by Mike Snow - Orleans Racing
Concord, NC --- Brendan Gaughan and the Jasper Engines & Transmissions team started to gather momentum at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway with a season best 15th place performance and they rode that wave all the way to Lowe's Motor Speedway where they upped the ante with an eighth-place finish.
Gaughan had his work cut out for him at the mile-and-a-half track with a shotgun start on the field in 36th but, of course, that gave him nowhere to go but forward.
And forward he went.
The Nevada native successfully avoided the numerous on track altercations that sent the yellow flag waving a record number of time but lapped trucks gave him fits throughout the event.
With Tony "Rambo" Liberati on the pit box offering constant encouragement, Gaughan stayed cool under pressure and was able to hustle his way to a top 10 finish for the first time since his return to the Truck Series.
"Rambo was on the radio and he kept telling me to get by the lapped trucks," said Gaughan, who finished three spots behind Orleans Racing teammate Steve Park. "So many bad things have happened. Now I know how Steve Park felt and how Ernie Irvan felt all those years. You start to get nervous around those guys you should be nervous around. At the end of the race, it was time to go.
"Rambo's personality on the radio so matches mine. It feels like old days. He's screaming and cheerleading. He's a Marine, so he gave it some of that."
Gaughan’s statements could not be more accurate as listening to the two work the team radio hovered close to inspirational at times.
Take for example Liberati’s early race call for Gaughan to bring the Jasper Engines Dodge to pit road for service. It was a call that had Gaughan alone on pit. The stop put Gaughan at the end of the field, but the adjustments made during the stop gave the driver a better handling truck.
The move paid huge dividends when the caution was displayed 15 laps later and had the majority of the field stopping for their first service of the night – leaving the #77 Jasper Engines Dodge in fourth spot. The elation that driver and crew felt was short lived as Gaughan felt a tire going down, forcing a call for Gaughan to come to pit road. Four tires later, and a top-of fuel, Gaughan was back on track – in 33rd position.
As Gaughan circled the track under caution Liberati cracked the mic telling his driver, “Okay driver --- we need a bear behind wheel --- and it better be a grizzly. Pull those belts tight and show them what you got!” The reply from Gaughan? “10-4. Semper Fi. Do or die.”
Gaughan picked up four spots on the restart.
Big picture-wise, it was a huge night for Gaughan and the No. 77 team as they broke the top-30 barrier in car owner points and guaranteed themselves a starting spot at Dover International Speedway on June 3rd.
"My guys in the pits were great tonight, and Steve Park was fifth - two trucks in the top 10," Gaughan said. "I feel good right now. We're definitely headed in the right direction. Billy Wilburn did a great job for us with this team. He got us in a great position, and now hopefully Rambo will take over the reigns. We'll just keep trying to get better."