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Getting to know ‘Gooch’

FONTANA — The Coast News photographer Daniel Knighton went to the 16th Annual NASCAR Auto Club 400 in Fontana and caught up with Escondido native Jeff “Gooch” Patterson for a quick Q&A.

Escondido native Jeff “Gooch” Patterson (right) is one of the top gas-men on the NASCAR circuit. Gooch spends each Sunday filling up the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet driven by Tony Stewart. Photo by Daniel Knighton
“Gooch” works for 2011 Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart, driving Stewart’s luxury motor home and filling the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet with Sunoco E15 racing fuel.

Stewart took the win after rain cut the race to 129 laps.

So how did you get from Escondido to crewing for one of the hottest teams in NASCAR?

Patterson: Just racin’! My dad (Larry Patterson) raced when I was a kid, and worked on racecars my whole childhood and I just got in a love of racing. I moved to Charlotte (North Carolina) and one thing led to another, ya know?

Did you seek out Tony or did he come asking for you?

Patterson: I actually worked for a Nationwide team that he drove for, he drove a truck for them, and that’s how I met him. Then I lived with him for three years and then he bought a motorhome when he started Cup racing in 1998 and I went to work for him then.

You are known throughout the circuit as one of the top gasmen in NASCAR.

Tony Stewart took the win at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana after rain cut the race short after just 129 laps. Photo by Daniel Knighton

Patterson: I used to be… now I’m just the oldest! (laughs)

I don’t know, you still have a pretty good reputation.

Patterson: I enjoy it, I’ve been doing it a long time.

Does the pressure get to you at all, knowing that the slightest slip can make or break a race?

Patterson: There isn’t anybody in this pit stall that can’t make or break a pit stop. Even the guy back here that pulls the hoses is just as important as anything that anyone else does.