[media-credit name=”Dan Sanger” align=”alignright” width=”244″][/media-credit]Had the suggestion or opportunity arisen for Brendan Gaughan to run a limited schedule the last few years, he would have shrugged it off.
Attempting to win races and contend for the championship was his main focus. Regardless of which team he was driving for or what series he was competing in. Then last December, after Gaughan finished 12th in the Camping World Truck Series points but only had one top five, a deal to run a limited schedule was presented again.
This time Gaughan wisely accepted the offer. Richard Childress Racing was willing to put him behind the wheel of both a truck and Nationwide Series car. Looking to be competitive again and instead of driving for teams who bought equipment from RCR, the best option was just to drive for them.
Saturday night in Chicago that decision nearly paid off. Gaughan dominated the American Ethanol 225 only to come up short on a green-white-checkered finish. He had been leading the restart previous before spinning his tires and handing the win to James Buescher.
Afterwards Gaughan understood how teammate Kevin Harvick and other drivers felt after a bitter defeat. Watching Harvick with a mad and angry look on his face after finishing second, something Gaughan would normally have been ecstatic about. Not Saturday night.
“Tonight Richard Childress, Gere Kennon [crew chief] and all the guys at the RCR shop gave me a South Point Chevrolet that was capable of taking us to Victory Lane,” said Gaughan. “There was no truck out there that was going to beat it, unless we beat ourselves. And I did. I spun my tires on the second to last restart, I gave an opening and that’s what you can’t do.
“I got lucky that we had one more restart and I got to restart in fourth on the outside which is where I wanted to be. Was able to get back to second on the last lap. I’m still just very upset, Richard Childress has given me a great opportunity and second place looks like it would be fantastic but not when you have a truck that good.”
Sitting in the lead on a restart with nine laps to go, Gaughan’s mistake took him from first to fifth. The final caution, on lap 145, set up a green-white-checkered finish but he was only able to grab two more spots. Buescher, who led just six laps, won the race after going two laps down early.
During that time Gaughan led 83 of the events 150 laps. The fastest truck doesn’t always win and Gaughan, who hasn’t won since 2003, had the field covered and looked headed for what would have been an emotional win. The 2012 season is his second chance, an opportunity to get back on top and show that he can compete full-time given the right circumstances.
“The only opportunity to get in equipment this good was to do that,” said Gaughan of his limited schedule. “I had five weeks off, this is after a five week layoff, I haven’t been in a racecar and it’s very odd for me when you spend your whole racing every week and the only layoff you have is the winter before you get to Daytona.”
Gaughan found himself watching the races at home and going to the shop to see someone else’s seat in a car that he drives too. Everything about the decision Gaughan made, even knowing it was the best one, leaves him with an odd feeling from time to time. His performance though, was anything but odd as he reminded everyone he still knows how to dominate races.
“In order to get in this caliber equipment, as great caliber as Richard Childress builds, the only way to do it was to take it part time,” he said. “He’s always said if I can show we can do, he’s going to try to give me an opportunity to go full-time if I can show it.
“Second place may be able to show it, when the trucks that good I still sit here and got to kick myself. Now I remember why you get that sourpuss look on your face when you finish second. I’d be up here in tears for second place the last bunch of years with Bryan Berry and all. Now with these guys it’s like, man, being second place and being that good you just kind of shake your head.”
But he says, “It was a great decision. I’ve run every race in the top five, top 10 except two. I can’t knock that, we’ve just to keep doing that and I’ll keep putting myself in this position and we’ll finish it off.”
Following the NNS at Chicago on Sunday, Gaughan will again sit at home and watch as the series heads to Indianapolis. He’ll be back behind the wheel at Iowa the first week of August, then Montreal two weeks after that. The next time he’s in a truck will be at Bristol on August 22.