– After taking a provisional to start the Checker Auto Parts 500 from the 40th position, Brendan Gaughan crossed the finish line 30th in the No. 77 Kodak EasyShare/JASPER Dodge. The team fought handling conditions throughout the day and despite their displeasure in finishing order there was a bright spot in moving forward to 29th in the point’s race.
The day began under rainy skies and inclement weather threatened to stick around the entire day. Just before driver introductions, NASCAR received the needed break in the clouds to send the driers out on the track. The race started on time without a hitch.
By lap 10 of the 312 lap event, Gaughan told Shane Wilson and the crew the car had no front grip, a condition that would plague the team throughout the day. Continuously, Gaughan said he could not get the right front tire to make contact with the track, adding to the tight feeling the car was giving off.
When Gaughan came down pit road the first time to receive fresh tires on lap 78, the tire wear showed the team there was a problem; the left front had more wear than the right front.
The team provided Gaughan’s machine with four fresh tires and fuel along with a chassis adjustment and air pressure adjustments. After taking the green flag, Gaughan continued to complain of similar handling conditions.
He told his team the car was “just tight under throttle and thrashed around” when he tried to stick it to the bottom. He also said he was having difficulty turning the car in the center of the turns.
Gaughan finished the event three laps behind the leaders, but was happy to put his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway behind him.
“Man did we struggle today,” Gaughan said. “I know Shane and the guys did everything they could to turn this day around but nothing worked. The car just wouldn’t rotate through the center, it was tight and it had no front grip. All I can say is one more down. Phoenix is over and we are off to Darlington next week.”
Gaughan’s mentor, Buddy Baker, did not attend the Phoenix event. Baker discussed the track with Gaughan and said he had no experience at the “Desert Jewel”. Based on that information, they decided Baker would have a weekend off.
Baker will return with the Kodak/JASPER Racing team to provide feedback at Darlington and Gaughan is happy about having an extra eye in the sky.
“Baker has really helped me out this year with several tracks,” Gaughan said. “He definitely knows what he’s doing at Darlington. I missed him this weekend, but I know he will make up for it with words of wisdom from his hometown track.”