By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM
LAS VEGAS -- Orleans Racing has hired veteran mechanic Billy Wilburn as crew chief for its second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry, which will be driven by Brendan Gaughan.
Gaughan, who also is Orleans' interim general manager, is excited to be working again with Wilburn, who has nearly 25 years of industry experience. The two worked together last season at Penske Racing.
"It's not often someone of Wilburn's caliber becomes available," Gaughan said. "And to be able to have him come to our race team is a real plus for our team. It will only make our team stronger than it's ever been.
"Making the situation even better for us is my time with Billy at Penske Racing last year, which should help our program here at Orleans Racing gel that much quicker. This is really a giant boost for our race team."
Gaughan and Wilburn's No. 61 Dodge Ram currently plans to compete in a minimum of 16 NCTS races. Gaughan teammate is Steve Park, driver of the No. 62 Orleans Dodge. Wilburn said the combination was incentive enough for him to leave Penske, where he'd been employed since 1990.
"This is a top flight team with all the right ingredients," Wilburn said. "It has all the material and a talented crew is here. All the components for success are right here.
"We've got a great driver. We've got good backing. We've got awesome support from Dodge (so) all the tools are here. That made Orleans Racing very appealing to me. Everything we need to succeed is here."
Looking forward to the 2005 season Wilburn outlined his objectives with Orleans Racing.
"The goal is to win races, No. 1," Wilburn said. "And if the program works out as it should, hopefully we'll be competing for the championship in '05. That's step No. 1 for us here at Orleans Racing."
Asked if leaving his old employer was a tough decision, Wilburn didn't hesitate in answering.
"It was a very tough decision (to leave Penske)," Wilburn said. "I had a lot of great opportunities and Penske's been a huge part of my career. Everything I've learned in Cup racing was through Penske.
"They worked with me on a lot of things. I did a lot of things while I was there that allowed me to learn and be a more versatile person in their program.
"Rusty Wallace gave me a super opportunity to be his crew chief and I learned a lot. We were successful, but not to the point where we needed to be for it to continue. Rusty's in the last year of his career and I wish him the best and hope he's successful.
"I wish the Penske organization success and a good year as well. It was a tough decision -- the toughest one I've ever made."
Gaughan plans to make Wilburn's transition as smooth as possible.
"He knows I've got all the confidence in the world in his talents and abilities," Gaughan said. "And while he's not been here long his approach to the business seems to be pulling the team together more tightly than it has been in the past.
"I know that his drive will inspire the team and drivers to dig just a little bit deeper."