WATKINS GLEN — There was a time many years ago when Amherst native Pete Trautman toiled at various Western New York speedways as a technical inspector. Then it was off to the big league of NASCAR, where he served in a similar capacity for many seasons.
Following his retirement from NASCAR after last season, Trautman still manages to get to many of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events. He arrives by motor coach — the one he is steering.
Trautman, who resides in Kannapolis, N.C., has found a new line of work in the NASCAR world. He is a motor coach driver for Hendrick Motorsports, piloting the motor coach that crew chief Alan Gustafson lives in while at the various NASCAR race event weekends.
Trautman is at Watkins Glen this weekend having driven the motor coach to the fabled road course. He will drive down the road to NASCAR's next event following Sunday's Go Bowling at The Glen Cup Series race.
Gustafson is the crew chief for the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by defending Go Bowling at The Glen race winner Chase Elliott.
"Alan's former motor coach driver Dave Beacham left after last season to become the motor coach driver for Martin Truex Jr., and there was an opening, and they asked me if I wanted to do it," Trautman said. "I'd never driven one of these large motor coaches before. So I went and met Dave and took it around the block a few times and it worked out good. It works out really good for me because I'm doing just 25 races this year, and I still get to see all my friends.
"That's the part I like the most," Trautman said. "It's a big family here and I missed everybody. I just came here this week driving the motor coach from the last race at Pocono, and from here I'm going right to Michigan for next week's race. We don't take the motor coach to the California races because it costs too much in fuel. We only take Alan's motor coach to races east of the Mississippi River.
"Dave also is a friend, and he's helped me in my new job quite a bit."
Trautman has been coming to Watkins Glen for a very long time.
"My dad (Don Trautman) worked for the SCCA here at The Glen when I was real young," Trautman said. "We came here for the Grand Prix, the six-hour and the Can-Am races. So I've been coming here to Watkins Glen since I was a little kid."
Trautman was a onetime pit crew member for retired northeast dirt Modified racing legend Davey "The Canadian Blast" Moore and for the late asphalt racing specialist John Julicher Sr. Trautman found a second calling in the sport when he became a tech inspector at local tracks, including Lancaster, Ransomville and Holland.
He got his big break when he became a tech inspector for the NASCAR Busch North Series, which now is the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It eventually led to his role with the Cup Series.
Trautman recalled his early years in the sport back in Western New York when he crewed for some pretty stout drivers.
"I worked with Davey Moore on dirt tracks, and before that I was with the late John Julicher Sr. at Lancaster Speedway," Trautman said. " I won a lot of races working with both those guys. I worked with John in the mid-1070's and I started with Davey in 1979."
Later, Trautman transitioned into becoming a race official.
"It's a funny story that I next started driving the pace car at Lancaster Speedway with Howie Markel," Trautman said. "He got me into that. I worked my way up, and I had a dream of becoming a full time official with NASCAR but I had to work at a NASCAR-sanctioned track in order to be able to do that, so I went to Holland Speedway. Ron Bennett (Holland co-owner) gave me a job as a tech guy there and it just kind of went from there.
"Soon after that I and another Western New Yorker, Art James, got to work with the NASCAR Busch North Series. I did that for a few years and then NASCAR contacted me and wanted to know if I wanted to try out for the Cup Series. And I took some test and then they hired me in 1999. That became my full time job until I retired last fall."
Trautman is enjoying his newfound motor coach gig.
"I had a lot of fun during my full-time career as a tech inspector, and I made a lot of great friends and memories," Trautman said. " With this new job I get a lot more time off and it's a lot of fun. I like it so far. Alan and I are old friends so this has worked out good because we get along great. Chase is a good guy and I like him to. I've known Chase for a long time as well as his dad Bill.
"To be honest, I like this new job a lot better because you don't have to wear a tech inspector's fire suit on pit road during the races when it's really hot out.
"I know at some point in the months ahead I've got to get back up to Buffalo," Trautman said. "When I get the most time off it's winter and I don't want to go to Buffalo in the winter anymore. But I'm thinking of coming up next summer because I'd love to see everyone I know at Lancaster, Holland and Ransomville."
Finally a win
Many in the garage area at The Glen Friday were talking about Stewart Friesen, the Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., native who won his first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Thursday night at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg Ohio. Friesen, who still campaigns regularly in dirt track Modifieds when not racing in the truck series, cut his racing teeth many years ago at local dirt tracks, such as Ransomville Speedway.
Friesen's family owned and operated Ransomville for 42 years before selling the Niagara County dirt track to current owner Parm Atwal in 2015. The Friesen family also owned Lancaster Speedway during the 1990s. Friesen has been a win waiting to happen, as he earned six second-place truck series finishes this season before finally reaching the top step of the podium Thursday. Friesen will return to the Western New York area this Tuesday to race with the Super DIRT.car Series in the 35th annual Summer Nationals.
McLaughlin wins K&N
Pole-sitter Max McLaughlin took his No. 1 Mohawk Toyota Camry to victory in the rain-shortened (34 of 41 laps) NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 here Friday afternoon. It was the first career road course start for McLaughlin, who also races in the Super DIRT.car Series.