AUGUST 1, 2004
RACE RECAP IN-A-FLASH
NO. 77 STARTING POSITION – 10th
POLE POSITION – Casey Mears
NO. 77 FINISHING POSITION – 28th
RACE WINNER – Jimmie Johnson
LONG POND, Pa. (Aug. 1, 2004) – Brendan Gaughan’s hopes of total redemption at Pocono Raceway were shattered during the Pennsylvania 500 after getting caught up in another competitor's wreck. Even with his 28th-place finish, Gaughan feels as though the Penske-Jasper Racing team has continued its competitive performance on a weekly basis.
Gaughan qualified his No. 77 Kodak EasyShare/Jasper Dodge in the 10th position after heavy storms moved over the Pocono Mountains on Friday morning. The limited track time proved beneficial, though, as Saturday’s practice session was cancelled due to the same type of inclement weather, forcing all 43 teams competing in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series event to make educated guesses at their car’s set-up package.
Throughout the 200-mile event, Gaughan and his team overcame many obstacles, from miscommunications in the pits to handling problems with the car.
The team’s troubles began on lap 3 when Gaughan notified his crew the car was handling tight all around the track. On lap 33, Gaughan brought the Kodak/Jasper Dodge down pit road for service. He received four tires and fuel along with a chassis adjustment. The jack was dropped too soon and Gaughan exited his pit stall with a wrench still in the rear window. Due to the infraction, Gaughan was given a “pass through” penalty by NASCAR and he returned to the track one lap down to the lead-lap cars.
On lap 83, the caution flag waved and Gaughan was in position for the “Lucky Dog”. Unfortunately, Gaughan passed the pace car and a miscue brought him down pit road too early, citing another infraction. This time, Gaughan was brought to the pits and held for one lap, placing him back in the same position as before the caution, one lap down.
Crew chief Shane Wilson encouraged the team to focus on the event ahead and to put the past mistakes behind them. After some hard driving, Gaughan was once again in position for the “Lucky Dog” when the caution flag was displayed on lap 99 for debris. This time, careful planning brought Gaughan down pit road with the lapped cars, and he was once again scored on the lead lap.
Thanks to the adjustments made on the stops throughout the day, Gaughan was able to pilot the machine through the field. He climbed as high as the 18th position where he was posted when another mishap occurred. On lap 127, Jeff Burton hit the wall just ahead of Gaughan. Gaughan hit the brakes to slow his machine and the car became loose and wiggled up the track and into the wall. He then remained high trying to clear Burton’s machine, but to no avail. Burton drifted back up the track and pinched the gold No. 77 against the wall, damaging the left side.
Gaughan came down pit road so the team could survey the damage and was sent to the garage for extensive repairs. During his time in the garage, Gaughan’s machine received body repairs around the entire car. When the body work was completed and the car’s toe-in was set, Gaughan was sent back onto the track on lap 141.
Shortly after his return to the track, NASCAR officials notified Wilson of a right side tire rub and by the time Gaughan had reached his pit stall for repairs; Wilson was informed of a left side rub as well.
Again, Gaughan’s machine received necessary repairs and he returned to the track.
With less than 40 laps left in the event, Gaughan radioed his crew with another challenge. Due to the damage and subsequently the repairs following Gaughan’s wreck with Burton, Gaughan was experiencing severe exposure to exhaust fumes. With the crush panels damaged, the team had been forced to remove them, allowing the dangerous fumes to enter the car’s cockpit.
Gaughan slid into the 28th position, thanks to attrition, and Wilson told him to pull into the garage on lap 197, just short of the checkered flag to avoid additional exposure.