12 Questions with William Byron

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with William Byron of JR Motorsports. Byron, a rookie, is currently third in the Xfinity Series point standings. I spoke to him at Talladega.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I’d say it’s probably 70 percent natural and 30 percent working at it. I started racing five years ago, so it’s kind of come fast and something that when I started, I just picked it up. I’ve been able to work at running the different racetracks and learning the different cars. So it’s probably 70/30.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

My pitch is probably just the fact that I race for Junior and I think running for JR Motorsports is a good way to support us and kind of branch out into something that he supports as well. Dale and I, we get the chance to go cycling and stuff like that, so we’ve had a chance to bond and hopefully bring over some of those fans in the future. We’ll just have to see what happens. But yeah, I think JR Motorsports is a good way to keep supporting.

That’s a pretty good argument. You’re like, “Hey, Junior fans, look at somebody who actually drives for him!”

Exactly, yeah.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part is probably the travel and stuff, just going to different places every week and being away from kind of a normal life. But that part’s all exciting; you get to go to a lot of different racetracks, meet a lot of different people and it’s a lot different than what my 19-year-old friends are doing in college. I get pictures of them going to football games and stuff. It’s different, but it’s what I love to do, so it’s fun.

4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, I think so. Absolutely. That would be a pretty cool experience to be noticed in a restaurant. You know, I had that (recognition) just outside the racetrack at the same weekend of the race, but if it was just a normal weekend, it’d be neat to have a fan come up and want an autograph. So yeah, for sure.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Probably just how much the teams work on the cars. It sounds repetitive, but there’s so much work that goes into this sport, and I think that’s sometimes lost in the fray of what we do. There’s so much practice and effort that goes into each weekend, so it’s just very competitive. That’s a credit to what the teams are doing, what the drivers are doing and all the engineering that’s going on to make that happen. 

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Dale. We were going riding last week Wednesday, and the peer pressure set in of going to ride with him. I didn’t really want to at first, but yeah. Dale and all of our group chat have just been talking about fitness stuff, that’s been the hot topic lately. So (I’ve) just been doing that during the week.

What’s your cycling experience? Did you just get into it recently with all these other people at the same time?

Yeah, I actually just got a bike. I wasn’t so sure about all the spandex and everything, but it’s fun and it’s actually pretty fast. As race car drivers, you know we love that. Going downhill is fun when we’re all in a pack drafting.

The thing that’s ironic and weird about cycling is when you lose the draft, you’re done. It’s like being at Talladega. So you gotta make sure you get tucked into the draft, stuff like that. But yeah, I’ve been doing it for the last month or so.

7. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I’ve never used the middle finger. Five years ago, racing Legend cars, my second race, I was racing hard and I had no idea what I was doing. I got into somebody, whatever happened — and I got the bird. I got the middle finger.

I was kind of like, “Man, this is kind of a harsh way to start.” So I guess that’s just something that I’ve never chose to use after that; it kind of rubbed me the wrong way and it was kind of a tough thing to learn right out of the box that somebody would do that. So I just kind of never use it. 

8. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Yeah, I think definitely so. When I watched as a kid, what was entertaining for me watching NASCAR was maybe not the same as I think now as a driver. When the cars are hard to drive and things aren’t going well, that’s frustrating as a driver but it’s entertaining as a fan. You gotta balance that.

I think you gotta really express your feelings about the race and not just hold back and always do what you think is best for you and your team. Sometimes you’ve got to make it exciting a little bit and that’s what makes it fun to watch.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, I think you kind of build (it) up. When you’re in the race car, you remember the number on the car, you remember the way the car looks, the way the person drives. You don’t always remember their name, ironically — you just kind of remember, “Hey, this person raced me this way last week,” or “This person keeps running me over every week,” or whatever, stuff like that. You just kind of take a mental note of that and either apply it or keep it and just make sure you have that in the back of your pocket if you need to use it.

But I think if somebody races you really clean, you tend to develop a friendship or develop a respect in the garage and talk to them before the race and stuff like that. So people like Daniel Hemric or Elliott Sadler are people I race against that race me really clean. I just keep racing them clean and ask them for advice, too.

That’s interesting. So in some cases, it could be like, “That red No. 90 car got in my way again! Oh my gosh!” And you don’t even necessarily know who it is exactly?

I mean, I know who it is, but the car and the number kind of take a personality of its own — and I think of that differently than when I see the guy in the garage. I think we all change when we’re in the helmet. We definitely do, because it’s never the same as you expect that person to be, so that’s probably the biggest difference.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I’d say in racing, just probably Mr. H (Rick Hendrick). That’s probably, for me growing up, the most famous person that I could picture and Mr. H and really just Jimmie or something like that would be the most famous person.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

Sometimes I don’t always say what’s on my mind, so I think sometimes I kind of hold it inside. I think that’s sometimes a good quality to have, but sometimes to get things done, you have to say what’s on your mind. So that would be the one thing I would change if I could.

12. The last interview I did was with Daniel Hemric. He wanted me to ask a driver who started out with some financial backing how you overcame the stigma of being a money guy to being someone known for his talent.

I think that I had the sponsors like Liberty (University) with me early on, so that was my way of kind of connecting myself with somebody, kind of showing that I had a sponsor. But that sponsor wasn’t really interested with what I was doing on the racetrack, so it was more off the racetrack, and I think that did affect me because people were like, “What is Liberty doing on his car every week? His dad must know them,” or something like that. That always bothered me a little bit because it was a real sponsor and they were helping me.

I overcame it just with my on-track performance. Just kind of knowing how I started, how much I wanted to race as a kid — just like every kid wanted to — and the fact that I did get that chance was kind of rare. So I just took that opportunity and ran with it to try and win races and show that I can do things that other people couldn’t. That’s how I got to this point, and now I’ve kind of overcome that and I’m able to just be with JRM and Hendrick with everybody that can support me now.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, but do you have a general question so I can ask the next driver?

What sport do they watch outside of racing and what things do our sport need to take and apply from other sports?

This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Midseason changes harm a sport’s credibility

The email subject from this morning seemed like a very late April Fools’ joke at first: “NASCAR Adds Fourth Stage to Coca-Cola 600.”

Oh no.

Look, I get what NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway are trying to do here. The 600 is a long race, and dividing it into four 100-lap stages will break it up and make it more entertaining. Last year’s 600 was brutal — with 131 straight green-flag laps at one point — and people hated the race.

And the stages have added a lot to the racing this year, so an extra stage is fine. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if all races had four stages next year.

But…ughhhhhh.

What NASCAR fails to understand (or at least value highly enough) is how bad it looks to change rules in the middle of a season. These are the type of temptations a sanctioning body should avoid, because they harm credibility — and that’s very difficult to earn back.

Personally, I’m still affected by the worst decision of all time — adding a 13th driver to a 12-driver playoff in 2013. NASCAR changed forever for me that day, and I can honestly say I’ve never looked at NASCAR as a sport quite the same after that.

The Coke 600 decision isn’t on that level, but the concept is similar: A short-term play could have a long-lasting impact on people who are desperately clinging to the notion NASCAR is more of a sport than sports entertainment.

Yes, the “pure sport” aspect has been gone for awhile now — I get that — but it’s painful to see NASCAR toss aside more of its credibility.

That’s what makes this the wrong move.

NASCAR announced stage lengths for every race on Feb. 16. It said each race would have the same amount of stage points and playoff points, except for the Daytona 500 (which had 10 more stage points — but not playoff points — thanks to the Duels).

Now — less than two weeks before the 600 — NASCAR has suddenly decided a certain race is worth more stage points than other races. And it’s worth more playoff points than any other race.

Think about that: Drivers can earn more playoff points in the Coke 600 than they can in the Daytona 500.

That’s very troubling for purposes of consistency. All races should pay the same amount of points. And if they don’t, NASCAR should announce that at the start of the season — not 13 days before the race.

It’s really disappointing NASCAR decided to do this. Want to add a fourth stage to one race for entertainment purposes? Then at least do it before the season. Announce it, let people digest it and come to terms with it.

But by doing it now, NASCAR misjudged what’s more valuable: One night at Charlotte or its credibility as a sanctioning body.

The Top Five: Breaking down the Kansas race

Five thoughts from Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway…

1. Please be OK

The Joey Logano/Danica Patrick/Aric Almirola crash was the scariest incident in a non-plate Cup Series race in a long, long time. It’s not worth ranking crashes against one another, but it was in a category of frightening wrecks that seem part of a bygone era — when those incidents came with a high risk of serious injury or worse.

Of course, this stretch since 2001 is an illusion. NASCAR is safer now, but it’s not safe. And perhaps everyone has been lulled into a false sense of security.

Can you blame people? When drivers emerge from vicious crashes time and time again — even situations like Michael McDowell at Texas, for example — we just come to expect it. So as bad as Almirola’s hit was — rear tires off the ground and all — it was actually surprising when he appeared to be injured and had to be removed on a backboard.

Seeing the roof cut off of a car to get the driver out was an unfamiliar sight for fans who started following NASCAR in the last decade or so. I don’t recall seeing this happen in the Cup Series since I’ve been covering it (starting in 2004).

Fortunately, Almirola was conscious and able to move enough to drop the window net. As of writing this, there’s no official update on his injuries yet. Update: The team did not disclose Almirola’s injuries, but said he is in stable condition and is being held for observation overnight at a local hospital. Hoping the best for Almirola and his family should be the biggest concern for now.

But we should also use this as a reminder that crashes won’t always have a favorable outcome.

“It’s a dangerous sport — always has been, always will be,” Brad Keselowski said. “Sometimes we forget that and maybe take for granted that you see real hard hits and people walk away, and then you see one where someone doesn’t, and it puts things back into perspective just how dangerous it can be.”

2. Truex capitalizes

Although Ryan Blaney had two late chances to beat Martin Truex Jr. on a restart and score his first victory, the race may actually have been decided on the third-to-last caution.

On that restart, Blaney was on the inside of the front row with Truex lined up behind him. Truex went down to the apron and Blaney tried to block — but Truex then faked him out, went up the track to the preferred higher lane and drove away. Truex never trailed after that.

It was the move of a driver who has lost more races than he’s won, especially over the last few years, and is practically desperate not to let any more victories slip away. And in some ways, drivers have to learn what loses races like these before they understand what actions result in a win.

“You don’t forget those days that ones got away or you screwed up and gave one away or anything like that,” Truex said. “You never forget those things. They always stick with you.”

Granted, many of the missed opportunities haven’t been his fault, but they seem to bring out an extra level of determination to seize the chances that continue to come his way.

Blaney will eventually figure out how to close races. The more he’s in the position to have a shot at the win — like at Kansas — the better he’ll become.

3. Loose ends

Perhaps more than any driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is conscious of when his wheel might be loose.

Can you blame him? If his team leaves the wheel loose enough to come off (like it nearly did at Talladega last week), Earnhardt could hit the wall at full speed and have his career come to a premature end with another concussion — perhaps even having lifelong implications.

So when there’s a chance he might have a wheel loose, he’s going to err on the side of caution. It’s just not worth it to risk it otherwise.

You would think, then, that the No. 88 team would be particularly diligent about getting the wheels secured. If nothing else, it’s a confidence thing for Earnhardt to know he can go out and drive aggressively.

But it was another verse of the same old song at Kansas, where Earnhardt had a loose wheel again. However, he also said he pitted in one instance when it wasn’t necessary — because he mistakenly believed  another one was loose.

“I came in for a vibration that wasn’t a loose wheel and we lost a lap and we got it back and ended up 20th,” he said. “I made a few mistakes tonight on the vibrations and what I thought they were and it cost us a lot of track position. It cost about 10 spots at least.

“I’m just a little confused as to why we can’t seem to shake this … I can’t say it’s really bad luck because tonight really was our own doing, but we can’t get in harmony and know whatever it is.”

This reminded me of the time in 2010 at Dover, when Earnhardt pitted by mistake because he thought his tire was flat — but it was actually just his car acting up. But there’s one big difference: He has speed now, whereas the cars back then pretty much sucked.

So although Earnhardt fans are certainly frustrated and are calling for Greg Ives’ job or pit crew changes, I don’t think the 88 team is that far off. The best chance for a victory is to stick together, put together a few mistake-free weeks and then get thoughts of loose wheels out of Earnhardt’s head.

4. False hope?

Just when it looked like Joe Gibbs Racing was going to have a shot to get its first win of the season, it got bested by affiliate Furniture Row Racing again.

All four of JGR’s cars were in the top 10 for much of the race, and Kyle Busch led 59 laps. But Busch ultimately ended up fifth — the highest-running JGR car — and it looked like the team still has much work to do in order to meet its standards from the last two years.

“We just don’t have that speed to be first,” Busch told FS1 after the race. “We don’t have that dominant speed to be up there all day.”

Especially, Busch added, to compete with the 78 car. Which is weird, since they’re basically both on the same team.

My favorite theory in explaining this is echoing something Jimmie Johnson noted last year about affiliate teams. The supplier (like JGR) builds chassis and pours all its knowledge and manpower into making them the best it can; but then affiliates like Furniture Row take the car and has its own very smart people put another twist on it.

It’s sort of like taking an A- English paper written by someone else, making a few tweaks and getting an A+ on it.

Still, that has to bug the crap out of JGR — although Furniture Row is doing exactly what it should be.

5. Points picture

The regular season is approaching its halfway point (Kansas was Race No. 11 of 26), so the standings are starting to be a legitimate concern for some drivers.

Stage points have created some big gaps between the drivers who regularly run up front and those who have struggled, and the latter include some big names.

Earnhardt is 25th in the standings, 77 points out of a playoff spot. Matt Kenseth is 18th. Daniel Suarez, who is driving for a team that made the final four last year, is 19th. And 2016 playoff driver Austin Dillon is 22nd.

So while there’s still a long way to go, there’s little margin for error remaining for drivers who are off to slow starts.

DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Kansas Speedway

I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission. Disclosure No. 2: I might be America’s worst daily fantasy player.

Last race’s results: Was unable to play for Talladega due to Alabama state laws. Would have won $50,000 if my lineup had been entered (I’m kidding).

Season results: $19 wagered, $7 won in eight contests.

This week’s contest: $4 Brake Pad game with a single entry allowed.

Kansas picks:

Kevin Harvick ($10,400). It seems like Harvick has a typically great intermediate track car (he was second in 10-lap averages for final practice). Even though he starts eighth, Harvick could be the hammer for much of the race if he gets track position. I’m counting on it.

Jimmie Johnson ($10,100). He’s coming from the back (well, 29th) after failing to make a qualifying lap and has won at Kansas three times. Oh, and he was fastest among the 20 drivers who did 10-lap runs in final practice.

— Clint Bowyer ($8,600). Again, I’m going with one of the drivers who didn’t make a qualifying lap and thus has to start 30th. Pretty sure he’s going to be moving up quickly through the field, and I love the positions differential opportunity.

Kasey Kahne ($7,800). Are you sensing a theme here? Good bargain for a guy who has huge upside with his points differential after failing to post a qualifying lap (he starts 31st).

Erik Jones ($7,700). I’ve picked Jones a lot this year, with mixed results. But he usually ends up running well — luck aside — and he’s too temping to pass up again after starting 32nd.

Landon Cassill ($5,200). I only had $5,400 left after picking all those other guys, so it was either Cassill or his teammate David Ragan. And both of them — you guessed it — start in the back after not posting a qualifying lap. I picked Ragan last week, so I guess I’ll go with Cassill this week.

Friday at Kansas Speedway: Best of the transcripts

I’m not at Kansas Speedway this weekend. If you’re reading this, you might not be there, either.

Fortunately, the manufacturers send out transcripts of the news conferences and can help us see what we all missed.

Here’s the best of Friday’s news conferences, courtesy of Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet transcripts:

Daniel Suarez said he’s still in touch with Carl Edwards. “I’m still talking to Carl, actually,” he said. “Not super often, (not) every day, but very often. He still calls me once in awhile.”

Clint Bowyer predicted his victory party — whenever win comes — will be much cooler than any celebration former party animal Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have these days. “What is he gonna have, a bike-riding party?” Bowyer said, referring to Earnhardt’s new workout routing. “What has happened to this guy? I so hope that you write that and he reads that.”

— Martin Truex Jr. said it’s doubtful he — or anyone — can match his record-breaking performance in the Coca-Cola 600, when he led .”I don’t think anybody can do that again,” he said. “Look how long it took. It’s pretty amazing to think about what we did, really. All the years that NASCAR has been around and the great drivers and the stories, and to do that in this day and age was incredible. Going to be tough to top that one for sure.”

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. acknowledged it’s been difficult to see late cautions — the validity of which have been questionable at times — take away potential wins from his JR Motorsports cars at Richmond and Talladega. “Especially the last couple of weeks, it’s been real difficult,” he said. “I’m telling you, I ain’t been so sick to my stomach after races as an owner as I have these last two, with the way the cautions have feel for us. And you get angry and you are just as angry as you can (be) before about an hour and then you kind of calm down, try to talk yourself out of it.”

— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said he wants his team to keep pushing ahead as if it hadn’t won at Talladega and locked itself into the playoffs. “I told the guys I wanted to make it on points,” he said. “Let’s be consistent, let’s make sure we are running well and not slacking off. I want to act like we don’t have the win and still try to make it in on points.”

— Jamie McMurray said young teammate Kyle Larson has opened his eyes a bit to a different way of driving. “I grew up working on cars and always trying to make the car better and drive better and try to make the chassis handle better,” McMurray said. “And Kyle grew up in a totally different era where you just drive the car. And if the car’s not good, you move your line around. I feel like he’s somewhat opened my eyes in that we’re not always going to get the car perfect. And if the car’s not perfect, then maybe search around and see if maybe you can figure something out.”

 

First person essay: Kaitlyn Vincie on her pregnancy journey

Editor’s note: Kaitlyn Vincie is a reporter for FOX Sports who regularly appears on Race Hub, RaceDay and as a pit reporter for Camping World Truck Series broadcasts. I’ve known Kaitlyn since she was trying to break into the NASCAR world, and I’m honored she agreed to do an essay for JeffGluck.com on the story of her pregnancy in advance of Mother’s Day.

By Kaitlyn Vincie

When I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Kadence, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Knocked Up. It’s the part where Katherine Heigl had all the pregnancy tests in her hand, wondering if ONE of them would have a different outcome. Like Katherine’s character, all four of my tests said the same thing — and all four were positive.

Yes, there were four.

A quick visit with a doctor gave the final and official verdict after an unsettling 17 hours: Ready or not, my fiance Blake Harris and I were going to be parents. Off to the races, as they say.

I went into last offseason thinking 2017 would be about planning a wedding with Blake, who is the car chief for Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 team. But while we were ready to get married, we definitely weren’t in the right mindset to have a child. I could barely seem to keep plants alive at my home, much less fathom raising a kid.

However, there was a different plan for us than we anticipated. And I am certain now it’s the greatest turn of life events I could have hoped for.

Blake and I are both career-oriented and like-minded people. As a key member of the No. 78 team, he lives in Denver, Colo.; I have been working the last six years in NASCAR television out of Charlotte, N.C. with a variety of roles for FOX Sports.

We met while working and traveling on the racing circuit at an unusual restaurant near New Hampshire Motor Speedway (just your conventional NASCAR love story). But Blake was easily the partner I had been hoping to find, and through this entire process he has handled our turn of life events with grace and dexterity — while I’ve been the temperamental and often emotional one.

Getting pregnant wasn’t my current dream. Working in sports television, however, was something I had my eye on since I was 18 years old, and I wasn’t anxious to have something sidetrack my current career trajectory.

But once the reality set in we were going to be parents, the biggest thing that worried me about our pregnancy situation was the logistics. “How’s this going to work?” I asked more than once.

Figuring out how to balance a long-distance relationship is hard enough as it is. Now factor in long-distance parenting, a time change and both individuals traveling every weekend for work and — voila! — you have our current dynamic.

Somehow, we are balancing our careers amidst wedding and nursery planning, as well as baby appointments in both Colorado and North Carolina, NASCAR travel and living in separate states across the country. My home is littered with bridal magazines, how-to baby books, doctor bills, airline tickets and NASCAR notes.

In addition, I was tapped to cover four Supercross events, which required learning a new sport in addition to my NASCAR duties. The SX events often put me in different locations than where Blake was for the weekend with the Cup Series, so we had to get even more creative to see one another.

As you can imagine, this year has been nothing short of a whirlwind — and we are only in May. While there’s never really a great time to start a family with the long racing schedule, Kadence is due on Aug. 23 — which happens to be on one of two off-weekends we have all year. If everything goes according to plan, she will arrive in between the Bristol and Darlington events.

It’s funny when you work in NASCAR how everything is referenced in relation to race dates and venues.

Kadence is due Aug. 23. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

My current plan is to continue traveling right up until I’m no longer allowed to fly. I never even realized there were restrictions on flying while pregnant — which further proves how little I knew about this whole process. I’ve also learned quickly to always choose an aisle seat now that I am pregnant, because people find it annoying if you have to use the facilities three times during a flight to the West Coast.

Once Kadence arrives I’ll take some time off, but I fully plan to return to work before the season ends; I have a target race in mind. Blake will be by my side when our daughter is born but will have to return to his team obligations in Denver and be back on the road very shortly thereafter.

The life of a road crew member is one of the most demanding positions in the whole garage, and I understand the responsibilities that are on the line. Although it will be hard to operate as a single parent in some ways during that time, I am fortunate to have the support of both my family and his, along with a small, close group of friends.

As far as FOX Sports and my producers behind the scenes, they have all been very supportive — which I am very grateful for. They’ve encouraged me to take all the time I will need in terms of maternity leave, and not rush the process. Many of them have families of their own and understand what my new normal will be.

One of the very first calls I made to share the news was to Krista Voda, my former colleague at SPEED Channel. In a panic, I asked her, “What do I do now?” I remember working with her on our Trackside broadcast when she was pregnant with her daughter, so I knew she had firsthand experience. Needless to say, she talked me off the ledge and continues to be someone I lean on for advice concerning motherhood while working in the sport.

My FOX Sports colleague Jamie Little also has become a sounding board for my various questions about pit-road reporting while pregnant, and was the first to send me a racing-themed onesie.

Jamie and Krista have and continue to be my biggest role models in more ways than one. The job of pit-road reporting is hard — even if you aren’t carrying a small human inside you — and I’m thankful I can learn from several women who have done it before me. But in reality, there aren’t many of us — it’s a small club.

Kaitlyn on the job with FOX Sports, seen here interviewing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)

All the logistics aside, I’m determined to make it work. In today’s society, there still seem to be some traditional ideas that women have to choose between career and motherhood. And that is simply not the case. It’s harder — as I’m finding out — but it’s possible.

I don’t want to transition into a lifestyle that doesn’t involve the career I have worked so hard for; that’s not me. I want to be an example for my daughter of a working mother, because I think that’s a very important message to send.

My new family dynamic really is an example of two working parents who have to do everything it takes — even before her arrival — to provide for the family. It’s a constant balance between fostering the careers you have worked your whole lives for and adjusting to what the new normal will be once the latest addition to the family arrives.

When it comes to Blake, racing brought us together. And even though we live in different states, racing still brings us together every weekend. The sport will very much be a part of Kadence’s life as well, as we will likely be bringing her on the road this season and beyond.

Actually, NASCAR is already been part of her life — thanks to a few challenges that I’m thankful Blake has helped me through.

Recently, we had our largest ultrasound scheduled for a Denver appointment on April 26. Well, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans might recall, he announced his retirement on April 25 — the day I was supposed to fly out to Colorado on a 3 p.m. flight.

When the retirement news came out that morning, I didn’t even give it a second thought: I changed my flight. As a journalist, I didn’t want to miss what would likely become one of the biggest news days of the entire season. Those are the moments you remember as members of the media — being there, being a part of it and fielding your question to Dale Jr.

So I switched to a later flight, went to the news conference, drove straight to the airport, arrived in Colorado after midnight and was at my doctor’s office with Blake at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Of course, it was all worth it when we got to see Kadence’s face that day on the ultrasound, along with a plethora of other organs.

Why the name “Kadence?” The musical term “cadence” means rhythm. Our little girl has completely thrown off our life rhythm, so it seemed more than appropriate coming from two parents who are both musically inclined (I sing, he plays multiple instruments). But although this chapter in life has not been without its share of struggles, I am looking forward to what’s next, and I am grateful for the new challenges that have been thrown our way.

Blake and I are expanding from a two-car team to a three-car team. And as any team president would tell you, those expansions usually come with some growing pains along the way.

The announcement of Kadence’s impending arrival. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Vincie)