CHARLOTTE, N.C. – My favorite moment from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom didn’t come from a NASCAR Sprint Cup superstar who was mobbed by journalists and television announcers.
It came courtesy of a guy who hasn’t raced Sprint Cup full-time since 2004.
The speedway first put on the Media Tour in 1983. Many of the drivers who were featured in this year’s Media Tour weren’t even born then. Chase Elliott, if you count ages in reverse, was negative-12 years old.
The event started with a few media, a charter bus and some trips to local race shops. It’s grown to a four-day event involving more than 200 media members, press conferences and breakout sessions at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Maybe it’s better that way. This year was my first Media Tour, so I didn’t get to experience the long bus rides to Richard Childress Racing, the short bus rides to Hendrick Motorsports or the long waits that took place in between.
It’s all about convenience now. Teams don’t have to have an open house of sorts, because they just bring their drivers, crew chiefs and team owners to the convention center, dress them up in Oxford shirts or firesuits, let them talk for an hour or so and call it a day.
Some have more compelling stories than others.
Brendan Gaughan was an accomplished athlete long before he won his first two NASCAR XFINITY Series races last year with Richard Childress Racing.
Gaughan played – well, sort of played – for the Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team as a reserve point guard from 1994-97. He backed up NBA legend Allen Iverson and was tasked with the job of knocking Iverson on his tail in practice. Gaughan also scored five points in spot duty through 25 games.
Gaughan sat in a chair beside crew chief Shane Wilson Thursday during the Media Tour’s final day, just taking in the show and sipping on a bottle of water. He didn’t seem prepared for non-racing questions. Let’s ask him one anyway.
Brendan, are you still the best basketball player in the XFINITY Series?
Gaughan’s response is what can safely be described as a belly laugh. He doesn’t get to say something.
Wilson grabs the microphone from him.
“Just because I’ve got some weight on me,” Wilson interjects.
“Shane and I come from a different background than most other drivers,” Gaughan says when he’s got the floor again. “Shane and I used to have a lot of fun back when we were younger and a little more svelte.”
That has to be the first time anyone’s ever said “svelte” during the Media Tour. See? History’s still being made more than 30 years after the tour began.
“I never brag and say I’m the best basketball player,” Gaughan says.
Spend a few minutes around Gaughan and you come to realize that if you have an issue with him, it’s probably your fault. He’s a good guy. Humble.
“All I ever say is, if we want to play it’ll at least be 3-on-3,” Gaughan continues, “I bring my friends, you bring your friends and the number has to be in your phone. Nobody has taken me up on it. I don’t know why.”
Gaughan shows me the top number in his phone. I know why no one wants to face him.
College teammates stick together.