The Frontstretch: Brendan Gaughan Driver Diary: Race Day, Sharks, And A Fast Fix by Brendan Gaughan -- Friday May 24, 2013

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The season has been going great since my last diary! We had a third-place finish at Rockingham. We got out-tired for second. Kyle Larson was on a mission; nobody had anything for him. Joey (Logano) got lucky and got tires, so we ended up third.

Then, at Kansas, we ended up fourth. Ryan Blaney, I’ve been bragging about him since that deal. Nobody has ever passed me on the outside—it just doesn’t happen, and Ryan Blaney passed me on the outside on the last lap. I was pretty proud of that young man! But we’ve had two good runs; our Chevrolet has been fast, and Shane and I have been happy. Morale in the shop has been great. The guys are pumped. They know that we’re going to get some wins this year, and everybody feels very positive about that. Everybody is happy around us, and that’s always a bonus, especially in this sport, people can get down so quickly. When you’ve got the guys excited, you need to keep that going.

Brendan Guaghan took some time on a recent trip to Mexico to relax with his family and friends. Photo courtesy of Brendan Gaughan.

My regular raceday routine is to get to the track at o’dark-hundred with the team, normally. Well, at Charlotte it’s not that way, because we’re at home, but that’s what we usually do. Then, I’ll sit with Shane, and he tells us what the practice plan is and what we’re looking for. If everything rolls off right, you’re practicing in the top 10 and everything’s fast, we’ll make our changes, and then when I get out, I do things like interviews. We might have a track autograph session. If it’s a one-day show like Charlotte, we’ll go out and qualify; qualifying is pretty simple: stand in the heat, wait for your turn, go fast for two laps, close eyes, turn left, come in and let them tell you how good or bad you were. That’s where they get to make fun of me, or I get to make fun of them back.

Then we have the drivers’ meeting. Never miss a drivers’ meeting! In my career, knock on wood, I have never missed a drivers’ meeting. That’s always one of those things that PR people are deathly afraid of: their drivers or crew chiefs missing the drivers’ meetings. They take that very personally. The owner is going to blame the PR person, not a crew chief or a driver. I’ll get about four text messages if Jill doesn’t see me. She’ll send me these text messages saying, “drivers’ meeting, where are you?” and I’m sitting in the meeting. It’s fun to mess with her about that, because we cannot miss these things, because you can qualify eighth and if you miss it, you’re then starting 36th.

After drivers’ meeting, I’ll go back to the motor coach for a little family time before the race, then I’ll pick up my baby boy to walk him across the stage for driver introductions. Nobody wants to see me anymore; they want to see the babies. Then I’ll drop him off with his Mom and give her a kiss and it’s time to go to work. I don’t have superstitions. I do still wear my practice jersey from Georgetown under my uniform, but that’s because it’s comfortable, not a superstition. I don’t have anything like I have to go and knock three times on the left wall and put my right shoe on first and then take it off or anything. I’m from Las Vegas. It’s called odds. It’s not about horseshoes and rabbits’ feet. It’s about preparation and knowing what you’re doing.

Since Kansas, I raced in Mexico with my Dad. It’s called the NORRA Mexican 1000. It’s a four-day rally race that is like a vintage Baja 1000, with all the old-timers and their old race cars. Walker Evans has his ’77 Chevy out there, and Dad has his ’88 Dodge Ram Prerunner. I was only supposed to do the last day. It’s not for me to race; it’s my Dad’s race. But my Mom broke her wrist the day we were leaving for Mexico. My Dad stayed with her and told me to race it. His last words were, “Don’t screw up my race!”

And I proceeded to screw up his race. We ended up breaking apart in day two, stage two. We got it fixed and got running again, so fortunately it was something fixable, because if my Dad would have flown down for day three and not had a race car, I really would have been FUBAR. So, at least it wasn’t so terminal that it totally killed us. We got to finish, Dad had a great time still, and it was so much fun watching my Dad and Walker Evans and Mr. Herbst and Dr. Fellcamp—all these guys that I grew up with who were the heroes of off-road racing, and they’re all racing again. Joey Herbst is paralyzed in one arm and there he is, riding with his boys one thousand, two hundred and thirteen miles, down the peninsula. The man looks worn out by the time he gets to Cabo, but we all say, ‘who cares, he’s 72 years old, and he’s racing with his boys and happy.’ It’s so much fun to watch those guys do that. Shoot, Dr. Fellcamp raced for my Dad in the ’70’s. They had a famous race car called the Bel Rea Bullet, he and a famous motorcycle guy named Malcom Smith have been teammates forever. If anybody is a motorcycle fan, the movie Any Given Sunday is about Malcolm Smith.

Anyway, Dr. Fellcamp’s son, Buddy Fellcamp—they’re both doctors—Buddy drove the entire thing in a 1975 race car that was completely original. He was smiling the whole way. He had glass goggles on, a bandana covering his face, ran it just like his dad did in the ’70’s. I can’t believe the boy did it. It’s just so much fun to see that stuff!

Sharks were among some of the undersea life Gaughan and friends saw while SCUBA diving in Mexico. Photo courtesy of Brendan Gaughan.

After that, we went on a boat to an island called Socorro Island, in the middle of nowhere, and went SCUBA diving out there for six days. I flew a jet pack down in Cabo before we left on the boat, too. Then my friends and I went diving and saw a whole bunch of sharks and whales and all sorts of cool things. Socorro is famous for its manta rays—giant Pacific manta rays. It wasn’t humpback whale season, so most of them were gone but we saw a few of them. We saw a giant scalloped hammerhead shark, and schooling hammerheads. There were thousands of sharks—silky, Galapagos, white tip, reef—just a boatload of sharks. We saw a school of tuna; I’d never seen schooling Bluefin, and we saw a school of Bluefin where the biggest one was as big as a Volkswagen Beetle! It was 350-400 pounds, just a massive sucker. It was so cool to see. You see this giant thing and yet it’s one of the fastest fish in the ocean. It’s super fast. It was chasing some schooling fish, trying to eat, and it would go by, and it was like, ‘was that a 400-pound tuna?” It was just so huge and fast. It’s really cool diving down there!

Crazy Off-Road Story of the Month

The crazy off-road story this month happened this time in Mexico. The part that broke on Dad’s truck was an A-arm bolt. For the folks at home, your front end is held together by two A-arms that attach to a spindle at the tire. The bottom of my A-arm, the forward bolt backed out and broke. We were dead in the water, 30 miles from any pavement. We couldn’t drive the car without a wheel on it. It bent the bottom of the A-arm, the front mount came out and the rear mount was bent. It was bent about four inches away from making it touch where it was supposed to. Our buddy, who was in the race also, drove around in front of us, and we put a tow-strap around the spindle.

If you’re not mechanically inclined, you might not appreciate this story or how good it was. This was impressive. We actually took the car in front of us and tied it to the front end of my race car. I got in my car and held the brakes, and we put big boulders under the tires to hold it, and he drove his race car until it bent that A-arm far enough that we could put a bolt through the piece that was broken. The problem was, we only had one of the two mounts. Think of something in your home that has two mounts and something slides in it, and then a bolt slides through it. Well, we only had one end for the bolt to go through; we were missing an end. It’s a three-quarter inch hole, so it’s a hole as big as a 50-cent piece—it’s a big bolt. We had a bolt that was as big as a dime, a half-inch bolt. We threw the half-inch bolt through the A-arm and through the one half of the mount and tied it together with a half mock nut and drove it at 60 miles an hour through the desert—and it held together. The worst part was driving down the road with no helmets on and no seatbelts. I was looking at my co-riders and going, “We probably should have our belts on…” That might not have been the smartest move. But it was impressive, to say the least, the guys who fixed that—that was Desert Engineering at its best, a 401 class. That wasn’t a 101 class!

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