Brendan Gaughan · Friday October 11, 2013
Going back to the last four races since our last diary, it’s been a calamity of the strangest things ever. We were having a great run at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. We weren’t going to win it, but we were going to be around third, fourth, or fifth…and we had a sway bar hind bolt break. I’ve been involved in this sport since 1997, and I’ve never seen that. I’ve seen sway bar arms break, different bolts break. We had never seen the hind bolt break. That’s the story of what happened to us. We were fast, we were going to have a top day like we have had all year, and something completely random happened. It was going to be a great day. We were fast, we qualified well. Everything was looking like normal, we were going to go out and kick some butt, and then in the end, we just don’t know what happened to cause the bolt to break.
The next race after that was at Iowa Speedway. Iowa was another day where things were going great and something happened. Sometimes tire failures happen. Everyone understands that; sometimes you put a little too much camber in it and get a little too aggressive. We didn’t, but we had a tire failure. I was able to keep it off the wall and get down to pit road. I went out and got back into the top ten. Then, there was a green-white-checkered coming, and we were sitting seventh for the final restart, on the inside. We thought we had salvaged a good day out of it, we were going to gain a couple more sports on the green-white-checkered—way to go. Then all of a sudden, we had a brake line fail. The tire failure had done some damage, and the line failed on the restart. It wrecked the hell out of me and Joey Coulter. That was a deal where you could say it was maybe the most normal of the issues we had. We had a tire failure; okay. But it’s still frustrating because we were running second or third and everything’s going great. Again, we were going to get a top ten, maybe a top five out of it, and then, crap happened at the end.
Chicagoland Speedway was our next race. It was probably our best race in the last four. We were running second or third again. This one really ticked me off. We were running third. I think we had spent the entire race in the top five. The trucks have ductwork in the nose. This was something I have never seen happen. It was a little like CTMP; sway bars break, but we had never seen one break where that one did. This time, a pop rivet came loose and it sealed the radiator off. When the rivet came loose, it blocked the radiator off completely, and with eight laps to go, running third, we ended up almost blowing up the motor. I had to come to pit road; we put water in it, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I got back out, and it immediately got to 300 degrees. I had to come back in again and the guys had to keep looking at it. We finally found the ductwork problem, which was the absolute craziest thing we had ever seen.
It’s disheartening when you’re on such a great race team. We’re so fast every week, and it seemed like no matter what, stuff happened to us. It’s harder than in years past when I was on weaker race teams and mediocre finishes were the norm. This is a great race team, and with our great race team, we’ve had these phenomenal runs. We’ve been running in the top five in every race this year, and then these things happened. It really feels worse because we’re so good.
The next race after Chicago was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, my home track. We qualified up front, led a bunch of laps. Shane Wilson had a great strategy. Everything was looking great, and then the last set of tires that we put on the truck made it loose. That’s just racing. It’s a bummer to have that happen at your home track, and having that eighth-place finish felt horrible, although I’m saying that after having those 20th-place finishes. You’d think we’d feel great after finishing eighth, but we were up front, leading the race. Everything was going great, and to come with an eighth-place finish, I just thought, “Well, the good news is we didn’t have anything stupid happen. The bad news is we were fast enough to win and the last set of tires got me loose.” That’s just part of racing. That what makes this worse is that we didn’t have the ability to look at and think, “We finished eighth, what happened today?” because we’ve had those other finishes in the last month.
This three-week break is both welcome for the team to regroup and frustrating because we want to race. Because I race for Richard Childress Racing and this team is so fast, I’m thinking, “Just get me back to the race track and let me go fast again, just break this streak of crazy stuff happening. It can’t keep happening.” It’s just impossible for it to keep happening. But then the backside of it is that with all these freak things happening to such a great race team, it’s like, give me a second to just catch my breath and say, “This stinks,” and then get some family time, get some smiling in.
During the break, we stayed in Las Vegas. My brother has a house in Newport, Calif., right on the ocean. We took my wife’s best friend and my oldest son Michael’s best friend and came out to go do Disneyland. It was Savannah’s (Michael’s best friend) first time ever to Disneyland, and she wore her little Tinkerbelle outfit with the little green dress and the little wings. It’s been a lot of fun, but I’m ready to get back to racing.
The only way I’m approaching every race from now until the end of the year is in kill mode. We are trying to win every race there is left. Talladega Superspeedway, of course, is a wild card. Anybody can win it; that’s just Talladega. At Martinsville Speedway, you have to qualify well and you have to stay up front. There’s not a whole lot of different strategy you can play there; it’s pretty straightforward. Shane will try whatever he can. He and I talked the other day, and if we can come up with something, if we can fake something, we’re going to. We have nothing to lose. We are racing for two things and those are wins and to get as far up in the points as we can get. We will do everything—every pit strategy, every move on track—to take the chance and go for wins. Shane and I never were afraid to gamble. I told Shane, “Your sponsor is a casino owner, so the word ‘gamble’ doesn’t quite scare us!” We will gamble and do everything we can to win. That’s all we have left to do.
Crazy Off-Road Story of the Month
Have I told the story of the moonshine yet? That’s a good one. It was in the Baja 1000 in 2001. My spotter, Batman, the guy who’s been with me through all these stories, and I were driving a trophy truck for a man named Bob Gray. He was a nice man, and he had a good trophy truck. They hired me to come try to get them their first Baja 1000 finish. We were driving through the night, and we started having alternator problems. That meant we didn’t have enough power to run all of our lights. It was the middle of the night, and we were running on two handheld flashlights. Literally; I was holding one in my right hand, Billy was holding one in his left hand and that’s what we were driving 80 miles an hour across the desert with.
Finally, the alternator went so far south that it wouldn’t even charge the truck. It was about 5:45 in the morning, and the sun was going to be up in another 30 minutes. We stopped wherever the truck pulled over and we were waiting to see where we were so we could find some way to get our alternator fixed and get the battery charged and keep going. When the sun came up, we were right next to a house. Some good friends of ours, the Vessels family (Scoop Vessels was one of the founders of the Camping World Truck Series) were there.
One unknown trick to make an alternator work is to pour beer in it. The acid in the beer actually recharges the copper coils. So, the Vessels gave us a battery and a couple beers. We poured the beers into the alternator and put the new battery in, and we drove to the next pit area, which was about 30 miles. By the time we got there, it was sputtering. But we got to the pit area in a little town called San Jose de Comondu. I will forever remember the name of this town. We got there, and told them we needed a battery charge because they didn’t have an alternator. The only way they had to charge the battery was to take the generator they’d been running, take an extension cord, cut the ends off to bare the wires, and plug it right onto our battery. So, they cut the ends off, plug us in, and we were charging. Meanwhile, here comes Batman walking down the street with an ice cold 40 of Tecate. I looked at him and asked him where in the world he got an ice cold beer in a town with no power.
He says to me, “They’ve got a bar down the road.” It had the old-fashioned freezer that holds block ice and they had beer in there. I started laughing—only Batman.
We went down there, and there was a Mexican guy there who was quite inebriated, hung over from the night before. I asked how they got so drunk on just beer. And they told me in Spanish they have wine—vino—and I was thinking, “Wine? What are they talking about?” The guy said he made the wine there. He asked us if we wanted some, and he brought us this wine, and poured this little bitty drink in a cup. I looked at Batman and said, “That’s not wine; that moonshine.” The boys in North Carolina are going to be ticked, but this was better than any North Carolina moonshine I’ve ever had. So we were sitting there thinking it was good stuff. The guy asked us if we wanted to buy some, and we were thinking, “Well, hell, we’re just going to go to the pit area to spend the night, so why not?”
The guy asked how much we wanted held up a 20-gallon gas can, and we told him not that much. We ended up getting two bottles of moonshine from this guy. Then they told us how to get out of the town to get to the highway. Billy had the 40 of Tecate, we had our race suits tied around our waists and our helmets on the floorboard, no seatbelts. Billy had the 40 between his legs and we also had the two bottles of moonshine. We decided it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to be driving at 80 miles an hour down the road, so we put our lap belts on, threw the glass bottle of Tecate out, and put the two bottles of moonshine in our helmets to protect it. And that’s the moonshine story.
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