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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | CENTRAL: WESTMINSTER

Racer Tells Kids How to Stay on Track

September 05, 1998|HARRISON SHEPPARD

NASCAR driver Craig Raudman and his crew made a pit stop here Friday, hoping to teach Boys and Girls Club members a lesson about the teamwork needed to be successful in racing--and in life.

Raudman, who is racing in Los Angeles this weekend, told the group of 100 youngsters from the Westminster and Huntington Valley clubs that success depends on cooperation and communication.

"NASCAR's definitely a team sport," Raudman told the children. "Without my team, I wouldn't go very far in my race car."

The youngsters watched raptly as a crew demonstrated the speed and precision needed during a pit stop.

On a signal, the five crew members swarmed the car, two loosening the tires with an air wrench, another jacking it up and a fourth adding gas. They finished and jumped clear within seconds.

"Do it again! Do it again!" the children shouted. The crew obliged, repeating the feat twice.

"I am so ready when I grow up" to get into racing, said 8-year-old Taylor Morgan of Huntington Beach. "The thing I like about the cars is the pit crew because it's like you're going and time is against you."

The children also questioned Raudman about racing, asking how many times he has crashed, whether he has ever flipped a car or been driving when a car caught on fire.

"I've been pretty lucky," he told them. "I haven't broken anything. I've been burned a few times, but I haven't broken anything."

Does he speed on the freeway?

"All the time," he told them.

NASCAR officials say they are seeing a changing demographic at their races: The crowds these days are younger, more from professional ranks and more family-oriented than in the past.

Mike Lane, one of Raudman's pit crew, said youngsters often mix with the team members after a race, bringing photographs and even car parts to be autographed.

"The neat thing about a kid is they're the most honest," Lane said. "They tell you exactly how you did. . . . They'll come up and ask you, 'How come you didn't win?' "

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