Las Vegas native seeks Daytona 500 win in first full season in Nextel Cup Series
By JEFF WOLF
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It will be a day of firsts today for Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan.
Gaughan, 28, will start his first race at Daytona International Speedway and his first as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
But it's a long shot he will earn another first today -- his first victory at the Daytona 500.
He qualified his No. 77 Dodge in the 17th spot on the 43-car grid Thursday.
Nevertheless, Gaughan has high hopes.
"A rookie has never won the Daytona 500, and a rookie has never won in a lot of places, but a rookie has never had the opportunity like we have right here with Roger Penske backing us and to have a sponsor like Kodak," Gaughan said after Saturday's last practice session.
"They're not putting pressure on me, but I sure would like to make them proud. It doesn't matter if a rookie has never won it. It just means that one has to go out and do it."
Gaughan even has a blueprint for victory.
"I can go from top to bottom (of the track) in one move. I can go from bottom to top in one move. I ran through the middle for a bunch of laps. I ran on the bottom three wide for a bunch of laps. I ran on the top three wide for a bunch of laps. I put it everywhere I wanted to go and it did it. It sucks up well in the draft.
"We know we have horsepower. I don't know what else I could ask for. It does everything I want. Let's try to get a Dodge in victory lane."
But the Bishop Gorman High School graduate also has realistic goals.
"If we finish in the top 10 I would be more than pleased. My goal right now is to get to the last 25 laps with the Dodge nose in the same place we started with, the rear fenders in the same place and then let's go have a chance. All you ever ask for is a chance.
"If we can have the last 25 laps and be near the front pack and give the Kodak guys a chance, I'd be happy."