by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Rally America

The podium celebration after a typical Rally America National Championship event follows a fairly well established format. The top three cars, first for the overall standings and later for each class, are pulled into position in front of the podium backdrop. The drivers and co-drivers are introduced, climb on top of their respective cars, are given champagne, and are set free to celebrate as they see fit.

Usually, that should total six people standing on top of their respective vehicles. For the Super Production class at last weekend’s Rally Colorado, though, there were seven.

Winning SP driver Brad Ames and his usual co-driver Terry Crawford were on top of their car, as expected. But joining them on the hood was Valerie Briley, who served as an emergency fill-in for Crawford on Friday in only her first time in the car.

“The first day of stages was actually my birthday,” Crawford explained. “I had some issues with a pinched nerve in my back and actually ended up sitting out the whole first day. I was upset and it was looking like the beginnings of a terrible weekend. Valerie stepped in for me all day Friday while I struggled to walk around the pits. She did an amazing job helping Brad keep the car pointed in the right direction.”

“Rally Colorado was a wild ride for sure,” said Ames. “Todd and Valerie Briley were out at the event as our crew and to get first hand experience at what stage rallies are like. I quickly got a hold of them and Val excitedly agreed to try her hand at co-driving. She did absolutely amazing and we had a blast, even placing first in SP on Friday! Todd kept the car together all by himself and come Saturday Terry was ready to jump back in the seat.”

With the co-driver situation settled for Friday, Ames and Briley had a clean day to earn the top spot in class at the event halfway point. With Zach Whitebread and Cameron Carr Super Rallying after a first-stage crash and Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn DNFing due to engine issues, all it would take was a clean Saturday with Crawford to hold onto the top spot.

When all was said and done, that’s exactly what they got. At 2:51:17.5, Ames and Crawford were allowed to continue after the co-driver switch and able to win the class by just over six minutes over Whitebread and Carr. All three would be able to spray champagne at the end of the event.

“Valerie mentioned being interested in co-driving for her husband Todd the night before the stages began,” Crawford added. “With me injured and no other options, we put her in the seat with an hour heads up. That takes an incredible amount of courage. She went out and made it look like it was just another day in the office.”

“Was it stressful? Sure,” Ames concluded. “But I rally to have fun, and do the best I can. That means no matter what, we have a good time, and when we podium, it is the sweet, sweet icing on the cake!”