Memphis Motorsports Park hasn’t always ranked very high on Brendan Gaughan’s list of favorite racetracks. But after a third place finish under the lights on Saturday night it’s definitely moving on up into the ‘favored’ places to race at.
The one-day show made for a taxing affair with temperatures soaring above the century mark. But the heat was no problem at all for a guy like Gaughan who grew up in Las Vegas and cut his racing teeth wheeling an off-road vehicle in the desert.
When it came time to drop the green flag, Gaughan was raring to go and anxious to get down to business…maybe even a little too anxious.
With just six laps in the books, Gaughan brought out the first caution flag of the evening after he spun out. Fortunately the driver did a masterful job of keeping his No. 77 Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge off the wall. After a quick pit stop for a once over by the crew sent Gaughan to the tail end of the field with his work cut out for him.
Undaunted, Gaughan made his way through the field and along the way he avoided the numerous incidents that brought out the caution flag a record 12 more times during the event.
When the red flag flew on Lap 160 of 200, Gaughan was running sixth with his sights set on the top-5.
With 20 laps to go he got loose and lost a couple of positions but still refused to back down and it took him just two circuits to gain those spots back, plus one.
A green/white/checker finish made a long night even longer but on the restart Gaughan battled past short track pro Dennis Setzer for fourth then picked up one final position when race leader Ron Hornaday crashed while leading the race on the final lap.
It marked Gaughan’s best finish in three starts at the 0.75-mile and his best performance of the season to date.
“What a run for the Jasper Engines Dodge,” Gaughan said following the event. “We got up on the wheel and I think we passed more trucks than anyone. But that was just how good my Dodge was. High, low --- it didn’t matter. My crew chief (Tony “Rambo” Liberati) had it hooked up.”
The run made Gaughan reminiscent of 2003, which was the year he led the Craftsman Truck series points until the last race of the year. “We’re back,” roared Gaughan. “I’ve been telling folks that once we get everything sorted out we’d be tough again. Well at Memphis we just cowboyed up and went after it and served notice that we’re ready to start parking in victory lane after these races.”
Gaughan was also appreciative of the ice and water NASCAR distributed to the drivers as they sat on the track under the red flag. “I’ve got to give a tip of the cap to NASCAR for their thinking of the drivers,” Gaughan said of the random act of kindness. “That was big and I want to thank them for that.
“I understand that it helped a lot of drivers get through the thing,” Gaughan continued. “I like to think I’m a little tougher than the other guys out there. But still, those bottles of water and ice packs came in awfully handy while we were sitting out there in those trucks.”