RACE RECAP IN-A-FLASH
NO. 77 STARTING POSITION – 10th
POLE POSITION – Dave Blaney
NO. 77 FINISHING POSITION – 23rd
RACE WINNER – Sterling Marlin (Started 6th)
The NEXTEL Open was a short event for the Brendan Gaughan and the No. 77 Kodak Racing team. Gaughan started the race from the 10th position but would be taken out of contention before completing one lap and posted with a 23rd place finish.
The drivers were given the command to fire their engines at approximately 7:30 PM EDT. Led by the pace car, 25 competitors hoping to claim the transfer spot into the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge took to the track for three pace laps. As the field received the green flag, Casey Mears, who started from outside the pole position, lost his transmission as he attempted to pull through the gears.
What followed was an 11-car pile-up which took five drivers and their machines, including Mears and Gaughan, out of contention before completing the first lap. Gaughan was unable to drive his car away so he climbed from his gold No. 77 Penske-Jasper powered Dodge and took the obligatory ride in the ambulance to the infield care-center.
Gaughan was examined and released immediately, free of injury. With a smile, he greeted the media and said, "This was a racing deal. It was no one’s fault, it just happened and unfortunately we [the other competitors] had no where to go.
"If nothing else, we will beat the traffic," he continued. "Also, maybe this just means we got our bad luck out of the way."
With limited lap-time in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Kodak Racing Dodge, Gaughan was looking forward to at least receiving practice time to prepare for the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 schedule for Sunday, May 30 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
"This would have given me some valuable information heading into next week," Gaughan said. "Shane [Wilson] and the rest of the guys could have used the information for the evening set-up and it would have at least given us a better idea of where to start the Coca-Cola 600. I guess now, we will have to rely heavily on Rusty [Wallace] and Ryan [Newman]."
Despite starting the race in the early evening and finishing under the lights, NASCAR is not allowing they team to practice under the lights. All Cup Series track action, other than two-laps for qualifying, will take place during the day, leaving the teams to their own speculation as far as set-up.
Gaughan joked with Shane Wilson, his crew chief, back in the garage area. As they watched the team load their wrecked car onto the hauler, Wilson said, "Fortunately this isn’t the same Dodge we planned on bringing back here next week. This obviously isn’t where we hoped to be right now, but we know our "600" [Dodge] is just as good of a car, if not better. We just won’t have any notes to compare."