Flipping the calendar over to January in a New Year sparks many things amongst many people. For most it’s a time where we set ourselves resolutions and goals for the new year, and create plans to help ourselves achieve them. For me at this time of year, my goal, my resolution, has been the same for many years straight – to make sure there’s an Indycar with my name on it at the Indianapolis 500. And for the past two years, the twist has been making this car pink.
In December at the PRI show, as most of you know, Dale Coyne Racing announced they would be running four cars at this year’s Indianapolis 500, and while I was not one of their announced drivers, Dale did confirm both in an interview and on site that we are very close to putting my program together as well. However, that doesn’t mean I get to relax, or stop working. It’s my job to push this all the way to the finish line. Settling for “almost” doesn’t count.
This past weekend, traveling to two different cities, for two events, two nights apart, and making sure I made time for a partner meeting in between, offers you a great glimpse of my life right now in a microcosm. And given everyone always wonders, “What do racing drivers do in the off season?” (and much of it is usually the kind of secret squirrel sponsor courting shenanigans that simply can’t be shared), this seemed like the perfect opportunity for my first blog of 2016.
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My suitcase was packed, but not with standard racing driver gear. There were no pink Dale Coyne Racing polos, no driving boots, and there was no Susan G. Komen driver’s suit. “The Roar before the 24” was going on, and my social media streams filled with posts and photos of race cars made me wistful for the day when I can take part in that event as well, but my hand luggage was not a helmet bag, and I was not headed to Daytona Beach with my driver’s suit. Instead, my suitcase looked like it had been packed by two, or maybe even three different people.
A Rent The Runway pink toned sequined gown, and an orange hoody with a tiger paw logo, sparkly high heels, Under Armour training gear, business shoes, the chandelier earrings I wore to my wedding, a plastic see through purse with orange highlights, a sparkly clutch purse, and a bag I hoped would be smart enough to carry into a meeting on Monday. A pair of sneakers, pink wristbands and bracelets, an orange and grey beanie, a cocktail dress, multiple T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans took up the remainder of the room.
In Palm Beach, Florida, this was my second year attending Komen’s Perfect Pink Party, and the cocktail reception the night before with Nancy Brinker, (founder of Susan G. Komen) at her home. It was great to catch up with so many friends who I have made over the past two years in a relaxed and intimate environment, and it was extremely cool to meet fellow Brit, and Caesar’s Palace headliner Matt Goss, who would be performing the next night.
However cocktails and late nights do not a racing driver make. The next morning I went for the training gear, and decided to hit up the beach for a run to see whether removing myself from staring at a “dreadmill” screen would change my feelings, and give me better attitude towards this particular form of exercise… For those of you who don’t follow me on social media… Nope. I still hate running. Even when I have a beach. And normally, for me, a beach cures almost anything.
Then, after an afternoon playing catch-up with my email inbox, it was time to trade sneakers for the high sparkly shoes and switch out the sweats for the rented floor length gown.
As in 2015, the Perfect Pink Party was an incredible event that I felt honored to attend. Matt Goss brought the house down with his hit song, and the Komen anthem, “Strong”, and in that one evening, more than 1 million dollars was raised to fuel the fight against breast cancer.
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The morning after the Perfect Pink Party my alarm sounded at 3.30AM, an hour that should only ever be described as “stupid o’clock”, and I was back on the road to drive the 90 minutes back to Miami to catch my “0’dark thirty” flight onwards to Phoenix. A dose of glamour the night before, a healthy dose of reality again the next day!
I wish I could tell you my flight to Phoenix was to test at Phoenix International Raceway, but it wasn’t. I am still hoping, and working, to see whether I can run that test, and that race, but this was a trip to see one of my partners who is helping me with my 2016 IndyCar plans, and to exchange pink for orange and head with my husband to the National Championship College Bowl Game.
How am I connected to one of the teams playing? My husband went to Clemson, and is a massive fan. As a Brit girl, I still find it kind of odd that Americans can get more passionate about College teams (Indy Lights to me) than the full pro leagues, but let’s face it, even a Brit girl knows that a National Championship is a big deal. I also own just about enough orange (Clemson’s color) to not be an embarrassment to him on game day, and just enough knowledge about American football to be dangerous.
Once we knew Clemson were in, we were in too, and I immediately began thinking about how I could make the trip work from a business perspective as well as a personal one.
Travel For The Cause is a travel platform that launched last fall in partnership with Susan G. Komen, and with our pink racing program. It’s a log in, membership based system that has direct connections to airline, hotel and rental car systems, which means our travelers can still gain points through loyalty rewards programs while having the convenience of being on an online search price. The fact the site requires a membership, and the direct connections instead of pre-buying inventory, means that the site is also able to negotiate, and often offer much better rates than can be found elsewhere online.
Now that the site is established, our key goal is to grow our user base. We are working not only on some specific travel pieces for Komen supporters, but also for IndyCar fans as well. Our target for race fans is to be able to offer reduced hotel and rental car rates in race weekend markets at all of the IndyCar races, and perhaps to expand to adding packages that also include race weekend tickets. I know St Pete is coming up awfully soon, but if you haven’t booked your travel yet, details on those deals will be shared via my social media soon!
Then… it was game time.
From the very start Alabama looked exactly like the well-oiled college football powerhouse that they are. Clemson might have been the underdogs for almost everyone there, including for many Clemson fans, but once they got out there, they played with an incredible amount of heart, determination, and they left everything they had on the field.
I would be lying if I said the parallel didn’t strike me. I know what it feels like to have the odds stacked against me when I’m on my chosen field of play, and I know what it feels like to give everything you have after working an entire year just to have the opportunity to play…
There were a lot of broken orange hearts on Monday night, but there was also a lot of pride in how hard the Tigers fought. Next time I get to step into an IndyCar, I’ll remember that game, and I’ll bring my Tiger spirit.
It was a weekend that not only made me proud to be pink, but also one that made me proud to be orange.