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NASCAR BGN: McLaughlin Set for Busy Homecoming in Watkins Glen

23 June 1998

WATKINS GLEN, NY - When Mike McLaughlin pulled out of his driveway last Friday heading for Watkins Glen on his Harley Davidson, he was headed for one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of his life. McLaughlin is returning to Watkins Glen as the defending champion of the Lysol 200 Busch Grand National race. During the week, McLaughlin is set to visit his hometown, Waterloo, NY and the home of his sponsor, Goulds Pumps, in Seneca Falls, NY. McLaughlin will also find time to climb into and F-16 for the ride of his life and appear at a couple of autograph sessions for the race fans of the area.

The week will begin on Monday with McLaughlin joining one of his Team 34 teammates, Mike Cope, driver of the Slim Jim Chevrolet, at flight training school in Syracuse, NY, home of the New York National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing. The two drivers will go through 4 hours of training for an F-16 flight on Thursday afternoon. The training will include how to strap into the plane, what to touch and not touch, emergency ejection's, G-force training, and a drill that simulates being caught in a tree after ejection and escaping from it.

"I don't know which is going to be scarier, the training or the actual flight," McLaughlin said. "This is going to be the ride of my life, those guys will have my full attention at the training course."

On Tuesday, McLaughlin will visit two of the Goulds Pumps Plants in Seneca Falls and Auburn, NY. McLaughlin will visit with employees, signing autographs and posing for pictures. The Goulds Pumps #34 Chevrolet and the race team transporter will be on display at both facilities. Many of these employees are planning on attending the Lysol 200 on Sunday to cheer for McLaughlin and the Goulds Pumps Racing Team.

"I can't wait to see all my friends at the Goulds Pumps plants on Tuesday," McLaughlin said. "I have said it many times before, but, it is so neat to have a sponsor from just down the road where I grew up, it means a lot to me."

Wednesday will mark the official homecoming for McLaughlin when he appears at the annual Waterloo Block Party. McLaughlin will visit with old friends and his Goulds Pumps Racing Transporter and show car will be displayed.

"The Waterloo Block Party is always a special event for me," McLaughlin said. "I always run into people that I haven't seen in years and they are always quick to share some of the stories of the good old days."

On Thursday, McLaughlin will head back to Hancock Field for his flight with the 174th Fighter Wing.

According to Mark Atkinson, Safety Manager of the 174th Fighter Wing, "The flight will take 90 minutes, the pilot will light the afterburners and stand the jet on its tail like a rocket leaving a launching pad. The pilots will perform some aerobatic maneuvers, make some low altitude passes, and hit speeds close to Mach 1, about 600 miles per hour."

Later that evening McLaughlin will appear with many other NASCAR drivers at The NASCAR Night in the Heights in Elmira, NY. The drivers will sign autographs and visit with fans from 6-8pm. A fireworks display will be held following the event.

"The NASCAR Night in the Heights is one of the best events I attend each year, lots of the drivers come up early for the Watkins Glen race just for this event," McLaughlin said.

Come Friday, McLaughlin and the Goulds Pumps Racing Team will turn their attention to the track and repeating their victory from last season. McLaughlin has been hit the last two races with some bad racing luck and hopes to turn things around on his home track.

"We have had top-five race cars the last two races and had some bad things happen, hopefully we can put the Goulds Pumps Chevrolet up front at the end," McLaughlin said.

Following the race, McLaughlin will climb back on his Harley Davidson and venture back to Charlotte before heading to Milwaukee later in the week. With any luck there may be a 3-foot gold trophy hanging off the back of the Harley Davidson.