By BRIAN HILDERBRAND
Although he finished 30th in Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener at Daytona, Brendan Gaughan said he was encouraged by the performance of the truck he will drive in 18 races this season.
Gaughan ran in the top 10 in the early stages of the race, got a lap down after he made a green-flag pit stop shortly before a caution period and then was involved in a wreck that knocked him out of the race 63 laps into the 100-lap race.
"We had the best truck out there," Gaughan said of his No. 77 Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge. "I played around early to see what it would do, what it would take to win, and I got to the front and tried to go outside some guys, tried to go underneath some guys - just testing the waters."
Gaughan admitted that "driver's error" contributed to his accident, which occurred while he was racing Mike Skinner to get back his lap.
"It was a deal where it was more my fault than anybody's," Gaughan said. "I was just driving hard and trying to get back on the lead lap because we had the truck to beat - and we're going to have a lot more trucks to beat this year, too.
"I don't think there's any question that the Jasper team is something to reckon with. We're fast and we're going to be fast all year."
It marked the first time that Gaughan had wrecked the truck he calls "Lone Star" - the truck he drove to four consecutive victories at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002 and 2003 - but he said the damaged truck was not the one he is going to race Friday at California Speedway.
"This wasn't my truck for California," Gaughan said. "We already have a primary truck for California, so this doesn't even hurt us. We're going to get back to the Orleans Racing shop, we'll put Lone Star back together and get it ready for another day."