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Hendrick to Host NYPD at Pocono

POCONO, Pa. (July 24, 2003) – Four very special guests will be in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage when the circuit visits Pocono Raceway for the Pennsylvania 500 this weekend.

Mike Gaffney, Paul Thordsen, James Ninivaggi and James Iacobelli of the New York City Police Department will attend Sunday’s race as VIP guests of Hendrick Motorsports.

Ninivaggi, originally from Queens, is a highway patrolman, while the remaining trio all work as detectives covering Uptown Manhattan in the NYPD’s narcotics division.

Gaffney, who also hails from Queens, will be experiencing his third consecutive visit to Poncono as a guest of HMS.

“I’m a true blue NASCAR fan,” he said. “I really started getting into the sport in 1993 and have followed it ever since. I’d describe all of us as ‘total groupies.’”

Aside from Iacobelli, each member of crew has attended a NASCAR event at Pocono. Last year, the group, all big fans of Jimmie Johnson, had the opportunity to meet the driver’s father, Gary.

“He was a great guy,” said Gaffney, who also works security for famous radio personality Howard Stern. “I never get star-struck until I go to a NASCAR race. We just have a blast.”

Each of the four native New Yorkers were on duty during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and were immediately assigned to Ground Zero, where they spent weeks assisting with the massive cleanup effort.

“We’re proud to have these guys as our guests,” said Shane Parsnow, a friend of the group who changes tires for the No. 48 Lowe’s team on race day and works in the Hendrick Motorsports engine shop. “With everything they’ve been through, having them out to a race is the least we can do.

“These guys are heroes.”

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