Former NASCAR mechanic Gabe Barajas has moved from the race pit to a paddleboard as a way of helping kids suffering from cystic fibrosis.
Barajas only started the sport in 2021 when he tested out his friend’s board. But in no time, he was hooked. And this summer, he’s planning to use his newfound passion to raise money through Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis.
During a nearly 80-mile open water challenge, Barajas will paddle from Bimini, Bahamas, to Lake Worth, Florida. The event founder started Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis in 2013 when one of his daughters was diagnosed with CF. And Barajas, who has daughters of his own, was moved by the sentiment.
“Why it touched me is, I guess, because it’s just a father doing something for his daughter. I have two daughters. They’re college age,” he told WCNC Charlotte. “And just the fact that if that was to happen to one of my girls, you know, I could see that in myself just going to any end or any length, to help them out.
“And so, I feel like I’m able-bodied and I’ve got my health and my strength and all that kind of stuff, and, why not go out there and, and put my efforts to good use,” he added.
Before Paddleboarding, Gabe Barajas Worked for Richard Petty
Before Gabe Barajas made the move to paddleboarding, he was a mechanic for Richard Petty Motorsports. He started working with the team in 2003.
“I’d carry tires on the 45 car for Kyle Petty. And then I left there and I worked for a various number of teams throughout the years,” he shared.
He continued to work as a mechanic and for pit crews for 17 years. But in 2019, he retired from his career. Now he uses all of his spare time to practice his new hobby in Lake Norman. And he’s using his NASCAR racing know-how to prepare for his upcoming event.
Before the big day, which is slated for June, Barajas is going to run a full test of the conditions with all of his gear to be certain that he’s both “physically and mentally” ready to go the full 76 miles.
“[To] make sure that my stamina is up for that amount of time, I want to make sure that I’m ready beforehand,” he added. “I’ve been in the mindset that if you make your practice harder than the actual game or the event, then the game or the event or, the pitstop or whatever you’re doing at the time, becomes a whole lot easier.”