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NASCAR’s Gaughan swims with sharks at Newport Aquarium

  |   News

Race car driver Brendan Gaughan, in full scuba gear and perched inside the shark tank at Newport Aquarium, mesmerized 100 third-graders Monday from Cold Spring, Kentucky.


It was a heck of a promotion for the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, Sept. 20.


After Gaughan told the students he had been racing 23 years, one of them asked, How many times have you wrecked?


Well, if I had never wrecked, he answered, I probably wouldn’t be a very good race-car driver, because wrecks sometimes just happen.


So, yes, I have wrecked before, he added. I have caught on fire; I have been upside down; I’ve been all sorts of things in race cars that aren’t cool to the people who build them. But, fortunately for me – I (shouldn’t) say this or I’ll jinx myself – but I don’t think I’ve ever wrecked at Kentucky Speedway.


Gaughan, who is the grandson of the late gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan, and son of hotel and casino magnate Michael Gaughan, won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series event (Road America) last June at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.


He was asked how fast his car goes.


I don’t have anything in the race car that tells me how fast I’m going, but I do know that at Kentucky, being one of my favorite tracks – it’s worn-out, and bumpy and its asphalt is not new like many of the other race tracks right now – we do about 185 (miles per hour) top speed.


The Brendan Gaughan (pronounced gone) pedigree for car-racing has been anything but conventional.


Born in Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas, he attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to play football, and walked onto the basketball team, where his teammate in 1994-95 and 1995-96 was the likely future NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.


Iverson led Georgetown to the NCAA’s Elite Eight round in 1995-96, but Kentucky fans can remind Gaughan on Sept. 20 at the Speedway that the University of Kentucky Wildcats won it all that season, beating Syracuse in the national championship game.


The ’96 Cats were one of the great college basketball teams of all-time, featuring future NBA’ers Tony Delk, Derek Anderson, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, Nazr Mohammed and Scott Padgett.


Gaughan told the third-graders from Crossroads Elementary that there are more similarities between other sports and road racing than they might imagine.


I’m a believer in the team atmosphere – I’m sitting here in a scuba tank, talking to you guys, and I’m surrounded by sharks, said Gaughan, acknowledging the other divers in the tank were there to protect him.


There’s that same trust in basketball, or football, or any team sport, really, he said. And even in the so-called individual sports, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that is important to the success of the person in the spotlight than many observers might realize, he said.


I have an entire team of people back in North Carolina, putting my seat in, putting my seat belts in. I trust those people… I treat my team like I got treated at Georgetown University. We go to dinner every night; we go to breakfast in the morning. I try to keep that team atmosphere, which is very important to me.


To read John Erardi’s article as it appears on CLICK HERE