Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
November 14, 2003. There are fewer than 40 laps to go in the then-Craftsman Truck Series season, and, as often seems to be the case in that series, several drivers are still in contention for the season title. But it’s sophomore driver Brendan Gaughan in control of the points as the laps wind down, leaving Travis Kvapil, Ted Musgrave, and Jack Sprague to try to be in position to capitalize on any mistake Gaughan might make, or to fight it out for second place. Gaughan, the 2002 Rookie of the Year, is already doing something the naysayers said was impossible — competing for the title with a family-owned, West Coast-based team. There are less than 40 laps left before he proves them wrong.
And then it all changed as Marty Houston got loose at the top of the track, spun into the wall and then slid down the track, collecting Gaughan and narrowly missing Travis Kvapil, who would go on to finish fourth, good enough to take the title himself. As Gaughan walked from his destroyed race truck to the waiting ambulance, he waved to the crowd even as the men in the booth for SPEED TV agreed that he’d be back next year and that he’d hold multiple titles before it was all said and done.
But things don’t always work out like we expect, as Gaughan’s career has taken some curves and speed bumps since that day nearly a decade ago. He raced with limited success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, posting a smattering of top-5 and top-10 finishes, but he never quite had the chance to rekindle the magic of that 2003 year that almost was.
Fast forward to 2013 and Gaughan is returning to the Camping World Truck Series with Richard Childress Racing, in a newly-renumbered No. 62 truck and, unlike 2012, when he ran a limited schedule, this year Gaughan will race for the title that many believed he’d win someday. He’ll be reunited with crew chief Shane Wilson, with whom he won back-to-back championships in the old Winston West (now the rebranded K&N Pro Series West), the 2002 CWTS rookie title, and six races in 2003 before that fateful wreck at Homestead. And he can’t wait to get started.
Gaughan, who says he’s feeling more confidence than ever after scoring four top 5s in just eight races with RCR last year, says that being with a competitive team has reminded him that he’s still the driver he always was.
“What I’ve missed for those seven years was equipment of this caliber,” Gaughan said at RCR’s media day in Jaunary. “When the ugly duckling got told he was a duck long enough, he started to believe it. Ernie Cope (my crew chief last year) really beat it back into my head that I’m still good at this. I gained a ton of confidence.”
When I sat down with Gaughan for a longer interview later last month, he said that Childress agreed that he still had what it took to win a title — and the owner had one more piece to put in the puzzle: Shane Wilson.
“Things are working out really well for me right now,” says Gaughan, clearly excited about the upcoming season. “Richard gave me a full-time ride. The whole reason to go part-time (last year) was to see if I deserved it or if I still wanted it. At the end of last year, the things we did, the numbers we hit, Richard was pretty happy and offered me a gig.
“That was really cool, but then he said that Shane was going through a transition and Richard actually came up to me in November and said, ‘Do you and Shane still get along?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we get along enough.’ Shane and I still chuckle about it. For us, it’s great. We don’t have to work on chemistry. We’ve fought with each other. We’ve loved each other. We’ve hated each other. We’ve gone through the whole gamut, and we know what we’re both about, and it’s fun to be back with him. It’s really fun to be back with him!”
It should be fun; from 2000 to 2004 in the Winston West, Camping World Truck, and Sprint Cup Series, Gaughan and Wilson posted a combined total of 16 wins and 41 top-5 finishes across the three series.
“I had the best years of my career with him, not just the one year,” adds Gaughan when asked about the secret of their success together. “We won two championships together, Rookie of the Year in Trucks, had a championship in the Trucks that next year and ended up pretty close. He was a guy looking to make his name in the sport and was a little disenchanted and came out here to this little team in the West, found a great home, and we hit it off great.
“We moved back East and it didn’t work right off the bat for us, but he’s been very successful since he left. I said it during media week, I probably have the most overqualified crew chief in the garage and I’m excited that, with that chemistry we used to have, I’m excited that we’re back together.”
For many drivers, that 2003 race would be devastating. It was to Gaughan, too, but now he’s focused on 2013, and a decade older and wiser, he’s ready to make a run at it again. He looks back on 2003 not as a failure, but as a success for an independent team that many said would never make it in NASCAR’s upper echelons.
“Look, that’s why it’s called racing,” Gaughan says of that now long-ago season. “Two weeks before we were at Phoenix and were going to win that race and had a motor let go and finished 11th. Three weeks before that, we ended up getting caught in a wreck somewhere. That’s why it’s called racing.
“You can’t just look at the last deal and say that’s what happened. The way it ended was kind of crummy, but the fun deal is, everybody said you couldn’t do it from the West Coast. You can’t do it from the West Coast, and that year, you had Gibbs still racing trucks, Hendrick still racing, DEI had trucks, you had Jack Roush trucks still racing—you had big time teams and big time names and it was cool to be the little engine that could.”
At the time, there was speculation that Houston, who was driving as a teammate to Musgrave, had caused the accident on purpose. Gaughan, who has a teammate this year in Ty Dillon, says that kind of racing isn’t teamwork, but that he and Dillon will work together for a lofty goal.
“I never said that (Houston wrecked him intentionally). It was everybody else who said that, but I never said that,” he said before transitioning to his own organization. “The line on teamwork is to be a good teammate. You share information, we work hard with each other, we work out in the gym, we hang out together, do all the things we’re supposed to. When you’re on the racetrack, you don’t wreck your teammate.
“We’re going to be fast; Ty Dillon and I are both going to be quick each week with the equipment that Richard is giving us, with what Chevrolet is giving us. We have great crew chiefs, we have great teams. We’re going to be fast. We’re going to race with each other a lot this year. There’s no team order for this or that. All we’re doing is racing each other clean.
“We both like each other. The driver’s standpoint is you always race somebody how they race you. If your teammate is a jerk, you’re going to race your teammate like a jerk! That’s happened on many teams in many places. But when you get along as teammates, yeah, you’re going to do have a run in. We’re going to go door-to-door with each other a little bit, we’re both going for the win. We expect it because we expect both teams to be that good. But it’s not like I’m going to lay down and let him pass me, and he’s not going to lay down and let me pass him.
“Yeah, there might be a time where if we both need a couple points on lap ten, we might share. But other than that, we’re both racing for wins and the same championship. And if it comes down to the last race with us first and second in the points, that’s what Richard Childress is doing this for. That’s what he brought me in here for. That’s what he’s doing for his grandson, and we’re going to go and try to be one-two going to the last race.”
Gaughan didn’t come to NASCAR from what many consider a traditional route, through America’s short tracks. Instead, his skills and passion were born in the Western desert, along with those of drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Robby Gordon, and Casey Mears, in off-road buggies and trucks, racing over sand dunes and rocky hills. Gaughan says it has made him a better driver. And he’s not alone in that belief.
Mears, a onetime teammate of Gaughan’s, says, “ I feel like it’s been a big help in everything I’ve done growing up. Racing has always been kind of an in control – out of control situation. You’re sideways, you’re throwing it around, but you’re also always looking for grip, you’re chasing the track, you’re chasing different conditions all the time when you race on dirt. So, for sure I think that off-road racing has helped with that in everything I’ve done.”
Another friend from those desert days was Jimmie Johnson, who would go on to win five consecutive Sprint Cup titles. I asked Johnson about what he learned racing off-road trucks.
“It took me a long time to develop my skills on the asphalt until I could look back and say, that’s something from off-road. It’s beginning to actually work for me,” Johnson says. “I’m so used to using a lot of brake, and setting the car into a slide in the corner, then on asphalt, the less you use the brake, the faster you go. Dynamically, that changed a lot how I drove the car. When we get to tracks that are rough, tracks where you cant tune the car and you just have to deal with that, I think that it helps me a lot because there are very few changes that you can make on an off-road truck, you just had to deal with it.”
And that ability to “handle” any situation is what Gaughan believes sets these types of experienced competitors apart.
“It’s just like dirt racing; Tony Stewart came from the sprint cars and the dirt, and Jason Leffler and all those guys and they all have a little bit better car control than a guy who has just never been sliding around on the dirt. The thing about the desert guys, we’re not only sliding around, but now we’re in the air,” he explained. “We’re two wheels, four wheels, one wheel, on our roof. You’ve had to learn how to do so many things with a race car that are not natural, but when you get traction – I remember the first day I jumped into a Camping World Truck and I drove it and I said, ‘wow, this thing, it’s stuck like you can’t believe,’ and Butch Miller had just gotten out of it screaming how loose it was. Because to me, it felt like I had traction and I’d never had that feeling. So to us, it’s just a much more in control situation, and when it starts to get out of control, we’re more accustomed to it.”
Guaghan also says that racing in the desert is the most excitement someone can have in a race car.
“It is a ton of fun, “he says, the joy evident in his voice as he remembers those halcyon days. “There is no racing in the world like that, no racing – I love NASCAR, I love what I do, but there is no racing in the world as fun as racing in the desert, racing in the short course. What Robby Gordon is doing, starting back up that super truck series, there is nothing as much fun as that style racing.”
But wait, don’t you have to be just a little bit crazy to race off-road?
“First, I’m glad I’ve never hit a cow, because that hurts!” Gaughan says after I tell him that Brian Ickler once told me he hit a bovine during a race. “I’ve driven off of cliffs and spent the night, I’ve ended up in guys’ yards, almost into guys’ houses in Mexico, when you drive off a cliff and almost end up inside their house. There’s all sorts of stories. That’s what’s great about Mexico and desert racing; the bench racing stories are epic. There’s so many stories that come out of that kind of racing. You’re in the car for 20 hours. I finished the Baja 500 one year and it took me 23 hours and 50 minutes to do 500 miles. I got frostbite and heat exhaustion that same race. It started to snow in the pine forest at night and I didn’t wear gloves and I got frostbitten. Earlier that afternoon, we were changing the transmission at Laguna Diablo and it was a hundred and fifteen degrees, and I didn’t drink enough water and got a touch of heat stroke on me and had to lay underneath the car and drink a bunch of water until the team got there to finish putting the transmission in, and then got going again.”
Stories? Like pretending to be Jimmie Johnson? Like that reverse Mohawk?
“Yes, it is,” Gaughan admits when asked if it’s true that he and Johnson used to sign autographs posing as each other. “Back then, I was a lot slimmer and he was a little bit heavier and we looked a lot alike.”
I asked Gaughan how many fans think they have an authentic Johnson signature but really have a Gaughan special. He laughs. “God only knows. We were 15 and 16-year-old kids who were having the time of our lives racing cars and what Jimmie has done is absolutely spectacular,” Gaughan adds. “I hope that one day I can get back there full-time and at least compete against him to remind him that I haven’t totally disappeared.”
Johnson also laughs when I ask him about the autographs. “Yeah. We did lots of fun things. Some of them, I probably shouldn’t say. We’ve known each other for a long time. We actually tore up a lot of equipment over the years, so we go back a long way. Brendan’s a great guy.”
Johnson was clearly taking the high road in not spilling any dirt, so I asked Mears, a former teammate of both Johnson and Gaughan back in the day, what he remembered about the Las Vegas native.
“I remember he was playing college football at the time and when he first came in to the team, he came in and he had a big shaved stripe right down the center of his head,” says Mears, laughing. “I guess there was some sort of initiation with his college football team. I’ll never forget that. That was pretty funny. Brendan’s a great guy. We’ve known his family for a long time, and obviously, the off-road roots are pretty deep there.”
Gaughan tells some more of the story.
“Well, I didn’t mean to show up with a reverse Mohawk shaved in. There’s only one person that I think may even remember it or have a picture of it, but fortunately they’re all gone. I played college football, and for freshman initiation, Georgetown did not have a Greek system, fortunately for me, because I would not have survived, but football was its own little Greek system as with most places, and for freshmen on the football team, you had to do initiation,” he said. “And you had to do certain things. You had options that you could choose, fortunately. The option that I chose because it was a much – how should I put this — a much saner option — was letting them shave a stripe in my head. So I sat down with the clippers and they shaved a reverse Mohawk in my head. I had one race left that year, so I went to that race and I wore a baseball hat the entire time. I wore it until I put my helmet on and put the helmet on real fast!” He adds, “Casey told you that? He remembers. Damn. Hopefully he doesn’t have a picture somewhere.”
I make a mental note to ask Mears and shift gears to Gaughan’s experiences as a college athlete. He made the Georgetown basketball team as a walk-on, no easy task, and holds the school’s record for kicking percentage as a football player. Not surprisingly, the Truck Series veteran has taken what he learned with him to the racetrack.
“You’ve got to remember, racing is a team sport,” Gaughan reminds me. “The whole sport is about people: the people you have putting race cars together, the people you have going over the wall, your crew chief. How you react to people, how you treat people, the chemistry you have with people, that makes such a difference. There are a lot of guys in the sport who are really good at what they do and everybody goes, ‘why aren’t they just as good as that?’ It’s when they get it — Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, they get it. They understand that it’s a team sport and they take care of their guys and that’s why they’re that good at it. So I take all that team mentality and that coaching mentality and I’ve always put that in, whether it’s a team I owned or wherever I race. That’s one thing Shane and I have in common; he was a high school basketball player. He believes in the team atmosphere of this deal, so we’ve always gotten along because we always make it a team and work really well within that system.”
I ask Gaughan about life off the track, too. He’s learned some important lessons through family time, as he and wife Tatum welcomed their second son last fall.
“Parenthood is always an adventure,” he explained. “It’s been fun, and having two, it doesn’t get easier. Everyone says, ‘oh, you already have one? It’ll get easier.’ Oh, no. Uh-uh. You no longer get to nap when one naps because you have to take care of the other one, that kind of thing.’”
Gaughan is a fan of adventure, both as a parent and as a racer, and, it turns out, he also enjoys indulging his inner nerd from time to time. He said his favorite movie is Harry Potter, and when I ask him which one (and I love them, too, so I’m interested in the answer), it turns out there’s more to the story.
“The books are my favorite, and I have to tell you, really Star Wars is my favorite movie,” Gaughan admits. “But most everybody doesn’t remember the Star Wars stuff anymore. I’m that type of guy anyway. I love the (Harry Potter) books; I actually used to help write a couple books about the books and was big on websites and blogs, trying to help figure out what was happening. Really, if you go back to it, the first one to me, even though it was the most child-friendly, you just look at the simplicity of how it started to how it went, the actors did a great job, the kids did, growing up with the films, and I still enjoy watching the first one to this day.”
Gaughan will open the 2013 season Friday night in Daytona, the first step on the long road toward, he hopes, the title he’s always wanted. A little but goofy and a whole lot of racer, Gaughan seems rejuvenated this year, bolstered by the team around him and the commitment of his owner and manufacturer. If the year goes like his abbreviated stint in 2012, Gaughan looks like he and Dillon will be formidable opponents to the rest of the series.
February, 2013. Brendan Gaughan is older, wiser, and in the ride of his dreams. He’s ready to start a brand-new season and a brand-new chapter in his life. 2003 is in the past, 2013 is the future, and it’s all lying before him, a ribbon of asphalt and dirt. Whatever happens for Gaughan this year, it’s sure to be an adventure. Gaughan wouldn’t have it any other way.
Connect with Amy!
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.