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Getting to know Marc Puchalski, mechanic for the No. 48

CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 30, 2009) – Marc Puchalski doesn’t consider himself a lucky guy, but the mechanic never has finished a fulltime NASCAR season without a championship. In his eight years of fulltime auto racing, Puchalski has been a part of eight championship teams, scoring the first four in the Busch North Series with driver Andy Santerre from 2002-05 and the last four in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with driver Jimmie Johnson (2006-09).

Full name:  Marc Puchalski

Hometown:  Wethersfield, Conn.

Education: I graduated from Middlesex Community College and Baran Institute (a two-year welding program). I attended Central Connecticut State University.

Team/Job duties: Mechanic. At the track, I make sure the car stays intact. During race prep, I work on all the front suspension and brakes. At the shop, I work on the car and build fuel cells.

Time at current job:  Four years. I was hired Jan. 4, 2006, and worked two days before going to Daytona (Fla.) for the first time.

First racing job: Working as a mechanic for Tommy Bolles in the Busch North Series in 1998.

On making NASCAR Sprint Cup history this year: You’re just relieved. It’s finally over. Thank God. It’s like you work all year for that, and you’re so wound up that you don’t know what to think. You’re like ‘OK. What’s next?’ And there’s nothing else to worry about tomorrow. Nothing. It’s done. For now.

On being a part of the No. 48 team’s four-peat: It means everything. That’s what it’s all about.

On winning eight straight championships: I don’t know why I’m that lucky to be a part of that with all these great people. It’s crazy. You know? Why me?

On a highlight from the first four:  Winning with Andy Santerre at Dover in 2005. It was just a good win. We beat five cars in the pits on a pit stop and got penalized for speeding on pit road so he had to go to the back. In a very short amount of time – 20 or 30 laps – he started 16th and went and passed every car and won. Just to be a part of that, to bounce back and win – there was nothing better.

On a highlight from the second four: Winning on fuel mileage at Phoenix in 2008. Before we won, it was the worst feeling ever. I’m thinking, ‘We don’t ever win fuel mileage races, and we’re trying this? We’re going to try to make this work?’ It seemed like the dumbest idea I ever heard. But the way everything worked out – with the field cycling through green-flag pit stops – we really didn’t have a choice. It turned out to be the smartest idea ever. Our fuel mileage engineers know what they’re doing – they can tell you within 100 feet where we’ll run out of fuel—so the calculations were never in question, but it’s the worst feeling you can have.

On the feeling of running a fuel-mileage race:  You’re thinking disaster could strike at any second, and you’ll hear ‘Done. I’m out of fuel.’ You hate hearing those words. We’ve lost so many races running out of fuel. If anybody has ever taken a long trip somewhere, and you’re running on empty—it’s the middle of the night and you’re on fumes, praying for that next gas station to show up. It’s like that. It’s an awful feeling.

Before the race:  Pete (Michel, shock specialist) and I always sit in the truck and watch the national anthem on TV, then head out for the race. It’s almost superstitious. We do that to wait and see if anybody needs anything.  I also make sure to tell our front-tire changer every race that I’m not going to kill him today because I watch the air hose when he goes over the wall. He’s like ‘OK. I trust you.’ Because if he steps on it, he goes down, and he goes down pretty hard.

During a pit stop: I hold the sign down for Jimmie (Johnson, driver).  I try and make it so he can see the sign, but you gotta watch a lot of things. You have to watch the guy in front to see if he’s pitting ahead of you, if he’s going to be there already. You have to watch the guy behind you. Then you have to adjust, if you’re going to stop him short or longer. After that, I watch the front hose and pull it out of the tire changer’s way when he comes around the car. Then I try to catch the left-front tire. I try to save Kenneth (Purcell, jackman) from getting hit by the tire because it comes off at 100 mph it seems.

On working with driver Jimmie Johnson: He doesn’t put himself above anybody. He makes himself a part of this team.

First job overall: I worked at a store called Inside Outlet in Connecticut—it was an interior decorating and design store.

If I wasn’t in racing I would be: I have no idea.

Favorite track: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for the night race. It’s a real racetrack; it’s a tough race.

Hobbies outside of racing:  Remodeling my house.
Pets:  Two cats—Chucky and Scrappy.
Favorite movie:  “The Goonies.”

Favorite music: Octane on Sirius (Satellite).

Dream car: 66 Chevrolet Chevelle.

Favorite driver: Thomas Carey Jr. He’s one of those guys that never made it, but he ran the No. 42 car in the Busch North Series. I think he’s an awesome driver—real aggressive, real smart. He just never got the break.

Favorite food:  Chinese.

I knew I wanted a job in NASCAR when: I’ve always messed with cars. When I was 15, I bought my first car, which was a ‘68 SS396 Chevelle. I thought I’d be building hot rods or street cars somewhere, but I started getting into racing and thought it was pretty cool. I really wanted to build chassis – that’s why I went to welding school. But the more I got into it, the more I realized that I liked building and working on the rest of the car, too. I like what I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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