Gaughan and PGA Players Share "Driving" Tips
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan knows his way around Texas Motor Speedway – having won at “The Great American Speedway!” four consecutive times in 2002-03. But Tuesday he picked up some special “driving” tips from PGA Tour players.
Ten PGA Tour players took time off between last week’s Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas and this week’s stop at the Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth to visit Texas Motor Speedway and drive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series cars in the Team Texas High Performance Driving School. Their special instructor was Gaughan, who won a record four consecutive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races at Texas Motor Speedway and will compete in the Fort Worth 400k on Friday, June 9. In exchange for his track tips, Gaughan was given some pointers from the golf pros on improving his golf game from a driving mat on the speedway’s frontstretch.
The PGA Tour group of players consisted of defending Bank of America Colonial champion Kenny Perry, Bernhard Langer, Dean Wilson, Woody Austin, Tim Petrovic, Tom Pernice Jr., Steve Jones, Mathias Gronberg, Scott Hend, and Camilo Villegas. Gronberg, Petrovic, Jones, Villegas and Hend took turns showing Gaughan how to launch the ball nearly the length of pit road toward Turn 4. Villegas launched a drive estimated at 350 yards while Hend, the Tour’s leader in driving distance last season, hit a bomb that faded into the first few rows of the bleachers along the frontstretch. After close observation of the pros, Gaughan’s final attempt sailed to the right past Victory Lane and was deemed “unplayable.”
“If they could take a picture of me swinging and then cut right to the balls flying in the air like Camilo hit it, then I would love that,” Gaughan said after watching Villegas crush his tee shot. “This is the fun part of being a professional athlete. Some days you get to go do the other guy’s stuff. I am awful at golf. So to see these pros come out here and laugh and talk and then grab a club and swing and – pow! – hit it 300 yards; that is amazing to watch.”
With the golf clubs packed up, the Tour players climbed behind the wheel of the stock cars.
Perry, who participated in the driving school a year ago, posted an unofficial lap of 128 mph, which was second fastest of the day.
“I learned a lot more from last year in how to drive the line,” Perry said. “The instructor didn’t have to grab the wheel this time, and that made me feel better knowing I was able to drive the car better. This is great. I thank Texas Motor Speedway for letting us come out here. It has been an awesome experience for me.
Added Perry: “It is a chance to let me come out here and let my hair down a little and forget about golf a little and forget about defending my title and just go as fast as I can go.”
The unofficial fastest laps of the day at 135 mph were turned in by Austin, Villegas and Gronberg.
“That was pretty cool,” Villegas, a Colombian who knows fellow countryman and Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, said after stepping out of his car. “Obviously, like in every sport, there is a lot more to it than you really think. We don’t get to do something like this often, but it is great to be able to get out and get a little adrenaline going.”
Gronberg, who is from Stockholm, Sweden, enjoyed the break from the golf course, but would have liked to have gone faster in the car.
“It felt very good, but I wanted more speed today,” Gronberg said. “I managed to do this experience two or three months ago and it was great. I really felt comfortable out there this time. It was just awesome. This is incredible that the Tour or the tournament each week organizes something really nice to do, and this was a wonderful experience.”
“That was a lot of fun,” Austin said after finding out he had put up the quickest lap of the day. “I would have liked to have gone faster. I am a NASCAR junkie. I watch it every week that I can, hopefully not on too many Sundays, but like last week with it being a night race (at Darlington), I could watch it on television. I know all the drivers and all the cars, and I watch it as much as I can. To be able to get away from golf and see another part of life like this is really great.”
Gaughan was impressed with how well the PGA Tour players handled the race cars.
“They are most definitely driving a race car better than I drive a golf ball,” Gaughan said. “As a matter of fact, Bernard Langer might have a second job soon. I think he could do it.”
Gaughan is looking forward to his next visit to Texas Motor Speedway when he returns for the Fort Work 400k on June 9 on a track that has been very good to him.
“That is an understatement,” said Gaughan, the only driver in any major series to compete at TMS that has won four races in a row (2002-03). “I like to claim the cowboy theory. When I got the award from the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame (2003 TMS Racer of the Year), Tuff Hedeman (World Champion Bull Rider) and his family came to the banquet. My dad owns bucking horses and bulls. My mom and sister ride horses, and we have a ranch about 30 minutes away from here in Weatherford. So, we like to claim the cowboy side of it. Texas has always been great. The best crowds in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are here. We have just always found a way to step up and compete here.”