Alumni Profile • Aaron Puff '02
Racing's in his Blood

Aaron PuffDays after Aaron Puff ’02 was born, his father carried him into the garage to hear the roar of a race car engine, smell the racing fuel and see all the shiny metal parts. There are pictures of four-year-old Puff working with his father on the engine of his dragster and of a teenaged Puff behind the wheel, smiling, just before a race. When he says, “Racing’s in my blood,” it seems quite literally true.

Like anyone else with a passion, Puff has wanted to work his into a career: Only recently, though, has a way to do that become clear. He looks to his father as a model for where to start.

Larry Puff began drag racing — an acceleration contest between two cars over a quarter-mile, straight track — during the heyday of the sport in the mid-1960s. Some 15 years ago he and a business partner, Ron Berges, started Team Awareness Motorsports to offer racing as a marketing and promotional tool to businesses. But the senior Puff wanted his drag racing to serve as more than an advertising vehicle.

“He was always involved in the vocational school back home in Battle Creek (Mich.),” Aaron Puff said, “trying to give kids a pro-career message and model.”

A natural extension of that message was for Team Awareness to become part of the national Race Against Drugs campaign. Aaron Puff grew up going to schools and community events with his dad and their attention grabber — the drag race car.

Aaron Puff, age 4“Kids will skip an assembly on drug use,” Puff said. “But the race car — that grabs their attention, and then you’ve got a few minutes to talk about staying healthy and drug free.”

A deeper dimension of that message developed for Puff when he was a senior in high school. Through some friends he became a Christian, and, wanting to immerse himself in his new faith, he enrolled at Calvin.

His immersion in faith and in business and economics at Calvin grew into a vision for a new element in Team Awareness Motorsports. While his father and partner continue the program they developed in drag racing, Puff is working to add an oval-track stock car team. The huge growth in NASCAR over the past 20 years and its diverse and loyal fan base, Puff points out, make it the area of car racing with the most opportunities for exposure.

He means more than exposure for himself and his sponsors, and more than exposure for the Race Against Drugs campaign, as valuable as those are. In Puff’s vision, the NASCAR circuit also offers more opportunities to model and speak the message of abundant life in Christ.

“I believe I wouldn’t eat and drink and sleep and breathe this passion if there weren’t a way for me to use it to better the Kingdom,” he said.

Over the next five years Puff will be making a concerted effort to become a professional stock car racer at the Nextel Cup level. His hoped-for 2004 season debut at Berlin Raceway — Michigan’s premier short track — was put on hold for lack of sponsorship funding.

“I’m disappointed, but I guess God’s telling me, ‘Look, it’s not time. Focus on what you need to focus on now, like your new marriage [to Gabrielle Koval ’02] and continue to pursue this.’ So I’m out there now, with Gabrielle’s help, looking for promotional partners for the 2005 season.”

To learn more about Team Awareness Motorsports, including promotional partnerships, e-mail Puff at awarenessmotorsports@yahoo.com.