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My pit crew didnít crack under pressure, but I did on the mound


by Brendan Gaughan

This week, I struggle to find something to write about, but as it ends up, it was right in front of me. With us racing at Watkins Glen International, the Nextel Cup Series was in Kodakís backyard, so I spent Thursday in Rochester with the Kodak employees.

But I wasnít alone. My pit crew also spent the day participating in an event entitled the KOS/NASCAR Learning Event. While I am used to this type of event, it was the first time the guys were subjected to it.

We had the No. 2 and the No. 77 haulers on site, along with souvenir trailers representing both teams. The No. 2 team was represented because my teammate, Rusty Wallace, was driving a Kodak-sponsored car at The Glen.

The event was held at Frontier Field, the facility for the Rochester Red Wings, a minor league baseball team. The point of the event was to show similarities between Kodakís and the race teamís daily operations. The theme was about the elimination of waste.

Typically, the drivers handle all of the appearances, because they are the face of the program. As everyone points out though, there is no "I" in team and for my pit crew to get some recognition, it was great. The event was set up in what we call "trade show format." There were eight booths with different messages and the over-the-wall guys were positioned at each one of them.

For not being in their element, the crew guys did an outstanding job. Their reward was pit stop demonstration. Now, I have said before that my team rocks and they proved it in front of a very large crowd of supporters. They performed two 13-second stops and two 12-second stops. I, of course, drove the car, but Rusty got to emcee the pit stops.

When I climbed from the car, he seemed very impressed with my boys.

After the afternoon pit stops, Rusty and I signed autographs at our respective souvenir trailers. After 4 p.m., everyone left, except for me. I was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Red Wings game and I was excited, but I knew I needed a little practice to warm up.

After a light dinner, we headed back to the ballfield so I could get ready. I havenít thrown a baseball in I donít know how long, so I knew it wouldnít be good. I did, however, impress myself with four very nice throws, right down the line, so I felt good.

One of the cool things was driving my Dodge out on the warning track around the field. After my warm-up practice, I climbed into my car and waited for the signal to fire up. I started it and pulled onto the field.

I pulled up the field so I was as close to the pitcherís mound as possible, without using the golf 90-degree rule, and climbed from the car, ready for my Red Wings debut.

Unfortunately, I apparently used my good pitches back in the bullpen. I took the mound and moved into position feeling relatively confident in my ability to complete the task ahead. This is when I BLEW IT. I reared back just like a pro, if I do say so myself, and I probably do. Then, as my arm came forward, I donít know what I was thinking. Actually, I was thinking, "You idiot, you released too late!"

And I was right, the ball one-hopped just before it got to home plate. What an idiot.

At least when it one-hopped, it still went straight into the catcherís glove. All-in-all, it was a great day. The Penske-Jasper pit crew received recognition for the great job it does. The Kodak employees really embraced the team and showed their support for the NASCAR program as a whole, and I had a great time just spending time with the fans and supporters who make what I do possible.






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