brightly colored, pink and grey bag that was sitting on the floor, but it was propped up and balancing against her leg most of the time. She seemed to have been sitting there for a while as she had a notebook, laptop, a couple highlighters, and her iPhone on the table in front of her. I then looked over towards the boy who had sat down on a bench across from me. He had his backpack sitting on his lap using it as a desk for the laptop he just pulled out of the bag. I noticed his bag was much more plain than the first girl’s bag, but it seemed to be about the same size. Girl number two was sitting in a big, comfortable chair and she had her bag in the seat next to her, but again it was still close enough to be brushing against her upper arm at all times.

Girl Number 1's Backpack

Girl Number 1’s Backpack

After observing the three students for the better part of thirty minutes I decided to approach them to ask them a few questions about their bags. I started by asking why they carried that specific book bag and didn’t get an unexpected answer. All three times the response was, “I have to carry my books to class in something.” So I dug a little deeper. Was it really just books in that bag? I mean, they were pretty big bags and seemed to be overflowing with items when I got close enough for a good look. And the way they were all sitting with their bags so close to them seemed like it was much more than just a way to transport school stuff. So I asked. I asked what they really had in their bags.

The answers, all three of them, were not what I was expecting… at all! I couldn’t believe how quiet, almost shy, all three students got when I asked what the contents of their bags were. It’s not like any of them were hiding anything bad because they all showed me everything that was inside. It was the meaning of what was inside that was so personal and unique to each student. They all had a connection with what they put in their bag every morning and where they put it. Now, I know you’re thinking, what could be so special about contents of a book bag? When the students explained what they carry (beyond books), and why, it was like they were describing an old friendship. These students weren’t just carrying their books from Point A to Point B; they were carrying their daily essentials, their daily routines in their bags. Everything from headphones to gum to a picture of a cute little brother was inside these bags.

Contents of Girl Number 2's Backpack

Contents of Girl Number 2’s Backpack

Who knew backpacks, an inanimate object, had the ability to create a bond with its owner? Now it’s your turn – Tell me about your connection with your bag!

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?!