It began like most nights. Bedtime for 2-year-old Hudson Mack meant a story and prayers.
She flipped the pages and laughed at the pictures, as Travis Mack read his daughter’s favorite nursery rhyme, “Five Little Monkeys,’’ the tale about what happens to those when they jump on the bed.
Moments like these made Travis’ gamble to move to North Carolina to be a NASCAR mechanic worthwhile.
The Louisville, Ky., native left after his driving career stalled 12 years ago. Jeff Gordon’s team quickly hired him as a mechanic and he later joined Chase Elliott’s Xfinity Series championship crew. Travis is entering his second year as the car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR Sprint Cup team — among the favorites to win Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Travis’ decision to move also led him to Lyndsay. They married five years ago in March, had one baby and had another due February 5.
But what happened between the time Hudson closed her eyes on Feb. 2 and opened them the next morning is filled with unanswered phone calls, a confused 911 operator and an anxious search for a shoestring before an ambulance ride to the hospital.
* * *
Lyndsay’s contractions began around 11 p.m. on February 2. They were 20 minutes apart. Everything seemed on course for a morning trip to the hospital and delivery. That’s how it went with Hudson.
Travis was resting and Lyndsay didn’t bother him. The contractions weren’t too painful, so Lyndsay surfed Facebook and watched TV. She later decided to iron her hair. She had washed and dried it earlier and didn’t want to go to the hospital with “frizzy hair,” she noted in an email.
“I asked her why is she fixing her hair at 1 in the morning,’’ Travis said. “I think she realized that the baby was going to be coming, so she wanted her hair to look good for the hospital pictures.’’
Travis fell back asleep but got up around 2:30 a.m. when his wife’s contractions were about 15 minutes apart. He called their midwife. She suggested Lyndsay relax in a bathtub of warm water. As she soaked, the contractions quickened. Before long, they were five minutes apart.
“It’s time to go,’’ Travis told his wife.
But no one could reach Lyndsay’s mom. She was supposed to watch Hudson if they left for the hospital at night.
“I must have called her about 20 times while I was getting the bags packed,’’ Travis said.
He tried a neighbor.
Then from the bathroom, Lyndsay screamed: “Something ain’t right!’’
* * *
Travis Mack always wanted to be a doctor or surgeon. While in college, he served as a nurse’s assistant at a Louisville hospital in outpatient surgery. Most of his duties were routine, but he once carried a cooler containing a man’s severed arm to surgery. He also witnessed an artificial heart transplant.
His passion, though, was racing.
His driving career ended in October 2004 when he was clipped in the right rear, hit the wall head-on and flipped his stock car in a race at Salem (Ind.) Speedway.
“That’s what kind of motivated me to move away from home,’’ Travis said. “I used all my money to start that race. I didn’t have anything, and I didn’t have a race car anymore. Nothing was keeping me back.’’
He also was serving as car chief for Frank Kimmel’s ARCA team. Travis was there for three of Kimmel’s record 10 championships in the stock car series that many use as a stepladder toward NASCAR.
A few weeks later, he met with Kimmel to discuss his future. When Travis mentioned his thoughts about going to Charlotte to look for a NASCAR job, Kimmel encouraged him to chase his dream immediately. Travis left work and called his parents.
“I’m packing my bags and heading to Charlotte,’’ he told them.
Travis quickly put together a résumé and left the next day. He called numerous shops asking for an interview. He got one at Hendrick Motorsports for 5 p.m. that day. Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, later called, asking if Travis could be there earlier. It was earlier than Travis calculated he would arrive but he said he’d be there.
He made it to the shop about five minutes before the interview, changed clothes in the car and ran into the building. Knaus and Robbie Loomis, crew chief for Jeff Gordon at the time, hired him.
* * *
Lyndsay’s water broke while she was still in the bathroom. Then, she told Travis: “I think I can feel the head.’’
The baby arrived moments later at about 3:15 a.m. on February 3. She cried. She was OK, but Travis worried about his wife’s bleeding.
Travis wrapped his new daughter, Teagan, in white towels and clutched her in one hand. In the other hand he had two cell phones. He called 911 with one and tried reaching his in-laws and neighbors with the other.
The 911 operator transferred him to another dispatcher in his area.
As the baby cried, Travis said on the speakerphone: “We just delivered our baby in the bathroom of our house.’’
The 911 dispatcher responded: “You found a baby?’’
“No ma’am. We just delivered a baby,’’ he said. “The baby is crying and breathing. Tell me what to do with the umbilical cord. My wife is bleeding.’’
The dispatcher told Travis to tie the umbilical cord with a shoestring. He handed Teagan back to his wife and asked: “Do you have any shoelaces?’’
He ran to the closet and started to look through his wife’s shoes for a shoelace to take. He had just cleaned out his side and only had his good shoes in there.
“She feels like it was a long time, but it was a split-second decision of what shoes do I pull the shoestrings out of,’’ he said later.
Travis rushed back and tied the umbilical cord with the shoestring. The 911 dispatcher kept asking about the baby.
“The baby is fine. Tell me what to do with my wife,’’ Travis said.
He was told an ambulance was on its way.
Travis continued to call a neighbor for help. They eventually answered the phone.
“Send Missy over now,’’ Travis said.
The neighbor, disoriented after having their sleep interrupted, didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation.
“Send Missy over NOW!’’
Travis hung up.
* * *
Firefighters and an ambulance arrived at the same time.
As they entered the house, Travis told them to be quiet. Hudson was still asleep.
Medics controlled Lyndsay’s bleeding. They allowed Travis to cut the umbilical cord and she delivered the placenta. Soon, she was ready to be transported. Lyndsay walked toward the stretcher at the front door but turned to let the family’s dog, Bristol, out of the house.
“What are you doing?’’ Travis yelled. “Quit worrying about the dog and get on the stretcher.’’
The emergency personnel chuckled.
Now, the issue was how to transport Teagan. Earlier that day Travis took apart the baby car seat and cleaned it but hadn’t put it back together. He figured he had a couple more days.
It sat in pieces on the dining room table.
Travis quickly put it together and recalls the ambulance driver saying he’d never seen a car seat assembled so fast.
Lyndsay was loaded into the ambulance, Teagan was in her baby seat and Travis joined them on the trip to the hospital. It was about 4 a.m.
On the way, he FaceTimed his mother, awaking her. He said they were on the way to the hospital. His mother asked how his wife’s labor was.
Travis flipped the phone around and showed his mom the baby.
Still groggy from being awaken, his mother said: “Whose baby is that?’’
“You already had it?
“Yes, we had it at the house.’
“Are you kidding me?’’
Travis turned his phone and showed his mother the ambulance driver, who waved, and then Lyndsay.
At the hospital, the staff applauded as Lyndsay was wheeled by while breastfeeding Teagan.
They were taken to delivery.
“Why do we have to go to delivery,’’ Travis joked. “We did that.’’
Teagan was examined. The healthy baby weighed 8.5 pounds and was 19.5 inches.
Later that morning, Hudson was brought to the hospital to see her parents and meet her little sister.
Travis and Lyndsay had repeatedly told her that a baby was inside her mom’s belly, preparing her for what was to come. When Hudson first met Teagan, she said: “Mommy’s belly.’’