Let me start by telling you about the crazy off season I’ve had. Nearing the end of the 2014 race season, I got hired as the JV girls’ basketball coach at a local high school in my town. A couple of weeks into the season, the varsity girls coach resigned. I quickly took over as the head coach of both the JV and Varsity girl’s teams. I always thought there was a lot of pressure in racing, until I had to run a basketball practice with 17 teenage girls in the gym at the same time. I can honestly say this off season was one of the most rewarding times of my life.
As many of you know, at the beginning of last year I sold my graphics business to return to school. I’m currently studying child psychology. My goal is to work with at-risk youth. When the school contacted me about coaching, I jumped at the opportunity. I thought it was the perfect fit, since I was returning to school to work with children. There was not a day during the season I didn’t look forward to coaching. It didn’t matter if I was having a great day or a bad day, those girls could always put a smile on my face. During the first part of the season, I had a long talk with the girls about eating healthy. One of the girl’s on the JV team said to me, “But I love Taco Bell.” I told her I was going to be checking in Taco Bell to make sure she wasn’t there before games. Without missing a beat she says to me “Okay Coach, see you there.” The whole experience really made me feel great about the decision I have made to return to school so I can work with kids.
As much as I love coaching, last weekend I was so happy to be back on my Pro Stock Suzuki. I have to admit, after we got rained out on Friday in Charlotte, I was a little concerned. Only having two passes to get in the show is a challenge. On the first pass on Saturday, as soon as I dropped the clutch, I felt the back tire spin. The bike felt like riding a dirt bike in mud, but I knew we only had one more pass and we really needed the data from that run, so I kept it pinned. We only went 7.08, but at least we had some data to tune from. On our second pass we went 6.96. It was still not a pretty run, but I was hoping it would keep us in the show. As I pulled off the track, I kept asking everybody “did we make it in?.” Now, if you have ever been to the Four-Wide Nationals it is crazy. Trying to keep track of the times on four bikes is nearly impossible for the people working on the top end. Nobody could tell me if we were in the show or not. As my dad and I pushed back to the pit, we were both pretty quiet. I think both of us were saying our prayers, hoping we would be able to stay in the show.
Finally, I got the qualifying sheet and saw we had made it in at No. 16. What a relief that was. On Sunday I really thought we had a good shot. After looking at the computer on Saturday night, we could see we had a lot of room to improve. We were the first off the starting line against Hector Arana Jr., Jimmy Underdahl, and Chaz Kennedy in the first round on Sunday. I was in lane four, next to Chaz. I could tell we had jumped out ahead of him, but I felt like we were right next to each other for the rest of the run. It’s always a bummer on the top end when you find out you are going home. However, it’s hard to be too disappointed in the big picture of this fairytale of a racing career we have gotten to live.
After years of being involved in the NHRA, I still count my blessings every weekend we are in the staging lanes at a race. I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world every pass we make down the race track. We have worked so hard to be a competitor out there and it’s a pretty amazing feeling to see that hard work paying off. As of right now, our next race will be in Atlanta next month and I can’t wait. Thank you to all the people who are helping to make this season happen: Lucasoilsales.com, Bell Helmets, Modern Outlaw, Motowear International, Sullivan Drilling Inc. and Downhole services, and of course my amazing parents.
A lot has happened since my last blog. For the past five years my family and I have been racing Pro Stock Motorcycle on a part-time basis, and I have just dreamed and dreamed at having a shot at running the full 16-race NHRA tour. Well, it looks like this may be the year I can make that happen and I could not be more excited at the opportunity to follow my dream.
When I first started my graphics business, I had a couple of Tough Girl Design’s shirts made. Pretty soon they started disappearing and people kept asking where they could get them. It made me realize that the shirts made women feel good and in my life, I am all about empowering people to follow their dreams. That’s how my Tough Girl Clothing line was born. For the past couple years I have been trying to get a vendor on the NHRA Midway to carry my Tough Girl line, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally found that partner in Modern Outlaw. All of the proceeds from my sales will go to help fund my racing team and I could not be more thrilled because it combines the two things I love most; racing and inspiring women to follow their dreams.
This season I have also partnered with Speed City, which is owned by Diana Harker and John Bojec. Both John and Diana are all about racing, and I’m already enjoying working with them. I am looking forward to being a part of Speed City, and possibly helping them to expand into the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. We are also very excited to announce a new partnership with Kymco for the 2014 season. Kymco gave us two new beautiful scooters and it took about 30 seconds for me to fall in love with it.
Even though I don’t have the money sitting in the bank labeled “2014 racing budget”, I know with a lot of hard work and dedication I can make this season happen especially with the new partnerships we have formed this year. This has been my dream since I was 12-years old and I feel that this is the year to make it happen.
There are also a couple other people standing behind us to help make this full season happen. Gary Stoffer will once again be my crew chief and Greg and Jimmy Underdahl will be hauling my bike to the races. The four of us will work as a team and I am very excited to be a part of their program. As most of you know I am used to racing with my family, and that is how I love to race. These guys have taken me in and treated me as if I was family. I am very comfortable and confident with them, and I think that is a great combination to win races.
The other people standing behind me and helping to make this dream come true are my parents. The first time that I said I was going to race a Pro Stock Motorcycle when I was 12 they told me I could do it. They have never doubted me, and have always believed in me. Without them, none of this would have ever been possible. Of course I am sad that my dad won’t be at every race this year, but I am also very happy for him because this season he will be following his dream too. During the off season we have been working on a second Pro Stock Suzuki for my dad. My dad’s dream has also been to race in NHRA PSM races, and he put that on hold for a long time in order to help me. Getting to see my dad run some races this year with his own bike will mean more to me then I can ever express. He deserves it more than anyone I know.
There are a lot of exciting things to come this year, so make sure you keep checking in with me on my blog and I will keep you all up to date with the inside scoop! Thanks for reading and stay posted for my next blog on testing in Valdosta and our first NHRA race of the season in Gainesville, Fla. I’ll give you a hint. I ran really, really, fast at one of them.
I have so much to say, but first of all I want to thank everyone who sent me messages asking me to update my blog. It means a lot to me that so many people enjoy reading it. This has been a wonderful year for me, both in my racing career and in my personal life. This year with the help of some very amazing people, everything finally clicked on our team.
Looking back, the start of the 2012 season was a rough one for us. I crashed my bike during testing in Valdosta, Ga. That accident not only destroyed the bike that my dad and I had poured our hearts into, but it also hurt my riding confidence. The rest of the year was spent starting over, not only with a totally different bike but also rebuilding my confidence.
In the middle of the 2012 season I remember sitting in Greg Underdahl’s rig on our way to test in Brainerd. Greg taught me two really important lessons that day, things that I think really helped lead to an amazing 2013 season. Greg said to me that being successful in racing takes every single piece of the bigger puzzle. A fast bike, a good crew chief, a talented rider don’t mean anything if you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. Greg also said to me that nobody can tell me when I will feel confident on my bike again and never to let anyone push me. He said when I was ready, I would know. It took the rest of 2012 season to rebuild my team and to regain my confidence, but I did it.
After my first pass this season in Gainesville, I knew that Greg had been right all along. Not only had all the work we put into race operation panned out, but my head and my heart were right at home on the bike again. Even though we didn’t qualify, we were less than a blink of an eye on the outside of the fastest field in Pro Stock Motorcycle history. Whatever had been holding me back in 2012 was no longer an issue.
The season only got better after Gainesville. We already had great team chemistry going with every piece of our racing operation. However, things were about to change a bit going into the Four-Wide in Charlotte. My dad could not attend the race, so he made a phone call to Gary Stoffer. It was pretty touching to me that Gary told my dad he had been waiting on that phone call. Now for anyone who has read my blog before, you know how much Karen Stoffer was my hero when I was growing up and still is to this day, so getting to work with the Stoffer family is a big deal to me.
When Gary showed up, he fit right into the puzzle and again the team chemistry felt great. I think we proved that when we not only qualified but won in the first round. I also have to add we not only won the first round but beat the other three bikes to the finish line with well over a bike length on all of them. I remember when Gary was pushing me back to the trailer, he told me I had to stop smiling or I would get bugs in my teeth. After the race in Charlotte, I knew Gary was a great fit for our team, and I think he felt the same.
As most of you know as well, my dad, Charlie, is my best buddy, o I was excited when he could return to racing with us in Denver and the rest of the season. Over my career in racing, I have never stopped learning and growing in my life. My dad said something to me one day that changed the way I viewed a lot of things in my life. We had a potential sponsor coming to a race, and I remember being so nervous. My dad pulled me aside and told me, "All you can do is be yourself and do the best job you can, and that’s all you can do." It’s funny because it seems like such a simple reminder, but it helped me calm every nerve I had not only in that situation but in many situations. Now, when I go to get on my bike, I feel no pressure. At the end of the day, if I can walk away from the racetrack and say I truly did the best job I could, then it was a great day. When I went to the race in Sonoma, I truly felt the best riding I ever have. I was calm, I was focused, and I knew all I can do is the best job I can. I think that attitude really showed when we went all the way to our first semifinal appearance, and then we did it again at the NHRA Finals in Pomona.
Going back to what Greg said, this season I found all the pieces to my puzzle. I had the most amazing team and chemistry between my crew that anyone could ask for. When I go to the starting line and I know my guys have done the best job they could to give me the best bike possible, it makes it easy to ride. More than anything, we had fun. The smiles, the team hugs, and the all-around attitude of the people around me made this one season I won’t ever forget.
There are so many people to thank for the 2013 season. First of all, the Stoffer and Underdahl families. Thank you guys for believing in me even when I was struggling. You helped give me the confidence and the tools to have a successful year.
Thanks to my family, especially my mom and dad. You guys told me I could do it from Day 1, and you have always stood behind me 110 percent. None of this would be possible without you guys.
Thank you to my boyfriend, Nick Bastiao, and his entire family for your support. You all are beyond amazing.
One of the biggest thank-yous I have to give is to all of our friends and fans. I have been overwhelmed by the support given to our team. Between the emails, calls, texts, and people who come see us at the trailer, all of you have given me even more desire to want to keep racing and keep following my dream.
Racing has been anything but easy. I have felt the biggest roller coaster of emotions over my career, but there is no place in the world I would rather be and no greater people I would rather be around. Thank you all for reading. Here’s to an even bigger and better 2014 season!
Even though I am only 22, I have been racing for 13 years now. Over those 13 years I have a million stories and experiences to share. Some of them are funny, some are sad, and some are anywhere in between, but all of them come from the heart of a racer. While I get ready to return to the track in Denver, I’m going to take a moment to share a few funny moments with you.
One of my favorite funny memories starts with a road trip staring my hero and very amazing dad, Charlie. It was our first trip with our own bike to Denver in 2010. I always loved traveling with my father, even though sometimes we argue, most of the time we just talk and laugh. We had made it most of the way to Denver, and about 100 miles out we noticed a lot of cars on the road honking and waving to us. At this point we are both feeling pretty good about life, thinking people are excited to see our race rig coming to Denver for the NHRA national event. As people were honking and waving we both have huge smiles and are honking and waving back. Making one last stop to fuel and wash our rig before arriving to the race track, I climbed into the living quarters of our trailer we had at the time to make us a couple of sandwiches for lunch. I happened to climb up on the bed where we usually piled our belongings. I was surprised to find the window by the bed open, and both of our suitcases about to fall out of the window. I guess maybe we didn’t have as many adoring fans as we might have thought, and more so, many concerned travelers warning us that we were about to lose our belongings out of the window.
Another one of my favorite memories was on another road trip. Only this time it was with one of our crew members, Dennis Bagshaw. When I travel with the rig, I always do at least half of the driving. I love being the truck driver. Sometimes it comes as a little bit of a surprise to other traveling big rigs to see this little girl driving our 64-foot rig. We were headed to Houston, and I was stuck in a construction site. I had been waiting at the same stop sign for over 15 minutes and there was no sign of any other cars or trucks letting us onto the freeway. I decided finally to take my turn into my own hands, and may or may not have had to cut off another truck to do so. Of course, the truck driver didn’t take lightly to my pushy driving and I saw him coming in the side mirror. He had his middle finger stuck out the window and his other hand blowing his horn. I believe he was pulling up to the driver side window to have some words with me. That was until he realized I was a young girl. I have never seen a truck driver turn so many shades of red in my life. He turned his head, and booked it as fast as he could to get away from me.
When things go wrong in racing, at the end of the day what really matters is that everyone is alive and healthy. As most of you know, not too long ago I had a pretty bad accident on a motorcycle during pre-season testing. The 170-mph crash resulted in our bike being broken into two pieces. The only things salvageable from the wreck were the computer, the back wheel, and surprisingly a couple of funny stories. I remember climbing over the wall after I got done sliding, trying to locate my bike. As I’m standing there looking at my wrecked bike, I remember thinking ‘Oh great Katie. Look what you’ve done.’ How are we going to race in Gainesville now?” Keep in mind, I was in a little bit of shock at the time, now it is kind of funny to look back at the accident and think that my main concern was how I was going to get to the next race.
The next scene of the wreck was everyone showing up to where the bike and I were over the guard rail. My dad was hugging my neck so tight I couldn’t breathe. Of course I don’t find his concern funny, but I do laugh a little bit at the events to follow. The ambulance took me back to the pit, and of course we made a smart decision for my dad to take me to the hospital just to get checked out. I was sitting in the passenger seat and my still father, still traumatized from the accident, climbed into the driver’s seat. His hands were shaking so bad, he couldn’t even start the rental car. I was a little more calm then everyone at the time, because I knew that I was okay. As I was watching him shaking trying to just start the rental car, I turned to the guys who had climbed in the back seat and said “Guys I was just in a high speed accident, and by the look of my dad right now, if he drives us to the hospital, chances are good we are going to be in another one. How about somebody less shaky drive?”
I realized the severity of the accident, but when people are upset the only thing I know how to do is to try and make people smile and laugh. At the hospital, I could see that my dad understandably was still very upset, I tried once again to make light of the situation. I turned to him and said “Look dad, I know your upset, but I am okay. The important thing to remember here is that with that Suzuki out of our hair it opens us up to getting a Buell.” Finally I got to see him smile again. When times get tough, I really believe all you can do is laugh and focus on the positives.
The next tale comes from my beautiful grandmother. In Denver last year my dad and I were both trying to qualify in Pro Stock Motorcycle. As all of you probably know, grandmas are full of great wisdom and after we had both failed to qualify we were in the motorhome licking our wounds and taking part in a tiny bit of self-misery. My grandmother came to rescue with yet another uplifting comment to my father, “Charlie, speed or no speed…. You looked really good out there.”
This next story I could be in trouble for sharing, but I like all of you and your faithful readers so I will take the heat for it. We were at a race and I was so tired, my dad and a couple of our fellow racers invited me to go on a golf cart ride. Luckily, I declined and went to bed in the bed I had made by my bike in the trailer. The next morning I woke up and stepped outside to the view of our golf cart slightly smashed up and up outside of our trailer. I walked into the living quarters of the trailer, just in time to find my father climbing out of bed. As my father climbed down I noticed a pretty big cut on his forehead and dried blood on his face. I said to him “Dad what happened?” Then thinking better of the situation, I decided I would rather not know. Some stories between a father and daughter are better left un-told. What I did find out later is the last voice heard coming from the motocross track was “If you lift, you’re a sissy!” Nobody except the three passengers aboard the golf cart will really know what went on that night, and it’s probably best that way.
Before we ever thought we would be racing with the pros my family all went to the race track together to have fun and spend time as a family. We all loved each other very much, except a slight family feud between my sister, Kristen, and I. I have an obsession with Skittles candy, and she knows it. At one race where we were both racing our Jr. Dragsters she decided it would be funny to hide my Skittles from me. Only she didn’t pick a very good place to hide them. As my sister made her pass, parts came flying out of her car all the way down the track. The track crew went out to find the missing parts, only to realize her car was losing skittles, not parts. Everyone laughed and thought this was funny, until Kristin forgot to take the Skittles out of the car for her second pass. It didn’t seem as funny to everyone when they had to clean the skittles off the track for the second time that day.
The final story comes from our day’s dirt track racing. For a brief period in our lives we owned a stock car that my brother, Chance, drove. I was not old enough to be back in the pits, but I loved racing and there was no way I was going to be stuck in the stands. My brother is an extremely funny person, but in this story I don’t believe he was trying to be funny. We were in the A-Main race and Chance had tangled up with another driver. The incident was not his fault, but the girlfriend of the other driver felt otherwise. As Chance was checking out his wrecked car this girl came barreling over to our pits sticking her finger in Chance’s face and yelling at him about wrecking her boyfriend’s car. As this girl is yelling and carrying on Chance didn’t even look up at her. She continued yelling and causing a scene, and finally Chance raises his head looks up at her, smiles then politely goes back to looking at his car. This outraged the girl, but at that point she had run out of things to yell especially with Chance not listening. She put her head down and slowly walked away from our pit. I have never laughed so hard in my life, and I think that incident although I found it hilarious spoke volumes of my brother’s character.
Racing is a very serious sport, it’s dangerous and not to be taken lightly. However, at the end of the day as long as everyone is healthy that is the most important thing. Second to everyone’s health is seeing a smile on everyone’s face. I always said if racing ever stops bringing a smile to my face, I wouldn’t want to take part in it any longer. Even though I don’t ever see that happening for myself, I try hard to make sure everyone else involved in our race team keeps smiling as well. So I hope everyone found humor in some of our stories, and remember you’re involved in racing for the love of racing, the good times, and the great people. At the end of the day that’s all that matters.