NO. 77 STARTING POSITION – 20th
NO. 77 TIME/SPEED – 50.727 Seconds/188.775 MPH
POLE POSITION – Ricky Rudd
POLE TIME/SPEED – 50.089 Seconds
NO. 77 FINISHING POSITION – 13th
RACE WINNER – Jeff Gordon (Started 11th)
NO. 77 DRIVER POINTS – 27th (-502 behind leader)
NO. 77 OWNER POINTS – 27th
Brendan Gaughan showed true driving grit as he performed yo-yo style at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday in the Aaron’s 499, completing the event in the 13th position and claiming top rookie honors.
Gaughan, making his Talladega debut, qualified the No. 77 Kodak EasyShare/Jasper Dodge in the 20th position and practiced well Friday and Saturday in preparation for the 188-lap event.
As with all superspeedway events, practice is not necessarily indicative of the potential performance once 43 cars take the green flag and succumb to the draft, but Gaughan made the best of it.
Throughout the day, Gaughan steadily worked his way to the front of the pack only to lose the draft and be shuffled back further in the field. His highest position was ninth, proving the Penske-Jasper team had done its homework.
The largest challenge for Gaughan seemed to be getting out of his pit stall. On several occasions, the Raybestos Rookie contender stalled his machine while exiting and required a push from his team. In addition to the stalled engine, Gaughan’s pit was positioned behind Jeff Green, who blocked the rookie’s exit.
Gaughan was able to avoid “The Big One” at the 2.66-mile tri-oval, but he ended up with a tire-rub as a result of minor contact with another competitor taking evasive action. Gaughan also incurred damage to his machine after Casey Mears bumped the gold No. 77 on lap 64, causing a chain reaction.
Mears hit Gaughan sending him into the No. 23 Dodge driven by Dave Blaney, who hit Johnny Sauter. Contact with the tail end of the No. 23 caused ductwork damage on the EasyShare/Jasper Dodge that would haunt the Kodak Racing team with a succession of pit stops around lap 147.
Prior to the caution for debris on lap 146, Gaughan informed his team that the engine temperatures were running high. Crew chief Shane Wilson quickly devised a plan of recourse.
Gaughan came to his pit stall on lap 149 for four tires and fuel as well as an assessment of the required repairs.
The team pulled on the nose of the car to open up the airway and Gaughan returned to the track. He came back down pit road on lap 150 and his pit crew expanded the opening, allowing more air to reach the engine.
Gaughan returned to the track and caught up to the end of the field, but he required one more stop to ensure the car’s engine would not overheat. The final repairs were completed as the field headed into turn three prior to taking the green flag.
Gaughan exited the pits, careful not to get caught speeding on pit road, and made his attempt to catch the field again before taking the green flag. He was not successful, though, and in a situation reminiscent of Daytona earlier this year, Gaughan was not able to make it back around in time and was caught out of the draft.
His break came on lap 167 when the field received the caution flag, allowing him to close up on his competition. Gaughan called off the information from his gauges and Wilson told his driver not to pit in an effort to gain track position.
The gamble paid off and when the checkered flag fell, Gaughan was posted in the 13th position and ready to put Talladega Superspeedway behind him.
PENSKE-JASPER POWERED TEAMMATES
No. 2 Rusty Wallace
Start – 32nd Finish – 33rd
Driver Points – 13th Owner Points – 13th
No. 12 Ryan Newman
Start – 17th Finish – 11th
Driver Points – 9th Owner Points – 9th
No. 77 Brendan Gaughan
Start – 20th Finish – 13th
Driver Points – 27th Owner Points – 27th