Coming from an automotive family, where my father has some pretty serious racing accolades, it's hard not to talk about them.
Since the automotive world is where I spend a lot of my time, I love to tell his racing stories. What can I say? I am a proud daughter.
But while I have spent the past eight years of my career talking about my dad, the beautiful truth is that my entire family is full of automotive enthusiasts. Let's forget Dad for a minute so that I may introduce you to the rest of the Hansens.
My mom has never been the extravagant type. She is completely down-to-earth and more interested in comfort and practicality in living and driving than in luxury and extravagance. And she is a natural beauty. She easily looks 10 years younger than she is, and if I had a dollar for every time someone told me my mom is beautiful, I would be a very rich woman.
While my dad did a lot of the driving in our family when we were young, mom would often operate our monster GMC motor home on long drives while we kids slept or played, and that always impressed me. And although she isn't desirous of flashy things, this did not prevent her from wanting a 1985 Corvette ... in red. She waited for the car to arrive as per her desired specifications and was thrilled when it was finally ready for pick up from the dealership in Minneapolis, which is where we all lived at the time.
After sliding behind the wheel, she decided to test out her baby. She opened it up on the highway, only to be pulled over by a policeman who clocked her at about 110 mph. It must have been the big smile she flashed, or her charm when explaining to him that she was racing driver Jerry Hansen's wife, and her explanation that she "just wanted to see what the Corvette was capable of," because the officer let her off with mild admonishment and a warning.
My brother Frans is nine years older than me. While I was running around and playing in the dirt with my younger sister at the track, Frans appreciated the technical side of racing, spent a lot of time in the pit area and became active in karting in his teens. Mom and Dad really discouraged the path of auto racing for any of us. And to Frans, receiving an education from the University of Virginia and later becoming the owner of the company The Cruise Web were his goals and his passion. But having the undeniable love for auto racing in his blood, he began competing this past year in local kart races. He has had so much success that he decided to move up to cars. Apparently he got the racing gene from Dad.
My stepbrother John, nicknamed Jay, also reveled in hanging at the racetracks during the racing years. We would tool around the track together on scooters and, when at the cabin, jet skis and four-wheelers. A lover of just about anything with an engine, Jay also became involved in karting, doing it for fun in his teens. Always very technical and mechanical, Jay decided that he wanted to build and work on his own kart, and he did. I recall hanging out in his garage during the process, greatly impressed by his abilities with a wrench. And a special moment stands out in my mind. During one of his races at Brainerd, Minn., Jay's dad, Chuck, sat gripping his chair in excitement as Jay came in second. It was a proud and emotional moment.
My sister, Jordyn, is perhaps the biggest daredevil of the family and a bigger automotive enthusiast than any of us. At the ripe old age of 4, she was riding small motorcycles, driving speedboats, snowmobiles and any other fun vehicle she could get her hands on.
My dad loves to tell a story that compares Jordyn's gutsy personality with my cautious one. While taking me around the racetrack during a victory lap, I yelled out in fear, "Dad, slow down, slow down." When Jordyn got her turn at a victory lap, she yelled, "Faster, Daddy, faster!"
My favorite story about Jordyn involves the late, great Paul Newman, who was a dear family friend. The racing bug bit Paul later in life and that quickly consumed him. He actually befriended my father in an effort to become a better race driver. It would be a lifelong relationship. Paul raced cars into his 80s.
Anyway, after getting some solid tips from Dad, Jordyn hopped in a Pontiac and raced Paul in his Ford hatchback rental car down the National Hot Rod Association drag strip at Brainerd International Raceway. And, are you ready for the punch line? She was just 9 years old ... and beat him, fair and square.
Either through genetics or by association, every member of the Hansen family has an appreciation for cars and driving them. I am grateful that my parents taught us at a young age to appreciate engines and power, and to operate all vehicles responsibly. What a cool family to be a part of.
Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of a book, the host of Spike TV's "PowerBlock," and a writer with Wheelbase Communications. You can e-mail her by logging on to www.wheelbase.ws/media and clicking the contact link.