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Getting their quick Fix Clarence family has made auto racing a big part of its life

Lauren Fix spends more time in airplanes than in cars these days. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Over the past few years, Fix has become an in-demand car expert, favored for spots on the "Today Show," CNN and Fox News along with being a part of Oprah Winfrey's "Live Your Best Life Tour."

Then there is the QVC appearance this month as the promotional spokeswoman for a new product that helps to seal the glass on windshields.

Oh, and don't forget she is the team manager for her husband, Paul, a professional race car driver on the Trans Am circuit, and the mother of their son, Paul Jr., 11, who continues racing on the go-kart circuit. Their daughter, Shelby, 13, gave up her go-kart career to pursue other interests but still loves driving the pit car at her father's races.

The life of the Fix family seems to be in perpetual motion. And most of the motion somehow or another involves the automobile.

"It's just a different hobby," Lauren said. "Some people are really into soccer or boating or golf or hockey. There's a million sports out there. How many families do we know that the kids play hockey and that's all they do? Everyone on our street has something different going on."

The sport of choice for this Clarence family happens to be car racing. But it's not just a hobby. Cars are both the avocation and vocation of the Fix household.

If there's a jack-of-all-trades specific to the automotive world, Lauren would be its grandmaster. She has knowledge in all aspects of the sport, from driving to repairing cars to marketing and sales. Lively and energetic, she picks grease out from under her finger nails as the clip of her speech keeps an amazingly quick pace.

She had always wanted to be an actress but her parents told her it wasn't the best career choice. Still, Lauren has found a way to feed her theatrical need as she has evolved into a national media expert. Her laptop computer and mobile phone are always within reach as her career as "The Car Coach" has begun to thrive. She flies out of Buffalo, sometimes on a few hours notice, to appear on television shows talking about everything from how to buy a convertible to how to winterize your car.

Her knowledge stems from working with her father, George Jonas, at his business, Stainless Steel Brake Corp. Ever inquisitive, she would ask her father how things worked and he, a mechanical engineer, would oblige. It was from those explanations that she learned how to remove the jargon from the car industry. This is something she's able to offer to a female audience that often doesn't understand the lingo.

"When the talk gets really technical people say, 'well, what does that mean?' Well, let me explain it to you because that's what my father used to do for me," Lauren said. "I would say to my father, 'I don't understand why you're taking a clutch out of this car. What is a clutch and why do I have it?' So instead of saying 'well, you don't need to know,' my father would take out a piece of paper and he would draw how a clutch works, why you need it, how it works when the transmission goes into gear. When you're explaining to a 10-year-old, you can't talk at a level that's so high that you don't get it. So he'd always speak at a level I could understand."

And so she became able to hold a technical conversation with a gear-head guy who would quiz her mercilessly and then turn around and explain in simple terms to a frantic woman on the phone how to jump start her car.

While her wealth of knowledge helped her land TV gigs, so too did her love of racing. Active in the sport since 1981, she only runs in a handful of races these days -- including the Zippo U.S. Vintage GP at Watkins Glen on Sept. 7-11. Competing head-to-head with Paul in the vintage Trans Am race, she finished first in Sunday's Sprint race while Paul took second.

She's usually not going head-to-head with Paul. Normally, she's part of the support team, running the publicity and managing his professional career. This season, Paul finished fourth overall, first in the GT-1 class at the Grand Prix of Cleveland, then at the Molson Indy-Toronto he took sixth overall and first in the GT-1 class. For the season, he finished 10th overall in points in the Trans-Am series and second in the GT-1 class.

But more than just competing at races, the management of Paul's small team includes courting the ever-important corporate sponsorship, putting out press releases and feeding a crew of 20 weekly.

"I think we evolved into our schedule," Paul said. "Probably looking from the outside it does look pretty wild but I think it's not one person doing all of that and leaving the burden on the other spouse. It's a little bit of both ends. So when she's out of town, it's 100 percent me. When I'm out of town, she takes care of everything."

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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