News staff writer
TALLADEGA - In 1981 an unknown driver named Ron Bouchard made a last-lap pass to win the Talladega 500. It was the only lap he led in that race.
Until Sunday, no Talladega race since had faced the possibility of such an unknown winning.
With five laps remaining, however, rookie Brendan Gaughan found himself leading the EA Sports 500.
Gaughan found himself in front of the sport's biggest names after staying out while everyone else pitted for gas on the final caution flag of the day. Gaughan's pit crew warned him he couldn't make the distance, but he proved his team wrong and finished fourth, his best finish in 29 career Nextel Cup races.
When crew chief Shane Wilson got on the radio and asked Gaughan if he "wanted to roll the dice," he evidently forgot that Gaughan hails from Las Vegas.
"I didn't care if I ran out of gas or not, it was so much fun being there," he said. "If I ran out of gas I was just going to raise my hand to warn everybody and get out of the way. There was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity like that."
Gaughan was running well until he was involved in a wreck with Sterlin Marlin and Bobby Labonte on lap 177.
"When the wreck happened I got lucky," he said. "I immediately put it in fourth gear and left it there and just chugged to save fuel and we made it."
At the restart, blocking other drivers was on his mind, Gaughan said. He just lacked the experience to pull it off.
"I was trying to block Kevin Harvick and I just didn't want to wreck," he said.
Gaughan said Penske Racing, the team he drives for, has its first superspeedway specific crew and it has paid off.
`We have a brand new superspeedway program and this is one of their first cars out of it," he said. "We went to the front and I think the fans loved it."