- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A former Georgetown University football and basketball player returned to the District yesterday to talk about auto racing with students at a new city charter school.

Brendan Gaughan, a driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, cited his own unlikely path to the racing circuit in an effort to inspire a couple hundred inner-city students at the Urban Youth Racing School in Northeast.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional basketball player. I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional football player,” said Mr. Gaughan, 31, who graduated from Georgetown in 1997 with a degree in business management.

A walk-on player for Georgetown’s basketball team under Coach John Thompson, he was also a place-kicker on the university’s football team and set a school record by converting 39 of 40 extra points during Georgetown’s 1994 season.

But despite earning all-conference honors in NCAA Division I-AA football, Mr. Gaughan aspired to be more.

“I hated just being a field-goal kicker,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do without that competitive nature.”

Mr. Gaughan eventually turned to racing, a sport he had first tried in 1991 at 15 years old. He stands in 13th place so far this year with two top-10 finishes in seven starts.

Dressed in a race-car driver’s uniform of blue and grey, the school colors of Georgetown, he stood yesterday beside his blue pickup truck covered with the logos of his race team’s sponsors as he talked to a couple hundred students at the race school.

He and members of his pit crew demonstrated how to change a tire in 12 seconds. He invited students to pick up the wheel and put it back on the bare axle.

Eric Brown, 12, quickly replaced the wheel.

“I know how to do it. I’ve done it before,” he said. When asked about his future career, the seventh-grader said, “I’m thinking about racing.”

Mr. Gaughan and school officials emphasized that the school, which is associated with the Integrated Design and Electronics Academy (IDEA) charter school, prepares students for other occupations than working in pit-stop crews and race driving.

Associated with racing are classes in chemistry, engineering, architecture, computer networking, calculus, electrical engineering, drafting and architecture.

Chuck Smith, chairman of the mathematics department, said the students are building models one-tenth the size of NASCAR racers, using lessons from those courses. The models will be entered in races with models built in five other charter schools.

Students are learning how power is created from solar energy, stored in fuel cells and batteries. They are motivated, he said, because “we want an electric car that will go 24 hours a day.”

The school’s executive director, Norman Johnson, said yesterday’s program served as a kickoff for the next school year.

Of last year’s graduates, 18 enrolled in college, four got jobs related to IDEA courses and four entered military forces or reserves.

Tomorrow, Mr. Gaughan will be driving in the AAA Insurance 200 race in Dover, Del., in his signature blue truck adorned with the Georgetown logo.

He expects to speed 200 times around the one-mile track and be done in time for a flight to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to race in the Baja 500 cross-country road race Saturday morning.

Much of his winnings are donated to Georgetown University.

“There’s a lot of money can be made in this sport,” Mr. Gaughan said. “I can’t think of a better way to give back to a place that meant so much to me.”

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