Brian Hilderbrand covers motor sports for the Las Vegas Sun. His motor sports notebook appears Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com or (702) 259-4089.
Brendan Gaughan will be able to breath a little easier when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pulls into Dover International Speedway next Friday.
For the first time this season, Gaughan will be guaranteed a spot in the 36-truck field for the June 3 MBNA RacePoints 200 because his No. 77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Dodge is among the top 30 truck based on owners points. Gaughan missed two of the first seven races because his team was outside the top 30 in owners points.
Gaughan's truck moved from 31st to 28th in owners points by virtue of his eighth-place finish in Friday's Quaker Steak & Lube 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. It was the best finish in five truck races this season for Gaughan, who also is 28th in drivers points, and the first race under interim crew chief Tony Liberati. Liberati replaced Billy Wilburn, who left the team earlier this month after fewer than four months as Gaughan's crew chief.
Orleans Racing teammate Steve Park also finished in the top 10 Friday night, posting a fifth-place finish, and is 13th in drivers points after seven of 25 races.
"We're definitely on the right track," Gaughan said. "I'm really encouraged -- mainly because we went there with two trucks that probably weren't an eighth- and a fifth-place truck and Steve did a great job missing wrecks and driving what he had and me, finishing eighth with a (crew chief) that shows up the day before the race and got to spend two days with the truck ... we came out smelling like a rose there."
Gaughan said he still is pondering running the full 25-race schedule if he can find a permanent crew chief and if Jasper Engines & Transmissions wants to sponsor his truck for the entire season.
"I would like to do the whole season," Gaughan said. "Right now, it's a sponsorship and a team thing -- what's best for the team?"