Father, daughter bond through racing (video)
April 10, 2013 at 8 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2013 at 11:10 p.m.
GOLIAD - She started racing cars - swapping paint with other stock cars at 70 mph - at 13.
At 15, Lauren Chamberlain became the only female to win a track championship at the Shady Oaks Speedway in Goliad, winning the mini stock races.
By 16, she was competing in the street stocks, taking the muddy curves at 90 mph with the 50-80 other adults racers, mostly men, at Shady Oaks Speedway.
"There is this adrenaline rush - you can't explain it. Only racers know that feeling, hoping your car will stay in the turn. It is something you can't experience any other way, but the biggest thing I love about all this is the relationship with my dad. We are so close," said Lauren, now 18 and a student at the University of Houston-Victoria.
Her dad, Monty Chamberlain, fell in love with stock racing when he was 11, but was 39 before he got to get behind the wheel himself.
"I'd walk into the track and I'd just really get into it. I would smell the corn dogs and the cars burning methanol - it just got into my blood," Chamberlain remembered. "I had wanted to do it forever and ever. It was a 30-year dream."
When Chamberlain started racing in 2005, he expected his 14-year-old son to get into the cars and the engines with him.
He was somewhat surprised when it was his 10-year-old daughter and his nephew who followed him around endlessly Saturday nights at the track.
"She was right there in the mix with me - they both were. I would take the two of them with me, and they were my little miniature pit crew, carrying the tire together. I knew right off that my time in this is limited. I could see she was eyeballing the mini stocks," he said, sitting near the No. 55 Chamberlain stock car he had specially built to keep his daughter safe.
After only five years of racing, Chamberlain said he gave the sport up to support Lauren, who was quickly excelling in the adult division.
"I was like, 'Wow, no one is passing me. I'm the one passing people. I'm a threat here.' And that was my epiphany - I'm actually good. I'm actually a threat here against all of these men," Lauren said, remembering a night when she placed fourth out of 45 cars.
And one of the owners of the track, Rosemary Stacy, said Lauren is recognized as just that - a threat.
"You wouldn't look at her and see a racer. You look at her and see a little, angelic face, a pink-cheeked and freckle-faced little girl. And then she puts on the race suit and a helmet and gets after it like a little devil," Stacy said. "She is out there competing just as hard as she can and does a good job of it."
No matter how often she races, however, Chamberlain said he and his wife are nervous each time she crawls into the cage of the car.
"Every time she races, I'm nervous. ... But it is my passion as well, so I wasn't going to push her away from it. Everyone needs a stage, something you are good at," Chamberlain said.
"It takes money to do this and there are other things we could be doing - we could be fishing, have a ski boat. But one of the greatest things to me was that Lauren loved it so much. I thought, 'What a great father-daughter bond,' because on Saturday night, I knew where she was - she was at the track," Chamberlain said.