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A mile a minute with NASCAR rookie

By Steve Kaminski
The Grand Rapids Press

When the guys at Jasper Engines & Transmission in Wyoming told me that NASCAR Nextel Cup rookie Brendan Gaughan made the Guinness Book of World Records last winter, I figured it had to be for one thing.

Did they have a non-stop talking contest that Gaughan won? There are some athletes that never say more than two words to you. Fortunately, when you ask Gaughan what time it is, you just might get his life story.

Seriously, Gaughan did set a record, right here in Michigan, when the Dodge folks invited him over for a little test in January.

"Dodge sent us up to the proving grounds, and we went out and set the Stock Production Pick-Up world record," Gaughan said. "The Dodge Ram SRT10 is the fastest production pickup in the world, and I went 154.58 miles per hour. It's a Dodge Ram with a Viper engine, and it's one of the meanest trucks ever built. It's flat-out, bad to the bone."

Gaughan races the No. 4 Kodak Racing Dodge for car owner Roger Penske, and Jasper Engines is a sponsor on that car as well. That's why the local operation invited him up for a little meet and greet prior to this past weekend's Nextel Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Gaughan, 29, is originally from Las Vegas, but he definitely has planted some racing roots in Michigan. Gaughan enjoyed off-road racing as a kid, and he came through the Ionia Raceway Park in Lake Odessa back in the mid 1990s for a SODA Series truck race, and he said it changed his outlook on racing.

"I remember the day I started taking it serious," Gaughan said. "Shoot, it was here at Lake Odessa at an off-road race. I did something really dumb, and my crew chief, Randy Anderson, grabbed me by the neck and threw me around the trailer. He told me there were men whose lives depended on what I did. Their families depended on what I did on the race track, and if I was not going to treat that with respect and not like a toy, they would let me keep racing.

"I never thought of it in that sense, it was always fun for me. I was 18 years old, and I was like, 'What do you mean? It's fun.' He said, 'Yes, it can be fun, but some days, you have to learn that other people are relying on you.' When I asked him if he thought I could do it, he said yes. That was the day I thought I could do it."

It caught me by surprise that Gaughan is not a big fan of the print media, considering how well he treated me in our interview. Gaughan is personable and polite, and he's refreshing in a sport that tends to be a little too politically correct at times. But I got him started when I asked what he would like to change about NASCAR.

"I would like to kick all the reporters all out of the garage and drivers' meeting," Gaughan said. "I went to the John Thompson school of media, and most of the time you guys print what you want, make stuff up, whatever they want and stigmatize the fans to believe whatever they want. Half the time in reporting, it's not the truth, and I have a problem with that.

"I distrust about 90 percent of most reporters because of what they do. You look at any major magazine or newspaper, and positive stories don't sell. All they write are negative. Nobody writes about how quick the safety crews now react to an accident. Nobody writes about how quickly they respond to an injury. No. Why write something nice? They write the story that made them change the rules, but don't write about why it became a better deal. Just write the next bad thing."

Hmmm ... Something tells me that Gaughan would miss having a tape recorder or two in his face.

Contact Steve Kaminski at stevekracer@aol.com

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