First, I’d like to thank each of you for the overwhelmingly positive response from my first article. I thought it would be liberating to have an outlet for my opinion. Turns out it was a little terrifying putting oneself on display. I’m extremely fortunate how kind you were to me. I think my favorite compliment came from Katelyn Sweet, who said, “It was an article, not a blog post.”
That really meant a lot to me. Not wanting to be a “one hit wonder,” I figured it was time for number two.
I know I promised this article would be about the “We” so many of us love to hate, but it’s just not quite ready yet. And then Chili Bowl happened, which is where I got this bright idea – I hope that’s what it turns out to be anyway – to feature a race wife or girlfriend occasionally. My goal is to feature gals from Sprints Cars, Stock Cars, Late Models, and Modifieds alike.
Maybe we’ll get our own reality show. Yes, that’s sarcasm, although, it’d probably make for good TV.
Lauren Stewart is a former Miss Eldora, college graduate, self-proclaimed concession-stand connoisseur, and girlfriend to driver, Bryan Clauson. I tried really hard to file Lauren under a certain type of driver’s girlfriend, such as Non-Wing, Wing, Midgets, etc., but Bryan happens to fall under all of those categories, which leads me to my next statement. If you thought our schedule was busy, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Bryan is attempting to run 200 races this year! It’s being labeled the “The Chasing 200 Tour: Circular Insanity”. Insanity is probably the best part of that description.
Bryan and Lauren met through a mutual friend, Misha Geisert, who works at Tony Stewart Racing where Bryan was employed at the time. The two met at Knoxville Raceway in August of 2010, and then reconnected in Victory Lane at Eldora a month later. Lauren, being the reigning Miss Eldora, got to join Bryan in victory lane for his first USAC Silver Crown win during the Four Crown Nationals. Bryan finished second in the other two divisions and Lauren teased him that he won just so he could see her again.
The two officially started dating after the Eldora banquet a few months later. Bryan and Lauren just celebrated their five-year anniversary last week… with pizza… at 11:00pm… at a hotel in Phoenix. The glamorous life strikes again!
When I asked her what she considered the most important thing she does to help Bryan I was kind of shocked. Like myself, Lauren has a marketing degree and handles most of the business side for her boyfriend – the same way I do for my husband. So I just assumed it would be the same.
Instead Lauren said, “Staying awake with Bryan on late night drives! I like to nap during the day, but I do a good job of staying awake at night. He needs me for those duets. “Dilemma” by Nelly and Kelly is our best. We do a pretty good Garth and Trisha too, but only after midnight.”
I can honestly say I’d pay good money to see Bryan Clauson sing Nelly. Anytime. Anywhere. Maybe that can be part of the fundraiser for his annual Racers For Autism event.
During the Chili Bowl, our group of friends generally designates a place for us to all hang out after the races. Each night is usually somewhere different. The past two years, Monday nights have been spent at the Racers For Autism event hosted by Lauren, Bryan, and Bryan’s car-owner, Joe Dooling.
“It’s really cool that all of our friends and so many people in racing come together to support what we’re doing,” said Stewart, “I feel like we’re definitely accomplishing what we set out to do – spread awareness and acceptance of autism!”
Bryan’s high school classmate, close friend, and biggest fan, Ben Hodgin, was diagnosed with autism at age five. Hodgin’s enthusiasm for racing helped him develop further by using the car numbers as a learning tool.
My mother taught autistic kids when I was in high school. A lot of times I found myself in her classroom just hanging out. They each had a way of bringing a smile to my face. Ben’s smile is infectious and every time I see him at the racetrack I know my nights going to be a little better. I can’t praise Bryan and Lauren enough for what they do for Ben and autism awareness.
This was the second year for the event and it raised $76,000 for the Autism Society! There’s a live and silent auction, unlimited food and beer with the cost of admission, plus live entertainment. This year’s entertainment happened to be Tim Dugger. Look him up. You won’t be disappointed. If you attend the Chili Bowl next year just know your Monday is already full.
Lauren joked that she does everything but drive the racecar. Some days I’m sure it feels that way and some days it’s probably true.
What’s that saying? “Behind every good man there’s a supportive woman.” Ok, so maybe I modified the saying a bit but it still holds true.
I mentioned in the first article about us being “the supporting cast.” I think some people may consider that an insult, but that’s not what I mean at all. We all contribute differently. Don’t get me wrong; some of you didn’t chose to be the supporting cast. I know I didn’t. It was just the pill you pulled, but it doesn’t make us any less important either way.
Lauren plays a substantial role in Bryan’s life, as do many women who take a back seat to their significant other’s limelight. I think it takes a very strong person to take on a “behind the scenes” role and not always get the thanks they deserve.
Just because we aren’t the ones hoisting the trophy in victory lane doesn’t mean we aren’t a major player in the race.