Gaughan's California Event One Of Highs and Lows On The Way to 21st Place Finish
No driver and team experienced racing’s dramatic ups and downs more than Brendan Gaughan and his South Point Racing team this weekend at California Speedway.
Gaughan and his Las Vegas-based race team wanted to prove their West coast dominance during Friday night’s San Bernardino County 200; and when the team qualified fifth for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, it looked like the team could be a force during the event.
However, Gaughan could never get the handle on his No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet, and brought his Silverado home in 21st place.
“This South Point Racing team, we have such a good race team. We came here expecting a lot,” Gaughan said. “We came here knowing we were going to be that good and be on the top of the board all day. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as we had hoped.”
Gaughan began having problems in practice on Thursday where he couldn’t seem to get the truck up to speed. In fact, Gaughan ran very little during two practice sessions as the team tried to find the problem.
“When we unloaded, something was terribly wrong. The boys tore my Chevrolet Silverado apart, they took off the truck arm, the a-arms, this crew had everything off and the kitchen sink,” Gaughan said. “They found a couple of problems that could have been it, you never are sure, but they changed them. You still don't totally know if that was it, but it ended up being the problem.
“We went out to qualify and wound up fifth so, I am so proud of my boys. They are such a great hard working group of guys. They put it there not me.”
With a view of the front from his fifth-place qualifying position, Gaughan hoped the problems on his race truck were solved and that his South Point Racing team would celebrate a strong finish at California.
Gaughan started the race knowing that his crew would have to help a tight condition in his race truck. Because of the lack of practice on Thursday, the team considered qualifying their first practice session – and the truck was too tight. The handling problems caused the No. 77 Silverado to slide back to 10th spot by Lap 11. Gaughan told crew chief Bryan Berry that the right front was his biggest problem and that the truck was pushing and too tight.
When the caution flag waved at Lap 30, the South Point Racing pit crew would have their first opportunity to work on the race truck. Gaughan told his crew that he needed a lot of help to improve the truck’s handling. It was too tight and pushing too much for him to drive in the corners the way he wanted.
Gaughan gave up 12th spot on the race track to come down pit road for service, and the South Point Racing team went to work to make some drastic changes to the truck. The crew changed four tires, added a spring rubber to the rear, made a shock adjustment, added tape to the truck’s grill and added fuel. With all the adjustments completed, Gaughan returned for the restart in 21st place.
When the race restarted, it didn’t take long for Gaughan to realize the changes hadn’t helped his handling issues.
He told the crew that it felt like the right front wasn’t even there. Gaughan said he couldn’t drive his truck hard into the corner. He was also having problems with the truck snapping loose if he let off the gas.
By the race’s halfway point at Lap 50, Gaughan was in 23rd place. The caution flew again at Lap 51, and the team again went to work on the race truck.
Gaughan came down pit road for a shock adjustment, an air pressure adjustment, four tires and fuel. Since there was a lengthy caution, the South Point Racing team decided to make another major change in hopes of helping Gaughan’s on track effort. He came down pit road a second time so that the team could change the left front shock.
The No. 77 Silverado returned to the race track in 24th place for the restart at Lap 57.
Initially, the changes seemed to help Gaughan. He picked up three quick spots and was in 21st spot at Lap 65. Gaughan reported to the crew that he was loose entering the corner and real tight from the center to the exit. The right front was still his biggest problem.
A caution at Lap 70 gave the South Point pit crew another opportunity to work on the truck. Gaughan came down pit road for two tires and fuel. The crew also added a rubber to the right front.
As he exited pit road, Gaughan recognized the hard work of his pit crew: “Great job on pit road, fellas. Way to keep working.”
Again, the changes didn’t seem to help the truck. Gaughan slid back to 23rd spot by Lap 85. Two laps later, the caution waved again.
Gaughan told his crew that he still couldn’t get into the corners because he was so loose. The truck was tight in the rest of the corner. The team brought Gaughan down pit road again – this time for a four tire change, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
The No. 77 restarted in 23rd spot at Lap 91. A quick caution led to one more pit stop by the South Point team for an air pressure adjustment and to add tape to the truck’s nose.
Gaughan passed two trucks in the closing laps to move up to 21st on the grid. Gaughan is currently sitting 20th in the drivers’ championship points standings after two races.
“No team is good enough to lose as much practice as we did this weekend and rebound from it,” Gaughan said after the race. “My guys did an amazing job this morning. They changed everything on the truck and we qualified fifth. We had to use the race as practice. And my guys threw everything they could at this South Point Silverado. The truck just didn’t respond, and we just couldn't get it right.
“As happy as I was after qualifying, we’re all that frustrated right now, but that’s just how emotional this sport can be. But I know this team, and I know that we are better than what we showed here today. We’re going to come back to Atlanta and be the team that Chevrolet knows we can be.”
The South Point Racing team will have two weekends off before returning to the race track for the third race of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. The next race will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, March 16 at 6 p.m. PT.