A Racing Family reunites in North Carolina

The Red Bull Global Rallycross season came to an end on November 5th in Las Vegas, but the real season ended for me around 1 a.m. on November 7th, after our series awards celebration. After getting a few zzz’s, I packed up my trusty Honda Pilot and headed out of Vegas en route for my new home in Los Angeles. Once I arrived back to my beachside abode, I had just enough time to change over my wet and muddy luggage, to fall festive wedding attire. Once again, I was off to the airport on a red-eye flight to Charlotte, NC.

I was eagerly excited to continue my fall wedding tour for a former Newman-Haas Racing teammate of mine. Neman-Haas Racing (NHR) was not just a race team, it was, and still is a family. However, these days it’s an extended family, since the company closed it’s doors in 2011. Teammates where scattered all over the country in search of continued work in motorsports, or starting fresh in new industries. This group of fun-loving race enthusiasts leads me to Charlotte, where the Newman-Haas Racing South resurrected.

Upon landing at 6 a.m, on a rainy cold Charlotte, N.C. morning, I was greeted by a long time friend at baggage claim, with one of our mutual friend’s son’s, Harrison. They braved the early morning to pick me up and we headed straight for coffee and my newest vice, Diet Coke. S.J. worked for NHR hospitality during the CART days for four seasons. When she retired from NHR, her role was passed onto myself once I graduated from the University of Illinois. Not only did we share this job, we both were groomed at the famous Siekben’s Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI, and both recruited by the Murphy’s, our former Canadian Bosses. The Murphy’s were household names in the racing business for taking care of anyone and everyone in the paddock for decades.

S.J., Harrison and I arrived the Smitty’s home in Mooresville, N.C. to find ML Murphy and crew at the kitchen table waiting my arrival. After some catching up, I retreated to my six-year-old girl bedroom for the weekend for a post red-eye nap, followed by some freshening up, before we headed to the wedding.

The wedding was held at a picturesque farm in the rolling hills of North Carolina. The ceremony took place in the upper level of the bar and the reception, drinks and dancing were below. All the normal wedding formalities came and went and all along all I could think about was how lucky I was to still be friends with a group of people who taught me about life early-on in my career in racing.

Here we are, years later at ‘Little John’s’ wedding celebrating, laughing, hugging and dancing like not a single day has passed between any of us. I am, and was so lucky to be part of something that was bigger than me. This family that spanned the course of 30 years and had over 200 staff members, thankfully was created by Paul Newman and Carl Haas.

This fraternity of friends ended this great weekend with a late night nacho music jam session in Smitty’s kitchen. Yes, our dancing got better as the night progressed and I will say that I used about every ingredient I found in the pantry and refrigerator to make those the most life changing nachos ever. If you’re reading this, sorry for the early morning surprise Mrs. Smitty !

It takes a Village of Type A event planner friends….in the Big Easy

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On an early Saturday morning in October I boarded a plane from LA, my barely new home, to New Orleans to attend the wedding for a great friend and former co-worker. This friend was set to marry a current co-worker and another good friend of mine. Scott and Liz met in 2014 on the Red Bull Global Rallycross circuit and just a year later, a bunch of us convened on the streets of the Big Easy to celebrate their union.

As we know most type A event planners, we were not just there as guests, but we are there to be a part the wedding. That ‘we’ I mentioned previous are my amazing friends that I have accumulated over the years from racing and event life. This amazing group of people consisted of the official wedding officiate, the photographer, the florist, the floral assistants and the ones who filled the mimosas while we arranged the flowers.

So how did we manage to do this in a city that none of us live in, when most of us are still traveling for work every other weekend? Well it took hours of research (thanks Logan) , a mom that used to work in a floral shop and still has a wholesale account in Chicago, some shipping, a free rental car on Hertz points and some good advice from the local florist. But most importantly, it takes friendship, laughter, frozen daiquiris, an actual skilled friend and photographer and an incredible lady whose first time officiating drew tears from everyone in the crowd.

Beyond our wedding planning duties, we got in a little NOLA-style fun, which included an amazing neighborhood restaurant called Horns, drinks at the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, frequenting our favorite dive bar and jukebox on Bourbon St. at Molly’s, catching a Sunday football game at a local New Orleans Green Bay Packers bar, which I forgot the name of since I don’t really care about the Packers, (sorry cheese head friends) and my favorite part, being part of a second line parade through the historic cobblestone streets.

So there you have it, on a weekend off, my pals and I used our #pipedreamcatcher skills to work for the greatest job of all, celebrating the happy marriage of our two friends. Not going to lie, the fun shenanigans that we got into, in a city far away from where any of us live, wasn’t so bad either. Guess what, we didn’t see a racetrack once the entire weekend. That is a success if you ask me.