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Amherst native now in NASCAR garages

There was a time not too many years ago when one could find Amherst native Pete Trautman doing technical inspections in the tech center at Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex.

Now he can still be found in garage areas, but he has risen to NASCAR's top series and was busy here Friday working at Watkins Glen International as a NASCAR Cup Series Tech Inspector.

Trautman has been with NASCAR for 21 years and has been a full time tech inspector since 2000. His journey to NASCAR's big time began many years ago back in Western New York.

"I started as the pace car driver at Lancaster Speedway [now Dunn Tire Raceway Park] and then I went over to Holland and worked there for about five years," said Trautman. "Then I was a NASCAR Busch North official."

Trautman is very grateful to another area racing fixture, Holland owner Ron Bennett, for making his rise in NASCAR possible.

"I started with the NASCAR Busch North Series when Ron Bennett was the director and then Bunk Sampson and then I moved on to the Cup Series. I wouldn't be doing this today if it wasn't for Ron Bennett."

During Friday's activity here, Trautman and his fellow Cup Series tech inspectors were quite busy, as they will be through the remainder of this weekend.

"So far since we got here I've been working with gear ratios and transmission ratios on every car in the garage," said Trautman. "I'll be working with the transmissions the rest of today through the second practice. Tomorrow, in the morning we'll inspect all the cars again before qualifying. Same thing on Sunday morning before the race.

"I'll be on pit road officiating during Sunday's race. After the race, I got to tear down on one of the cars. I am one of six tech inspectors who will take the cars all apart and check them out."

Two weeks ago, Trautman came home to Amherst to visit family and during that time caught up with many racing friends at different tracks, including Dunn Tire Raceway Park, Holland, Ransomville and Merrittville.

"I was up there for two weeks and enjoyed seeing the Western New York and Ontario tracks and people. It was where it all started for me," he said.

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As the president of Watkins Glen, Hamburg native Michael Printup had the privilege of joining NASCAR president Mike Helton in inducting Jeff Gordon into The Legends of The Glen here Friday morning. Gordon has four Cup wins here in his very successful driving career.

"I remember coming here as a kid, living just south of Buffalo and that it was just so memorable," said Printup. "I love this sport and obviously what Jeff has contributed to it, especially here at Watkins Glen."

"Any sport or form of entertainment relies heavily on the entertainers involved," Helton said. "It's an honor to share this moment with Jeff."

"I can tell you right at this moment it's hitting me hard especially with Mike [Helton] here," said Gordon of his appreciation of the legends award. "This is a place that's very special to me. Some of the wins I've had here have been among my favorite moments in my career.

"To pull into victory lane four times here is something I'm very proud of. Now that I'm 40 it seems that these types of things mean more and more to me. To go down as a legend at Watkins Glen is something I will always treasure."

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Juan Pablo Montoya is a good road racer who has two career Cup Series wins, both on road courses, at Infineon Raceway (Sonoma Calf.) and the other last year here at The Glen. Montoya is still winless in 2011 and is 21st in points. Unless he wins races soon, he stands a big chance of missing The Chase for The Cup. He is counting heavily on a good result here this weekend.

"To tell you the truth, the last three weeks have been rough," said Montoya. "This could be a great weekend to turn things around. I love this place. It's a shame we don't use the boot here."

The boot that Montoya is referring to is the section of The Glen's longer 3.4-mile road course. NASCAR runs the shorter 2.4-mile short course here which does not include the boot section.

In Friday's first Cup Series practice session, the Germain Racing No.13 Geico Toyota driven by Casey Mears blew an engine and had to change it for the day's second practice. Germain Racing's general manager is Lockport native Mike Hillman Sr.

* * *

Going into this morning's Cup Series qualifying session, the list of drivers trying to make the 43-car field for Sunday's race who are not Top 35 in 2011 owner's points and must qualify on speed to get into the field is topped by Robby Gordon, who is a very good road racer.

Others needing to qualify on speed are Dave Blaney, Scott Speed, Brian Simo, T.J. Bell, J.J. Yeley, Mike Skinner, Michael McDowell, P.J. Jones and Joe Nemechek. Past Cup Series champion Terry Labonte is guaranteed to be in the race based on a past champions provisional.

Road course standout Ron Fellows is also guaranteed in the race field because he is driving the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet for owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. Baldwin is currently 32nd in owner points.

Fastest in Friday's first Cup practice was Kyle Busch. Marcos Ambrose was best in Friday's second Cup practice.

* * *

This season NASCAR is making a move to be more environmentally friendly and is now using Sunoco Green E-15 fuel in all three of its national series. More importantly for this state's economy is that the fuel is produced at Sunoco's ethanol production plant located in Fulton, about two hours away from the Buffalo area.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ethanol is a renewable fuel and emits lower greenhouse gases. It also reduces carbon emissions by 59 percent compared to conventional gasoline.

* * *

One of the better road racers in NASCAR is Marcos Ambrose. He has produced two third place and a second place outing in Cup Series competition over the last three years at The Glen. He has excelled to even better results here in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) Zippo 200, having won this race the last three years straight.

He will not be in today's Zippo 200 starting field due to a lack of sponsorship for his Richard Petty Motorsports NNS effort and has chosen not to accept other offers to drive for other teams in the Zippo 200.

"We tried right to the end to put a deal together but it didn't work out," said Ambrose, Friday. "I wanted to do it with Richard Petty Motorsports and wanted to field a car to do it that way. At the end of the day, the Cup race is what pays and what really keeps us going."

* * *

In qualifying Friday for today's Grand-American Road Racing Association Rolex Sports Car Series Canadian Tire 200, Ricky Taylor took the pole in the Daytona Prototype class while Robin Liddell did likewise in the GT division. Team Sahlen's lead No. 42 Mazda with driver Wayne Nonnamaker will start sixth in GT.