It was love at first oil change

SALEM – Traci Bastian of Wickliffe celebrated her birthday Friday at the Steel Valley Super Nationals, and was excited to see her friends and family come to Quaker City Motorsports Park to celebrate.

Little did she know her boyfriend, Greg Lawrence of Volant, Pa., had an extra surprise for her for the weekend.

Just before Greg raced Traci’s father, Bob, on Saturday, Greg got out of his car, got down on bended knee and proposed to Traci – and she said yes.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Traci said. “I thought everyone was coming down for my birthday on Friday.”

The plan was perfect. Greg was experiencing “a leak in the engine” and Traci, who also serves as Bob’s crew chief, right away came to see what was wrong with Greg’s car. Then Greg stopped her.

“She knows to look under the scoop for fire,” Greg said. “When something goes wrong, the first thing you look for is fire. If there’s fire, you come to the back of the car, shut it off and then take care of the fire. She was trying to go back to the back of the car until we got the hood off, and I told her ‘No, no, no, stop, stop, stop.’ I had to physically stop her.”

Greg’s proposal was eight months in the making, including contacting Traci’s friends and his family. Greg said overall close to 30 people knew about the plans, and none of them said a word to Traci.

“She’s got two sides of friends,” Greg said. “So I’m trying to get a hold of these ones, and get a hold of those ones, and I said ‘We’re having a birthday party. You want to be there.'”

Just about everyone in the family knew as well as Traci’s mother, Chris.

“I knew,” Chris said. “She thought all of these relatives came for her birthday which was yesterday.”

The couple met two years ago when both Greg and Bob Bastian were at Quaker City at a racing night. The race was delayed due to oil on the field, and after she let her father know, she went over to Greg and the two talked for a little bit.

“The following weekend, I was back racing, she had a wedding to go to, and her dad asked me if I was on Facebook, I told him no,” Greg said. “By the end of the night, her dad and I was sitting around drinking beer, and asked for my phone number. Her and I talked five, six hours on the phone every night.”

Bob looks forward to Greg joining the family, and appreciates the help Greg has provided over the last two years.

“He’s always a thoughtful man,” Bob said. “He would help if we needed to fix something. He would always be there. He likes getting the job done in the first place.”

Greg, who has been racing for the last seven years, chose the Super Nats to propose to her since the event fell around her birthday. The next question will be the wedding date.

“My mom asked me the same question two weeks ago,” Greg said. “I don’t think that’s totally my decision. That’s up to us when we decide to get that.”

The Steel Valley Super Nationals concludes at 5 p.m. today.