Gaughan garage springs to life
By JEFF WOLF
The South Point Racing Shop returned to life Tuesday after sitting eerily quiet for three months.
The 28,000-square-foot Las Vegas speed factory owned by Michael Gaughan has seen little activity since he decided to put it on hiatus and not operate a team for his son, Brendan Gaughan, in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
"We're here laughing that it's like it was on life support, but now it's breathing on its own again," said Brendan Gaughan, now living near Charlotte, N.C., and driving for another team in the truck series.
"It's pretty sad seeing our (race) trucks sit here. It's been tough to see it idle."
Even tougher for longtime Gaughan employee Bill Caldwell.
"Bill came in today and said it was like its heart is beating again," said Kevin Kroyer, who builds racing engines in a shop adjacent to his former race team's building. Kroyer and Michael Gaughan are partners in the high-performance engine business.
"People are making noise and dust, banging and beating on sheet metal," Kroyer said.
In preparation for NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the nearby shop became a beehive of activity Tuesday. Several teams used it to make repairs resulting from last weekend's rain-delayed Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
A few teams had planned to use a state-of-the-art racing shop in Fontana, but after both races were postponed until Monday, Cup teams were set back a day and Nationwide teams two days.
Having Gaughan's shop available was a godsend for teams unable to make the 4,400-mile round trip back to Charlotte, N.C., where most are based. Cup teams had planned for cars they would use this weekend to be delivered to Las Vegas, but most Nationwide teams would've headed home if their race had been completed Saturday as scheduled.
"(Without the Gaughan shop), we would've been working in a parking lot or maybe at the speedway," said Kenny Francis, crew chief for the Gillett Evernham Motorsports No. 9 Dodge driven by Kasey Kahne in the Cup series. "This is a really nice option."
Having access to a professional paint booth in the shop was a bonus for Francis, who needed to get Kahne's car re-painted after it grazed the California track's guardwall on his way to a ninth-place finish.
Francis and his team were among about a dozen using the Gaughan shop. The Hendrick Motorsports teams for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. worked nearby at the combined headquarters of the Jeff Gordon and Mario Andretti racing schools.
(Race fans need not grab their Sharpies for autographs because no drivers are with the teams.)
Several other teams were allowed to use infield garages at the speedway, but will have to load up and leave before being allowed to set up for practice and qualifying, which begins Friday.
Brendan Gaughan and a speedway spokesman said teams will not be charged for using the shop or garages.
"This is a racer karma deal," said Gaughan, who said a failed merger forced his team to close. "When we're racing back east and unable to get back to our shop, other teams let us use theirs."
More teams are expected to pass through today and Thursday, and there can't be enough of them to satisfy Kroyer.
"It will be sad next week when it's quiet here again, but we will have had one week of harried activity," he said.
"We've done a lot of racing out of this shop and won a lot of truck races."
Gaughan, who won eight times in 2002 and 2003, holds out hope his family will return with a truck team within a couple of years.
But even if the South Point shop is preparing for truck races then, it always will open its massive garage doors for teams needing a port in a storm.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0247.