WATKINS GLEN — From Blasdell to the Brickyard, Jeffrey Kuhn has had quite a positive rush of momentum come his way over the last two weeks.
A member of the pit crew team serving the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet driven by Ryan Newman, Kuhn was part of a major triumph in winning the Brickyard 400 last month at famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Today, Kuhn, a Blasdell native, arrives back in his home state, hoping to land in another fabled victory lane, at Watkins Glen International, following this afternoon’s Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. The No. 39 team starts today’s race in the 14th position.
Kuhn is the gas runner offering pit support to his team on race pit stops. He cleans the grill, catches a tire and performs other assorted duties on pit stops. Still on his mind is the big win at Indy along with the traditional postrace kissing-of-the-bricks ceremony that took place at the start/finish line at Indianapolis.
“I never imagined that I would win that race,” said Kuhn, 38, of the Brickyard win. “I still get goosebumps thinking about it. It didn’t seem real but now that I’ve seen the pictures it’s starting to sink in.”
What made the win at Indy even more rewarding was the fact that a fast and decisive pit stop by the team gave Newman the advantage that led to the Brickyard win over Jimmie Johnson.
“We made a two-tire stop and they made a four-tire stop and we had a clean stop and they had a wheel hang-up on their tire change and that was it,” said Kuhn.
Although he grew up in Blasdell, Kuhn is a 1993 graduate of Orchard Park High School. From there he attended the Cleveland, Ohio, Auto Diesel Tech school and then spent the next 10 years working at Seymour’s Collision in Buffalo. Then Kuhn made a career decision in 2007.
“After 10 years, I was ready for a change and my older brother Tim was working over at Hendrick Motorsports and at the time Haas Racing was an umbrella team for Hendrick,” recalled Kuhn. “So my brother got me in over at Haas and I’ve been there ever since. When I was young, my dad, Les Kuhn, took me to Lancaster and Holland speedways all the time.”
At the end of this season Newman is leaving the SHR camp and Kevin Harvick will become the team’s new driver.
“I talk to Ryan at the track but that’s about it,” said Kuhn. “It’s all good. We’re all still friends. Ryan’s leaving. It’s the reality of the business. Next year Kevin is coming to us. I don’t know him but I think him being here will be more of a gain for the team if anything.”
Also, Kuhn spoke about the impact that the injury to team co-owner/driver Tony Stewart will have on the SHR overall operation. Stewart broke a leg in a sprint-car wreck in Iowa earlier this week and is in the hospital recovering after surgery.
“We’re moving forward while Tony recovers,” said Kuhn. “We are licking our wounds. It’s a bump in the road but when Tony comes back the competition better look out because Tony will be determined to get a win for the operation.”
Kuhn will fly in today on an early-morning flight from Concord, N.C., in what will surely be a long and exhausting day.
“I will get up about 3 a.m. at my home in Mooresville (N.C.) and go to the airport in Concord,” said Kuhn. “At 5 we will take off in one of our team’s private jets and land in New York near the Glen probably somewhere around 6:30. Then I will hop in a rental car, go to the track and help the team set up our pit stall.
“After the race, we don’t leave until the back door on the race hauler is closed. I believe I will actually be back at my home around 11 p.m.”
After a short night of sleep, Kuhn will be back at the team’s shop by 7 a.m. Monday morning, where he will begin another 40- to 45-hour work week in the SHR paint shop. Such is the life of a NASCAR team member.
“It would be great to win at the Glen,” said Kuhn. “When we fly in and out on race day the only thing I will see is the rolling hills and valleys of the upstate New York area. But because I know that our scenery back home is so much different from much of the other places we race, I know I will be close to home and at my home track at The Glen.”
Road racing specialist and part-time NASCAR driver Boris Said was poised Saturday morning to perform double driving duty this weekend. Unlike some other drivers who competed in both the Cup Series and Nationwide Series events here this weekend, it was not as easy for Said. He was racing twice but not on the same property or even in the same state.
Following Saturday morning’s Cup Series qualifying for today’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, in which he is set to start in 27th spot in the U.S. Chrome No. 32 Ford, Said traveled to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., to compete in a Grand-Am event.
“Right after I qualify I’m flying this afternoon all the way over to Road America and running in the Grand-Am race later today with Marsh Racing,” recalled Said.
He was set to co-drive with teammate Eric Curran in the Marsh team’s Whelen Engineering Corvette in Grand-Am’s GT class.