Brian Hilderbrand covers motor sports for the Las Vegas Sun. His motor sports notebook appears Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 259-4089.
Fewer than four months after veteran NASCAR crew chief Billy Wilburn joined Orleans Racing to oversee Brendan Gaughan's No. 77 Dodge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Wilburn has left the team, Gaughan announced this week.
Gaughan described Wilburn's departure as "amicable." Gaughan also announced that truck chief Travis Sharpe has left the team and that he has begun a search to replace Wilburn and Sharpe.
The moves, Gaughan said, had nothing to with his failure to qualify for two of the first five races this season.
"Billy Wilburn is from the East Coast," Gaughan said. "It was a long way away for him to go to come out here and he really wants to be a Nextel Cup crew chief. So we sat down right before the St. Louis race and it was an amicable decision.
"It wasn't anything where I was mad at him for non-performance or he was made at me as a driver. It was personal reasons and he wanted to get back home and take care of some things. So we left on great terms and we went out with a great race, too."
Gaughan did not say who would take over for Wilburn as crew chief until he can find a replacement.
"Maybe we'll call in some old friends to maybe just call the next two races for us while we hunt for the right crew chief," Gaughan said.
Charlie Wilson, crew chief for Steve Park's truck, will take on additional responsibilities with the Las Vegas-based team, Gaughan said. Wilson, who has been Park's crew chief since last June, has guided Park to one victory this season.
"He's going to make sure my trucks are set up certain ways and take care of both sides in the shop while we search for a new crew chief," Gaughan said of Wilson. "Fortunately, because I have that much confidence in Charlie, I'm not in a big hurry to name the first person (who comes along).
"A few people have contacted us and we're contacting a few people and we're still looking for who we want as a replacement (for Wilburn). Like I said, I'm very fortunate that the Orleans team has such a good crew chief and a great team that we're not sitting here panicking and saying, 'Oh my God, what are we going to do?' "
Gaughan said he was optimistic that the performance of both his and Park's trucks would pick up when the team returns to the track next weekend at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway in Ohio.
"We just got some great results from the wind tunnel," Gaughan said. "We found out some big, huge things that the Orleans team was missing. That's thanks to Dodge for opening up their wind tunnel time. We found huge mistakes on our part that we're fixing.
"At Mansfield, of course, the wind tunnel results mean nil. Right after that, we go to Lowe's Motor Speedway and after the struggle we had with the No. 77 during our recent test, some of the stuff that Billy Wilburn fixed on the way out and what Charlie Wilson just found at the wind tunnel means the Orleans team really feels like we're going to be able to go there and compete now. I'm really excited about that."