Laurie Gray – 2017 WERock Competitor
Featured Ladies Racers

Laurie Gray – 2017 WERock Competitor

W.E. Rock Rock Crawling Lady Driver Bio for Laurie Gray

Laurie Gray WERock Ladies Offroad NetworkDriver of Record: Laurie Gray
Spotter: Brian Gray
Age: 48
From: Marietta, GA
Class: East Coast Unlimited Class
Team Name: Team Chaos Racing
Team Relationship:  Husband/Wife

How long have you been competing in Rock Crawling?  What Classes?  Finishes?  This will be my third year; In 2015, I ran sportsman class for one competition. I took a third my first time out!  2016 was my first year in the Unlimited Class with my current buggy, and I placed 5th, 7th, and 5th in the East Coast series events and 9th at Nationals. I was so proud to be the highest-scoring female driver at Nationals and Trail Hero, and also be part of the highest-scoring husband and wife team in both events as well.

How did you get into rock crawling and decide to go competitive?  What is your background?  My husband has been offroading for years and I was always in the passenger seat. I got my first Jeep, a 97 TJ, in 2008. The first weekend I had it, I had it (temp tags and all) on trails I had no business being on, so I was alternatively terrified and thrilled: I was hooked. In 2011, I got my first buggy, a little 2400 pound rig that could crawl anything. In 2016 I got my current buggy. Justin Hall had won 3 National Championships in it, so I know the rig is totally capable of doing anything I want it to do.

Laurie Gray WERock Ladies Offroad NetworkCompetition became a "thing" for me when we volunteered to be judges at the Dayton TN event in 2014. As I judged the sportsman classes, I thought, "I could do this!" I came home and posted something to that effect on Facebook; it was neat when it showed up in my Facebook memories last year.

What has been your most exciting achievement in W.E. Rock Rock Crawling? At the Trail Hero competition in 2016, National Champion Tracy Jordan complimented me on my driving.  That evening, I had lost my power steering and I was knocked out of the competition early. I was feeling a little bummed, but then Tracy walked over to me and complimented my driving and congratulated me on my season.  At that point, I didn't care where I landed in the placings, and I didn't care that my rig was broken: Tracy had sought me out and complimented me! I remember thinking to myself: YES! I BELONG!  All of my hard work last season, spending every weekend practicing and learning the new rig before the season started, paid off right then. 

What is the most challenging part of Rock Crawling?  
Last season, everything was new and the learning curve felt vertical all the time. Every time I got in the seat, I was learning something new. The buggy was new, the competitors were new. All of the venues except one were new, and even at that venue, the courses were new. Just about the time I got comfortable on the East Coast, we headed to Nationals where I saw the biggest courses I had ever seen. My Dad was with us when we walked those courses. He asked me, "well what do you think?" I remember taking a deep breath, blowing out all the air, shrugging my shoulders and saying, "wow, they are big." Honestly, it was all I could say because I was overwhelmed. Fortunately, the game had really slowed down for me over the course of the season, and by the end of it, I was feeling a lot more comfortable and in control. I had the best score of the day on one of the courses at Nationals, and when you consider who the competition was, I was delighted. 

Laurie Gray WERock Ladies Offroad NetworkIn your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good rock crawler? I think being calm in the face of ambiguity and chaos is the key for the driver and spotter. Despite all of the practice, and despite having a strategy for each course, inevitably we get out there and things don't go as planned. Remaining calm, keeping your wits about you, and being able to problem solve on the fly makes it better. Also, being in partnership with my spotter is key because two heads are better than one.

As far as the buggy goes, a sound, safe, reasonably capable rig is really all that is needed to get started in sportsman class. I encourage everyone I know to come out and give the Sportsman Class a try at least once; I think they'd be surprised at how do-able and fun it is. Of course, as you move up through Pro Mod and into Unlimited, the car requirements become a lot more specialized and stringent. The removal of the rear steer penalty last year really opened up the field in terms of the car diversity in the Unlimited Class, and I suspect that we are going to continue to see innovative things from fabricator-drivers like Jesse Haines and others.

What does event prep look like in your world? The car lives a pretty pampered life. After each event, and even after each outing, she's washed down and inspected. Things that need to be fixed are fixed on the spot, or noted for the next wrench day. I have learned a lot about wrenching so Brian and I both work in the garage. We like to have the car ready to go about two weeks before a competition so we can just get to the event and get set up at our own pace. The car prep is the easy part! 

Brian handles our media and most of the sponsorship relations. That is a year round job, easily 10 or more hours per week. Between keeping the social media feeds going, talking to sponsors, and connecting people, he stays really busy but it has paid off because our following has increased a lot over the past year. I handle some of our sponsor relationships. Last year we scheduled a couple of photo shoots to be used for publicity; we shared responsibility for setting those up.
We pay careful attention to diet and exercise because it's necessary on and off the course. We both work with a personal trainer, and she's well aware of the things we need to be able to do. Physical endurance is important on the course, particularly for Brian, but it's required to make it through competition weekends as well. I find that planning and preparing meals in advance is key for us because we have some specialized dietary needs that we need to stay on top of. I have the responsibility to plan, prep and freeze meals before we leave home if we are taking the camper, or plan and shop for eat-by-hand meals if we are staying in hotels. 
We spend a lot of time planning transportation and also getting from place to place. Our closest event, the opener at Dayton TN, is a little over two hours from home but everything else requires between 12 hours and 29 hours of driving time. Depending on what rigs we want to take in addition to the competition buggy, we take our toy hauler and/or racing trailer. Last year, we left the truck, racing trailer, and buggy at a sponsor's house in Cedar City, Utah between Nationals and Trail Hero and then commuted from Las Vegas to Atlanta and back in between. This year we may need to do that between the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania events, but we are hoping to just stay out west between Nationals and Trail Hero and eliminate the commuting back and forth. This travel complexity requires us to manage our time off from work carefully as well.

What does a typical competition weekend look like for your team?  For the east coast events, we arrange our travel plans to arrive Friday afternoon so we can set up Camp Chaos and tech in while it's still light, then relax in the evening.  Competition starts bright and early Saturday morning and runs until Sunday afternoon. We tear down camp on Sunday afternoon and get ready to go, but most frequently, we stay over at the venue on Sunday night so we can get a fresh start as we begin our return trip home bright and early on Monday morning.

Laurie Gray WERock Ladies Offroad NetworkWhat do you look forward to at W.E. Rock events, past the actual competition?   Let me answer this a bit differently: I really missed my co-competitors and their teams once the season ended. There is such a sense of family when we get together. We hang out together at events, and there is a lot of laughter. I love the camaraderie. It doesn't matter if someone needs a hand with a repair, a welder, buggy parts, a CO2 tank for their lockers, or some ketchup for their hamburgers; everyone is there sharing with and helping each other. 

What are your goals for this year’s W.E. Rock Series? This year, we are going to make the podium on the East Coast!

What excites you about competing?  I think it is all about successfully solving the puzzles. Each course, each day, has its own set of challenges. Once you add variables like car configurations, running order, and weather, it makes for a really awesome on-the-fly puzzle to solve. I have butterflies before each competition, but once I get on the first course, that all goes away and I am in a bubble, living entirely for the moment. It's not something we can easily do in daily life - immerse ourselves entirely in the moment and be wholly focused on achieving one thing. Its an adrenaline rush when you are doing big drops or climbs, for sure, but the best feeling is that of accomplishment when you complete a course in time with a good score.

What is a piece of advise that you have been given that you have taken to heart and instill into your racing career?  Or, quote that you always remember.  It's all about seat time, seat time, and more seat time.  I am fortunate to have Justin Hall as a mentor and guide. I only half-jokingly call him my sensei, and he reminds me of the importance of seat time each time we talk. The more seat time you get, the more experience you have under your belt, the more familiar things become, and the more gracefully you can manage weird things that come up on the course.

Tell us about the rest of the Team that Supports you.  Define the roll of the driver and spotter in your team.  My spotter is my husband, Brian. We've been married nearly 27 years and I do think that it gives us the competitive advantage because we can communicate with a glance and we are completely in tune with each other. He pushes me but he also knows my limits.  We drive each other forward, but we also talk each other down. If you listened to our comms, you might hear things like, "I love you, now go drive off that cliff", or "Two minutes left? That's all the time in the world! We've totally got this." and my favorite, "are you sure about this? It really doesn't feel too good right now." I think it's something that has brought us closer together because it's a shared goal. Prior to competition, when we walk the courses, it's a pretty even mashup of our ideas about how to tackle various obstacles. Once we get on the course, he's got the fine tuning on the details of tire placement and throttle control needed at the gates, and that's what he's advising me on. He's my tech support, giving me sanity checks on whether I have the right combination of lockers and brakes applied. He's also my superhero: one of my favorite photos from last year was him holding on to the spotter rope with all he had while the car was nearly on its side.​

We can't do this alone, though. We have a cadre of family and friends who pitch in. Our son, Andrew and our daughter Sara help us out at competitions with anything from tech support to social media streaming to food prep. As I mentioned earlier, I Justin Hall has been a great mentor and friend whose guidance fast-forwarded my ability to run the car on the courses. We are blessed to have a group of friends who will jump in at any opportunity, whether it is with wrenching, running errands, helping to drive, helping to fix dinner, or just listening to our latest crazy plans. We hope to have a great turnout to support us at the season opener in April since it's so close to home.
Finally, the community really supports us as well and we are so grateful for that. This may be the owners of various parks who have graciously opened their doors to us for practice, to folks who will help promote what we are doing. 


• ProComp
• Smittybilt
• 4 Wheel Parts
• JM Rigging Supply
• Howe Performance
• Daves Offroad Supply
• MLS Powersports
• GMZ Race Products
• Iron Man 4×4 Fab
• Cipher Auto
• Factory UTV
• Filthy Motorsports
• 4WD Factory
• Evolution Powersports
• GoPro
• Leatt
• Ogio
• Ryno Power
• Pit Posse
• Slick Products

Laurie Adds:  My 2017 campaign is #getuncomfortable because it's just such an important way to live. I believe that unless you get uncomfortable now and then you aren't making progress in your life. Here's the thing: getting uncomfortable can be different things to different people, and it changes over time. 

When I'm out on the course, nearly on my side, I am definitely uncomfortable. When I am upside down, that was uncomfortable too. It's not always physical discomfort.. When I decided to run the unlimited class in a car that we new to me, that was uncomfortable. When I looked at the size of the courses at Nationals last year, that was really uncomfortable! 
Each time, though, I have fought through that discomfort and overcome it, and it's made me a better person on the other side. This applies to all areas of life. I encourage those I manage at work to think about what getting uncomfortable means to them as they set their professional goals. I encourage my adult children to think about it too as they are planning out their education and their careers. 
I want to challenge each person that reads this to pick a way to #getuncomfortable and then work their way through it. I'd love to hear their stories of achievement while overcoming their fears.


SnapChat: tcrladycrawler

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Author: Laurie Gray