News Local

Community shows support for Carl Gauthier

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

 

On his journey to NASCAR, Carl Gauthier made a pit stop at the Pembroke Mall this past weekend to thank the community for helping him pursue his dream.

The Petawawa racer will be competing in this year's NASCAR Pinty’s Series at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) in Bowmanville, Ontario later this spring. Representing Avion Motorsports, he will race on May 21 and Sept. 3.

As part of a fundraising effort to support his entry and the overall infrastructure he'll require, Gauthier hosted a two-day public showing of the 2017 Chevy Impala that he'll be driving at the CTMP, a race that will be televised live on TSN on May 21.

“I'm fulfilling a dream but I am also on a mission too,” said Gauthier who was overwhelmed by the number of supporters young and old who turned out on Saturday and Sunday to inspect the car and receive autographs from the racer. “I want to make my community proud and make my family proud.”

It has been quite the climb to reach NASCAR for the 59-year-old. Since the age of 10, he dreamed of racing at the famous Daytona 500. Purchasing his own car in 2008, Gauthier competed in his first official sanctioned race in 2010 winning the Canadian Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Calabogie Cup. In the past few years, he has recorded other victories including the British Automobile Racing Club V8 Supercar series and the Motor Sport Club of Ottawa Ted Powell Event. Last summer, he won the Sports Club Car of America race at the famous Watkins Glen track in New York State. NASCAR will be the pinnacle of his career to date.

“If you were to ask a Canadian who their sports hero is it would be a hockey player,” Gauthier explained. “If you were to ask an American it's a stock car racer. It's something that the average person can identify with. There's a lot of contact in NASCAR but it's thrilling. The noise and the smell of burning rubber, racing fuel, oil. It's almost like a drug but it's a real thrill.”

The Impala he will be driving comes with a 550-horsepower power engine that has clocked 180 miles an hour on the Bowmanville track. Although it has only been in two races, the car did make a top 10 finish. Gauthier will take it on some test runs at the end of April. Then he opens the racing season on May 13 at the CTMP competing with his #52 Chevy Silverado race truck. Gauthier's team manager and crew chief, Al Lebert, said he's confident his driver will do exceptionally well.

“He's a very talented driver, however, he's going against the big boys,” said Lebert. “He's probably going to be racing against the top 15 most talented road race drivers in North America. He's going against some really big names.”

The weekend-long event at the mall gave sponsors, fans and the public a chance to get up close to the car and speak with Gauthier about his experiences. He also signed ‘Hero Cards’ - the baseball card of the NASCAR world - while asking kids to participate in a colouring contest. The winning design will be emblazoned onto the trunk. Five dollars from every donation Gauthier received went to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. While racers often try to secure the financial donations of major sponsors, it is rare that a community is engaged to support such a venture, Lebert added.

“Everybody's dream is to go to NASCAR,” he said. “The community of Pembroke has stepped up to help Carl do this.”

Gauthier certains knows the challenge ahead of him. Soon, he and Lebert will be discussing strategy, such as the number of pit stops they will require during the race for fuel and changing of tires. However, he feels his experience will come in hand as he tackles NASCAR.

“Today they seem to be going after the younger drivers, not the older drivers. In this particular case they (Avion Motorsports) wanted to put an experienced driver in the car to try and get them to the finish and get a good result,” Gauthier remarked.

SChase@postmedia.com