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Going, going ... Gaughan

NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan has lived the good life - driving fast cars, playing one-on-one with Allen Iverson and growing up the son of a casino owner. When rain washed out practice on July 26 at Watkins Glen, the 29- year-old Gaughan (pronounced Gone) and Kim Baxter spent the afternoon chatting about his life.

Baxter:First of all, I know nothing about NASCAR and driving and all that.

Gaughan:Neither do I, so this should be good.

Baxter:Well good. Then we'll stay away from the car stuff. First of all, what's your best Syracuse-Georgetown memory?

Gaughan:There's a lot of them. I used to love playing at the Dome. The Dome is awesome. My favorite thing about the Dome is just the fans. The Dome was intimidating because it's 35,000 people. It's just a great environment. They cheer hard. They cheer clean. They root for their guys and they don't put nasty sayings up or dirty signs up or say nasty things. They just root hard. And that's what I loved playing in the 'Cuse.

Baxter:So, what's your most embarrassing memory in the Dome?

Gaughan:Oh yeah. My most embarrassing memory of our rivalry had to be done by my own player Allen (Iverson). We were an hour before warm-ups. . . . Allen's out there getting warmed up and I'm smacking him around and doing my deal with him, getting him all pumped up.

Then he hits me with a move. So I'm thinking he put the ball in his left hand and he's going to throw it behind my back and run to my right. But he put the ball behind my back and put it back between my legs. So I spun, thinking "Aha, I'm going to get the ball." And I did a 180 and the ball's not there and I did a 360, keep going in the same direction, and Allen's not there. I had just done a whole pirouette. Allen put the ball between my legs and dribbled around me and went in for a layup as I'm looking like a moron. The fans were just dying, just killing me. I turned beet red.

Baxter:So Allen abused you, basically.

Gaughan:Allen made me look like an absolute fool that day. But you know what I loved about playing against Allen? I wasn't there to try to play against him in a game. I was there to make him better. And I got made like a fool quite often. But you know what? I still can stop him, and I'll say it to this day.

Baxter:Well, your only career basket was over Colgate's Adonal Foyle. Break down that only basket.

Gaughan:Oh God. It was a preseason NIT game. My main deal was, Coach Thompson used to say, "Don't be a clown." And I understood my role. So I didn't go in and fire the ball up. I wasn't the clown. I wasn't the guy that ran out there and wanted to score. I wanted to run the offense, let everybody do their deal and get things going.

Baxter:OK, so now that you've prefaced why you only have one basket, describe it for me.

Gaughan:It was a preseason NIT game. I ended up getting the ball on the wing and don't ask me why I even thought about it, but I got the ball, gave a great cross over, a little step back, jumped up, closed my eyes, threw it over 7-foot Adonal Foyle and kissed it off the glass and in. Everyone who plays ball knows that little strut you've got, that little back pedal. And I was back pedaling and someone threw a full-court pass and I went back and got a steal. I'm like, "Shoot. I've got a bucket and a steal in the last three seconds." So I run down the court and made a turnover. Went to throw an alley-oop and the kid didn't jump for me. Two good things and one bad thing.

Baxter:What's your best John Thompson memory?

Gaughan:Coach Thompson once yelled my name to get up and go into a game. And if you played for Georgetown, you burned shoe rubber going by coach. You didn't sit there. I had stats. It was a big deal. And I go burning shoe rubber by him and he looks and says, "I just wanted to make sure you're awake. Go sit down." Stuff like that was what made it fun. It didn't bother me. I understood that it was a role. I understood that I was not a basketball player.

Baxter:OK. Moving on. Your family has been in Las Vegas and owned casinos since the late 1940s. Let me get an insider's point of view. What should I play to double my meager Post-Standard paycheck?

Gaughan:Oh, the best odds? If you know how to play it, the only place you can get a 0.1 to 0.5 percent edge over the house is if you can shoot dice correctly. If you understand the game completely and you take advantage of all odds, you can give yourself a 0.1 to 0.5 edge over the house. It's the only game it can happen, and you have to be really good. The only person that I know that can do that is my father.

Baxter:Since you're a professional driver, do you feel like you have to drive when you go to a restaurant or the store with friends and family?

Gaughan:It's not that I have to drive. I actually fall asleep at the wheel a lot, which is a big problem for me. So I end up falling asleep and having to let other people drive. If I'm awake and we're in traffic, I'm a horrible back-seat driver.

Baxter:By the way, I've always wondered this. What do you do if you have to go to the bathroom during a race?

Gaughan:Of all the years I've driven NASCAR (since 1997), there's been maybe five occasions where I've had to go take a leak. There have been a couple of times that I've had to, and you just can't. We sit in a steel seat. The floorboard is over 200 degrees. Water boils at 212. The ambient temperature of a race car is 140 degrees. So at 140, that water's going to be very hot. So at 200, guess what, you're boiling, so you don't want to add water into that mix. It's not a good thing. My old crew chief used to tell me "Bugs Bunny in the Steel Pot." You don't want to be Bugs Bunny.

Baxter:Ah, come on. 'Fess up. You've peed your pants in the car, haven't you.

Gaughan:No. I've come close a couple of times, but I haven't had to do that yet.

Baxter:So what's going through your mind when you hit a wall? If it were me, it'd be, "Oh s*&%!"

Gaughan:It just depends on what the situation is. I'm always trying to save a race car. And most of us drivers are trying to save it up to the last second. I blew a right front tire in Phoenix going 165 miles per hour and I had about 0.25 seconds to say, "Oh s*&%." And I said, "I can save it." I downshifted. I tried to back it in. I tried to do anything. We're always trying to work on something. It doesn't always work. . . .

At Dover in the truck series last year, I had one of the hardest hits ever recorded in NASCAR and I had the whole way from the top of the race track to the infield wall to say, "I ain't saving this, and this is going to hurt real bad." Then I did the dead man's cross - put my arms (crisscrossed) on my seat belts, took a deep breath, exhaled, let my body go limp and bam, just tore it down.

Baxter:Are race car drivers athletes?

Gaughan:More than any other sport I've played. I played college basketball and college football. The ramifications of this sport, and the mental aptitude that this sport requires are monstrous.

What happens if I make a mental mistake in a race car? I can kill people. At Talladega, if I'm running four wide at the bottom and I'm in fifth, the whole field is right here. If I make a mental mistake, it can cost lives. So you can't make those mental mistakes.

Also, in a basketball or football game, if you're tired, you can call for a sub. You can call timeout. You get a break in between plays.

Baxter:You can run to the bathroom.

Gaughan:Yeah, you can tell coach that you're going to take a leak. In racing, there's no timeouts, there's no substitutions, there's nothing. We play hurt. I've raced with broken ribs, broken shoulders, broken wrists. I've raced with one eye (had 17 pieces of metal in it). I finished fourth (in Bakersfield). I put a patch on it and kept it closed and ran.

It's like no other sport I've ever played. And it is much more mentally and physically challenging than any other sport I've played.

Baxter:Is that the most misunderstood part of this sport, that people may just think you sit in a car and push on the gas?

Gaughan:Absolutely. The fans don't understand what we're doing in the car. We're not just sitting in an easy chair going around. To explain to them that you've got two broken ribs and you're coming out of a corner leaning on those two ribs and you're loose and you think you've hit the wall and you've come within an inch of hitting it. You feel like you just hit it. Now you've only got four seconds to catch your breath and get ready for the next corner. That's the mental part of it. You can't take a break that corner.

Baxter:Back to the fun stuff. So what's the fastest you've ever gone on the road?

Gaughan:I set the world record in the Dodge Ram SRT-10. The stock pickup truck world record - 154.58 miles per hour, in a pickup truck.

Baxter:What's the fastest you've been going and gotten a ticket?

Gaughan:I've gotten written up for going 92 in a Jeep Grand Cherokee in a 75 (zone).

Baxter:You're living a pretty fun life, aren't you.

Gaughan:I cannot complain.

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