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A birthday bash at Chuck E. Cheese's

by Brendan Gaughan

Another birthday has come and gone and I am happy to say "See Dad, I told you I would make it to 29!" Birthdays, to me, are just another day and I can say this without making Mom mad unless, of course, the birthday is hers.

Making it to 29 is something l am proud of, but what makes me even happier is that I can still be a kid. I think it is important to enjoy life to the fullest.

Saturday night in Chicago, I had a surprise birthday party, given by none other than John Kauthrnan, a.k.a. "Cheezburger." For those of you who do not know,

"Cheezburger" is my best friend, my motorcoach driver and my "go-to- guy." I know if I need anything handled, he will get it done. I can count on him. (Man, I can't believe I admitted that He will be impossible this week.)

Cheez and I have been friends since kindergarten, and when I got the call from team co-owners Roger Penske and Doug Bawel, "Cheezburger" gave up his career as a golf pro and moved east with me. Making the move to the Nextel Cup Series from the Craftsman trucks was huge for me. Equally as huge was the move from Las Vegas to Carolina, and having a familiar face with me, well, there are no worth to express the appreciation.

Anyway, Chee-Z-B, along with my mom, planned a surprise birthday party for me at Chuck E. Cheese's, and, of course, the whole team was there. When I was little we always had our parties there, and to return when I am 29, well, I still love it. You should have seen this group -- who call themselves grown-ups -- playing Whack-a-Mole in the arcade and acting like a bunch of kids.

We played video games and gave our tickets and some tokens to the little kids running around. We ate pizza, wings and mozzarella sticks and I had orange soda. I love orange soda!

After the food and before the cake, we participated in a live show. A live show at Chuck E. Cheese's consists of a bunch of dancing around with the head mouse. Now, not only did I do the dance, but Mr. Bawel, who celebrated his 19th (yeah right!) birthday the same day as mine, also shook his tailpipe.

The story behind Doug being 19 is as follows. Before you do the big dance, they ask you how old you are. Doug said he was 19, so of course I followed my team owner's lead. When they asked me how old I was, I told them I was Doug's son and I was 8! Not a complete lie. Mentally some days I am definitely under age 10.

By the time the dancing activities ended, we were worn out. It was a great little aerobic workout. The candles were lit, so Doug and I blew them out together

Now, I have come to realize that blowing out candles is a lot easier as you get older, especially when you ask for assistance. We opened our gifts and then it was over, well, almost. Just before we finished the cake and before the presents, Doug's wife, Kathy challenged me to a hoop shooting contest. Not to back down, I accepted the challenge. She beat me. Well, I went first and all I could think of was, "OK, be smart here, this is the boss' wife. Don't win!"

I am not going to share my score, but I will say that Kathy kicked my butt. I took the ribbing, but I demand a rematch. Sooner or later, we will make it back to a Chuck E. Cheese's and when we do, look out Kathy.

It was nice to get back to when we were kids. Some of the guys were accustomed to the noise and mayhem that occurs in the "Mouse House." They are the ones with children.

Then there are the guys who have no children and swear the party was a great form of birth control. The bottom line was, I had fun, the guys had fun, and that's what it was all about

Thank you, Johnny and Momma G., for keeping it real.

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