Brendan Gaughan Post-Race Report - Kentucky
Brendan Gaughan and Orleans Racing let the good times roll all the way from Kansas City to Kentucky Speedway where they scored their second top five finish in as many races.
Fresh off a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway, Lonestar obviously still carried some of its magic when the team unloaded their trusted steed in Kentucky. Gaughan was thrilled with what he saw during practice, so when an early qualifying draw translated into a 20th place starting position the Orleans Racing crew wasn’t concerned in the least.
Gaughan took the green flag for his 100th career start and by Lap 10 of the 150-lap event he was already running in the top 10. On Lap 35 he moved past rookie Marcos Ambrose into the top spot and led for the first time since the 2005 series finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Pit strategies were varied up and down pit road but crew chief Tony Liberati had a plan and he never wavered. During the fourth caution on Lap 50, Liberati called his driver to pit road even though it meant a restart behind a line of drivers who chose to stay out.
The restart proved treacherous when the field bunched up and Gaughan made contact with another truck. The contact necessitated a pit stop for repairs to the left front of the No. 77 Dodge and as they have all season long, the Orleans Racing pit crew did exactly what needed to be done and kept their driver in contention.
Gaughan dropped all the way back to 30th but when the race went back to green he was a man on a mission as he took to his preferred high groove and flew around the speedway.
Gaughan’s 31st birthday present came two days early when the caution flew during a round of green flag stops on Lap 121 and allowed him to make his final pit stop under caution while the field ran at reduced speed.
The final restart of the race came with eight laps to go with Gaughan lined up third behind Ron Hornaday and Rick Crawford. The Las Vegas native gave it his all as he battled side-by-side with Crawford for the runner up spot and took it with six laps remaining. Crawford took the position back as they took the white flag while Gaughan successfully held off a late charge by Johnny Benson to finish third.
“They stayed in front of me through Turns 1 and 2 and I’ve never been afraid to go high,” Gaughan offered on the final run to the checkers. “I got to the outside of Rick Crawford. In this sport if you can beat him to the wall – and this is what’s great about a guy like Rick or Johnny Benson or Ron Hornaday, you know they’re not going to pinch you up to the wall and put you in it. So you just beat them to it and you just try to run the outside. It worked for me. I got him and all of a sudden I thought, ‘Hey, one to go, let’s work the bottom.’ I went to the bottom in Turn 3 and it wiggled and ran up the track and I thought, ‘Stupid; my old buddy Rick isn’t dumb.’ He saw me make a mistake and he jumped on it. He was fast. I think with a couple of more laps he would have been able to catch Ron Hornaday because he was pulling away pretty good.”
The last time Gaughan strung together consecutive top five performances was in September 2003 when he was battling for the series championship.
“I don’t want to say we’re back yet because I’ve said that before and it didn’t come true,” said Gaughan who climbed up one spot in the point standings to 13th. “It was no fashion day for our Dodge. We did some damage to it and still came back to the front.
“Tony Liberati is my hero. He stuck with our strategy. He didn’t waffle when everybody came in. He just stuck with it and for a change the breaks fell our way all night.”