The Frontstretch: Brendan Gaughan Driver Diary: A Tight Points Battle As The Schedule Heats Up by Brendan Gaughan -- Friday August 2, 2013

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Since our last diary, we had a streak of bad luck latch onto us for a couple of races. We were so fast at Kentucky Speedway; we just had a mechanical problem. That’s just part of what we do. It wasn’t anything that anybody did wrong or incorrectly. It wasn’t even a specific part that failed, where we could say, “This company’s part failed.” It was just a fluke deal. That is the story of racing: all the money we spend to do things and sometimes things just happen.

We went to Iowa Speedway, and experienced another part of racing—sometimes, racing happens. We were moving forward, and somebody didn’t quite get it, and they moved up and got into us—it’s just a racing deal. So, we had the two bad races, which hurt us in points, but the good news is we were so fast in those races. We were fourth when one incident happened and third when the other happened. We were really fast. Our Chevys are fast, the guys are building great stuff. It would be one thing if we were sitting there wondering, “What did we do wrong?” We’re not doing anything wrong. We knew we just needed to get back to what we were doing and we’d be fine.

In spite of some recent bad luck, Brendan Gaughan is very pleased with his season in the Camping World Truck Series.

After those two races, we got to run the inaugural Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. The race at Eldora was the first dirt race in something like 40 years in a NASCAR touring division You look at that and think, “Is that really the race we want next when we’re trying to just get back to normal?” That’s certainly not at the top of most people’s lists, but for us, it was something we looked very forward to. The RCR team has a lot of dirt experience. Between Dillon boys, Team Dillon Racing, and then my history on dirt both in the desert dirt and on dirt ovals, we had a lot of experience, and we went there with high expectations. If you watched Eldora, it was phenomenal. The race went off perfectly. Norm Benning became a household name after qualifying for the main event during the Last Chance race.

The main event went perfectly. We ended up fifth. It was a great night. We could have ended up further forward if I had been a little more aggressive, but I played it safe and close to the vest. In every race other than the three races where we’ve had problems, we’ve finished in the top 5. For the most part, we’re having a great season, and I can’t say enough about how good we are. We just have to minimize the little problems and start winning races.

As much as everybody at home says Eldora was a great race to watch, I’m going to tell you, it may not have topped how much fun it was in the truck. In the truck, it was so much fun to be a part of that race. The track ended up being perfect. The competitors raced each other with respect. We all had a little bit of tentativeness in our racing, and you could see it, but it was just so much fun to be out there. It was great. I can’t wait to go back. I can’t imagine that NASCAR would not send us back with that crowd and how well the race turned out.

As for the points, we’re seventh in points right now. The problem is that the lead is a pretty big margin. Matt Crafton has done a great job of minimizing these bad days we’ve had to deal with. It doesn’t look like he’s really racing for the wins; he’s racing to win this championship, which is a smart move on his part. We are one point out of fifth, 24 points out of third—we are still in the battle for this. A couple bad weeks by Matt or a few wins by the 62 team is all it could take to shake things up. If we can start winning races, we’ll be gaining points no matter what they do. All it’s going to take is for us to get on a roll and we can chip away at this gap.

Our schedule gets pretty busy from here on out. I like it when the schedule gets busy. I’m even running the NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Watkins Glen and Bristol in a couple of weeks. I really like this racing thing; the more racing we’re doing, the better. The more we race, the more we get into a rhythm, and the better things are. I’m really looking forward to this section of the schedule. If you look at my history, this is normally when things go well for me because we’re racing every week. We get into rhythm, and we can start rattling off great finishes and that will help us make up some points. When we make up points, it makes the whole team feel like a million bucks. Everybody gets pumped up and says, “Hey, we’re doing this!” So, I definitely think the next few weeks are something we look forward to.

There were a few off-weeks in the schedule before this busy stretch. For the Fourth of July, we went to our place in Colorado and got to spend a week with everybody: my niece, my Mom and Dad, my babies. I got to take my munchkins around mountain biking. I love it up in Colorado. It’s one of my favorite places, so it’s always nice to get up there and work out a little bit and get into gear with my boy trailing behind me along with his cousin Bella. He and Bella are best buds, so it’s fun to have both of them.

We went SCUBA diving off the coast of North Carolina last week; we went out and did some tech diving. We had one day of great diving. It was supposed to be two days, but the second day got weathered out. We saw a ton of sharks and a sea turtle that was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. I had never seen a turtle that big. At first, I thought it was a part of the wreck we were diving. My friend Andrew from Lake Norman SCUBA was pointing at it. I was looking at him like, “What the hell are you pointing at? That’s part of the wreck.” Then he started swimming toward it and took a picture of it. That’s when I realized, “Oh, my God, that’s not the wreck, that’s a turtle!” It was huge! I’ve seen big turtles, but this thing was the most amazing turtle I’ve ever seen

I always look forward to those kinds of things, so that was fun. But now it’s time to get back into the important stuff, like going to the shop and putting seats in, working, keeping things going, which I like.

Crazy Off-Road Story of the Month

This one hurt! It was the same guys in the race car as the last story, my spotter and co-driver Billy and me. It was the 2010 Baja 500. We were running through a wash, and there were eight different roads that were all part of the course; you could take any one you wanted. You had to be careful because they all crisscrossed, so you had to watch out for other race cars and look for the one with the least amount of dust. If you pre-ran, you’d know which ones were fast.

You start the race off of a pill draw, so you could be fast, but you were going to start 25th. One of our teammates had a helicopter and we had heard about 25 minutes earlier that there was a parked car at the end of the wash. We were thinking a race car was stuck, but that was all we heard. We didn’t hear anything else about it. We were nearing the end of the wash, and we’re racing a trophy truck trying to get to the next merge spot, where all the roads meet to go on to the next part of the course. We were racing this trophy truck, driving the hell out of it, and the trophy truck beats us by about 15 feet.

So now, we were in heavy, heavy dust—you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We were doing about 35 miles an hour, driving into a canyon, basically driving into a mountain. I mean, we knew we were coming into the mountain somewhere. We were looking out the sides of the car, because that’s what you do when you can’t see. We were trying to find the road and then all of a sudden, we went from 35 to dead-nothing zero. I mean, it just stopped. It hurt so bad. Billy was almost knocked silly.

I thought we had missed the entrance to the canyon and hit the side of the mountain. We were sitting there, waiting for the dust to settle. You have to remember, there were race cars behind us that were in the dust, so you always worry about getting hit from behind. When the dust settled, we looked up, and there was a 1998 Ford Explorer. The parked car was literally a fan who drove into the middle of the wash and got stuck in the middle of the race course!

We couldn’t see him because of the dust. My front bumper was in his engine block; I could look through his grille, through the belts, and see the engine block, that’s how hard I hit this guy. I was so mad right then that I’d hit some fan’s parked car that I didn’t even care that he was going to be broken down there. I was sitting there with a headache, and I thought we were going to be stuck there because of the soft sand in the wash. Billy was knocked so loopy that he started to unbuckle his seat belts like he was going to get out. I grabbed his hand and stopped him. I told him to hold on and let us see if we were stuck. I put our buggy in reverse and we actually backed out.

When I backed out, I pulled a radiator belt, a pulley, and his front bumper with me. I backed off of the Explorer, put it onto first really fast, and we never got stuck. We got lucky and kept driving. When we pulled away from it, there was this Ford Explorer that now had no motor in it because it had been wrecked, and I was dragging his front bumper. I did have a broken wheel that I had to change because it was flat. We kept going until we could get out of the wash onto somewhere where it was hard packed and changed the tire. I couldn’t believe we hit a parked car. It hurt so much.

I understand now when they talk about these test sleds they use in NASCAR, where they do these tests at 35 and 60 miles an hour. I used to think, “Why do they go so slow? We hit walls at 200 miles an hour.” I now know why: because 35 miles an hour to zero in one foot hurts worse than 200 miles an hour at Daytona. That wreck hurt so bad. So now I know why they do the testing at 35 miles an hour. And that’s our story of hitting a parked car in Mexico.

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