By Tim Haddock
Before the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Martinsville Speedway, driver Brendan Gaughan was able to catch the Hollywood premiere of "The Punisher" starring John Travolta and Tom Jane at the Kodak Theatre.
No coincidence that one of the sponsors of Gaughan's Penske Jasper Motorsports Dodge is Kodak.
A host of Hollywood's elite attended the premiere, but Gaughan was more excited about meeting a member of the comic book elite.
"John Travolta and Kelly Preston were there. Gene Simmons from KISS was there. Tom Jane and his fiance Patricia Arquette were there," Gaughan said. "The coolest guy in the world is the guy from Marvel Comics. His name is Avi, and I don't know his last name, but he was the only guy I wanted to meet. He's the neatest guy, and he's a big race fan. I had my Kodak with me, and I took his picture. He's going to come to Fontana and hang out with us."
Walking down the red carpet for a movie premiere was something new for Gaughan. But it didn't compare to getting ready for a NASCAR race.
"It's not as awe-inspiring as NASCAR. You jump in the back of a pickup truck at Bristol where Tom Jane did it, and there's 180,000 people with flashbulbs going off," Gaughan said. "I'm explaining to him who's going to get booed and who's going to get cheered. The crowd roars when Dale Jr. walks across the stage and boos when Kurt Busch walks across the stage."
As for the movie, Gaughan had, not surprisingly, nothing but rave reviews. He also was impressed by the parties after the premiere.
"We get to see the movie, and it's a great movie," Gaughan said. "There's a lot of action in it. Travolta does a great job, and wait until you see Tom Jane. You meet him, and he looks like a regular guy. He's ripped for this movie. A lot of movie stars were there for the premiere. It was pretty neat. We went to the after party and hung out. Kevin Nash was in the movie, and he came by and talked a little bit. It's not the world we're used to, so I took advantage of it. The movie opened (April 16), and I really think it'll do well."