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September 11. 2013 9:19PM

Changing of the Guard

NASCAR driver meets NHANG

New Hampshire Air National Guard Master Sgt. Al Beaulieu tries his hand at changing a race car tire while NASCAR driver Joey Logano and Jerry Gappens, executive vice-president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, look on during a visit with members of the 157th Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth on Wednesday. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — NASCAR driver Joey Logano and members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing traded pit stop stories during a special event for the men and women of the New Hampshire Air National Guard on Wednesday.

Logano and Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, talked about the many similarities between the sport of race-car driving and the work the jobs of guardsmen, including the central importance of teamwork and communication.

Logano is seeded sixth for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway and continues the following week at NHMS in Loudon with the Sylvania 300.

A Connecticut native, Logano, considers NHMS his home track, and he scored his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory there in 2009.

“I thought our pit stops were cool until I got here today,” Logano said to about 50 guardsmen and their families, who gathered in the sun beside a KC-135 refueling tanker on Wednesday morning.

Logano described the process of refueling a race car mid-race and learned firsthand from guardsmen about the even more impressive process of refueling in-flight fighter jets coming in and out of combat zones.

He paid close attention as guardsmen explained how the KC-135 aircraft operates, from its fans and tubing to engine components and precision requirements.

Grappens called what the refueling wing does the “ultimate pit stop.”

Members of the National Guard wing got to try their hands at a different kind of pit stop, thanks to NHMS, which brought its stock car to Portsmouth for the event.

Cheers and laughter resounded as teams of two raced to see who could jack up the car and change one tire the fastest.

A NASCAR pit crew can change all four tires and re-fuel the car in 12 seconds.Amidst the laughter and fun, the significance of the day was not lost on anyone.

Hutchinson led a moment of silence for all first responders who lost their lives 12 years ago on 9/11 and talked about the impact that day had on the men and women at the Guard base.
All of the members of the 157th have deployed multiple times to support combat operations in the Middle East, with deployments continuing to happen regularly.

Hutchinson made a special point of honoring New Hampshire Air National Guardsmen who have served in a combat zone.

In addition to looking back, Hutchinson also looked ahead, talking about the palpable excitement around the base’s selection as the home to the first next-generation refueling tankers, KC-46A’s.

Logano said auto racing, like refueling military airplanes, is a team endeavor, with more than 300 people employed by his team, from the people who build the cars to the pit crew that can help make or break a race.

Hutchinson said Logano’s humility in classifying a driver as a member of a team is similar to the thinking at the Guard base, where about 10 percent of the members actually fly the planes and the other 90 percent support the operations.

“You’ve got to have a driver, but you’ve got to have a team,” Hutchinson said.

Logano, who has been on at least two USO tours, said he appreciates getting to see firsthand the work of the nation’s servicemen and women.

Hutchinson said the National Guard and NASCAR have a long-standing, supportive relationship, which Wednesday’s visit served to illustrate.

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