Brendan Gaughan passed enough trucks at Nashville Superspeedway that he should have won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race, but after being nearly eliminated with just two laps in the book, he was thankful to salvage a sixth-place finish out of the deal.
Despite being one of the fastest drivers on the track the during two practice sessions, temporary problems under the hood relegated Gaughan to a 28th place starting position and gave him a long way to go to get to the front.
When the green flag dropped, the No. 77 Dodge took off like a rocket and Gaughan was able to thread his way through traffic with relative ease.
He had just found his rhythm and had already gained 12 positions when another driver lost control and spun across the track not once but twice. Gaughan was forced to take evasive action and while he managed to avoid the wildly spinning obstacle on the track he brushed the outside wall with the right side of his truck while doing so.
Gaughan stayed out during that caution but when the second came on Lap 9 he took the opportunity to duck down pit road for service.
That meant that he had to give up every bit of track position that he had worked so hard to gain and then some as he took the restart 36th in the running order.
After that it was another steady climb towards the front and an up-on-the-wheel approach that saw the Jasper Engines and Transmissions team avoid the remaining incidents that brought out the yellow flag a record number of times for the Music City racetrack.
Showing his reignited fire Gaughan put on a last lap show that reminded everyone why Gaughan was looked at for a Cup ride. The stage was set as Gaughan battled Bill Lester for position – the pair were riding door handle to door handle when Todd Kluever joined the party for a three wide run for the checkers. Gaughan muscled and horsed his Jasper Engines Dodge in the middle, taking the sixth spot from Lester.
“We went down in there three wide --- and I wasn’t going to lift,” an excited Gaughan exclaimed after the race. “We were all leaning on each other down there --- putting on the show that the Craftsman Truck Series is known for. I was able to get Lester but Kluever ended up getting the fifth spot. But that was a heck of a way to end a great race.”
Pouring praise on his Orleans pit crew Gaughan said, “And did you see my boys on that last stop? It was a big stop. Before I came in I told my boys that I’d get them a seafood buffet down at the Orleans Hotel if they got me out in good shape. They not only did that but they picked me up few spots in the process. It was a huge statement for them to make.”
Gaughan then added, I’m so proud of my boys, they’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.”
Unfortunately crew chief Tony “Rambo” Liberati was a little disappointed with the result. “I didn’t come here to finish sixth I came here for that danged guitar (the winner’s reward).” Reminded that his efforts resulted in a Jasper Engines Dodge that passed 47 trucks on the track he replied, “There’s no doubt that we’ve turned this team around --- and why anything less than spot number one is a little disappointing.
“I know those wins are there and we’re getting close,” Rambo added. “But I want to get the Jasper Engines Dodge in victory lane sooner rather than later --- then we can go after win number two that much sooner. Then number three.”
When the checkers fell, Gaughan had fought all the way back to sixth for his fifth top-10 finish in the last six races. Gaughan’s driver standing held at 19, but the gap to spot 18 narrowed considerably with just 31 markers separating the two spots after the Nashville race.