It's no secret that NASCAR driver diver Brendan Gaughan is one of the most likable drivers in the sport. He's always open to fans, meets people with his beaming smile and is great as a caller, and sometimes in studio voice, on NASCAR Sirius/XM radio. And now Gaughan can add "Shark Diver" at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga to his list of accomplishments which includes a win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season.
So how did a "Relaxing" shark dive get planned for a NASCAR driver between races? It all starts with Guaghan, driver of the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet, being a certified SCUBA divemaster and Bristol Motor Speedway Day being held at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
Bristol Motor Speedway day at the Aquarium included Gaughan helping promote "The Last Great Colosseum" in the form of Bristol as well as some fan events. The famed night race at Bristol, which is North of Chattanooga in upper East Tennessee, is coming up In August and Chattanooga fans enjoyed the show car on the Aquarium plaza, autograph sessions, photo opportunities with a NASCAR driver and more.
But... It's a really cool aquarium, with fresh and salt water exhibits, with sharks, and your visiting driver is a SCUBA divemaster. You can bet that Gaughan would not pass up a chance to dive as a featured guest diver during the 11 am Secret Reef dive show.
"My life is very aggressive and fast paced. One of the great things about SCUBA diving is that it gives me the opportunity to slow down and just live in that moment," Gaughan said. "It is such a peaceful, safe sport that I enjoy sharing with my family. I could not wait to share the unique experience at the Tennessee Aquarium with everyone."
It's a fact that many people fear sharks and worry about their "killer attitude," but Gaughan knows the truth about sharks. The Aquarium's toothy Sand Tiger and Sandbar Sharks might be somewhat friendlier than the other drivers he faces on the Nationwide Series. In fact, the driver says it's safer!
"I feel much safer next to a Sand Tiger Shark than I do next to some of my competitors," Gaughan said. "On the track I have to get to know my competitors to find out who the Great Whites are and who the Nurse Sharks are. When I'm in the ocean I know that most sharks are peaceful creatures. Unfortunately, many television programs haven't done these animals any favors. They frequently make them out to be ferocious, man-eating animals, but they aren't."
Gaughan sported a large gladiator sword and Roman style helmet to promote the "Last Great Colosseum" and even held up a sign while in the water letting fans viewing the dive know he had a sense of humor. The sign stated "Swimming with the Sharks is Easier than RACING AT BRISTOL!"
Following his dive Gaughan signed autographs and greeting his fans while speaking with members of the media. The driver hopes that many of his new friends who enjoy NASCAR will also become shark fans! He's eager to see more people interested in learning more about sharks.
"It's sad and devastating what humans have done to them," Gaughan said. "Every year a substantial number of sharks are killed. I'd like to think that when people come to places like the Tennessee Aquarium, to see and appreciate these amazing creatures, they get excited about helping them. Hopefully, increased awareness leads to additional conservation measures to save sharks before it's too late."
Gaughan, and his fellow NASCAR drivers, will soon set their sights toward enduring the high-banks of Bristol on August 20, 22-23. for a full weekend of racing starting on Wednesday night. The racing kicks off with a double header the with the running of both the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by Z-Loop and the Whelen Modified 150. That's followed by the Nationwide Series New Food City 300 under the lights Saturday and then Sprint Cup Series running of the IRWIN Tools Night Race on Sunday. Complete details and prices are available on the official Bristol website.
Thom Benson, of the Tennessee Aquarium, also noted that the dive by Guaghan is a great way to promote an upcoming event that's perfect for people that enjoy sharks.
"SharkFest at the Tennessee Aquarium is coming up on Friday, August 1st." For more information Benson says to check out the aquarium website.