BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge)
YOU'LL NO LONGER BE A ROOKIE AFTER SUNDAY'S RACE. ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT?
"You spend a lot of your career doing something and move up and you're a rookie again. Unless I go Formula One racing, this will be the last time I get to be called a rookie. It's not a big deal. At this point you know you've raced long enough, unless you're 18 years old, and I'm not. I'm 29. I've been racing for 15 years now. You recognize faces and know names and you don't feel like a rookie. I've raced against Jimmie Johnson since I was really young and Kurt Busch in the trucks and Kevin Harvick in Winston West and trucks. You come in and you have to have the respect. You had to act like a rookie until you earned respect, but mentally, no, I knew that rookie title just meant it was your first full year here."
HAS CUP BEEN TOUGHER THAN YOU EXPECTED? ANY SURPRISES?
"Oh yeah, a lot of surprises. Has it been more difficult? It doesn't have to be as difficult as it's made some days. That's when I go back to the Orleans team and see how enjoyable and how much fun it is. It can be that way in every series. It doesn't have to be unenjoyable. I think a lot of the teams up here forget that. They think it's Nextel Cup so it doesn't have to be fun. I think that's a misconception. Look at Jimmie and Jeff. They're having fun and not just because they're up in points. It's because of the way things work over there. It is fun. The truck garage cannot be fun. Earlier this year the Orleans team wasn't having a lot of fun. No matter where you go it's what you do with your surroundings, but the truck series is a lot of fun."
WHAT'S THE PLAN FOR 2005?
"I don't know what's going on yet. I have some plans and nobody what I do I'm going to be back running some truck races for my Orleans truck team. No matter what you race, it's always good for you. I'm tired of seeing Kasey Kahne come and run and take my truck wins. I know the Orleans team can definitely beat that team like we did last year. Steve Park had a heck of a run to end the year, from 29th in points to switching crew chiefs to ninth and still couldn't catch a break all year. You give Steve Park one break and we're going to be awesome. I'm going to come back home next year and run a bunch with him. I don't know how many yet, just as many as I can afford. Steve is still the driver. I'm just going to come and run for fun. We've got a lot of trucks built and maybe we'll buy a couple of new ones. As much as I can afford to run I'm going to go out there and play because those guys are still my family. They're the most important thing to me. I'm going to go out there and see if we can't win a few of them."
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT SEASON?
"It all depends on the circumstances. I could say yes to a lot of things and I could say no to a lot of things. I think most other drivers are not in that position. I'm not here for the money part of this sport. I want to be a racecar driver. This is a desire, not a need. I believe desires always weigh heavier than needs. I really want to do this. This is what I feel I can do. I still love doing it. It hasn't been proven to me I can't do it yet. Whatever comes up next year I'll take the best options and best of both worlds. I will run a bunch of truck races because that's what I really want to do. That's really got to be from desire because driving for your father doesn't pay you anything. After that, we'll see. If I can run Nextel Cup and run the full season, great. If I can run some races with really good teams, great. One of my big concerns is trying to stay with Dodge. I do want to remain with Dodge Motorsports. As far as Dodge goes, I don't think anybody other than Richard Petty has been around it longer than I have. It is where I want to stay, but at the same time I've got to do what I've got to do. If I've got to go change manufacturers for a few years, then great, but the Orleans team will never, ever leave Dodge Motorsports. I've got options for a lot of things. I've got choices here and choices there. Fortunately, some people don't think it's me right now. Good people are talking to me that want me to do some things. At the end of the year we'll weigh options and see what it is best for me and what I want to do."
WHAT DO YOU MEAN SOME PEOPLE DON'T THINK IT'S YOU?
"Everybody thinks you've got to blame the problems on a team somewhere and a lot of people blame the driver. A lot of people blame the team. A lot of people blame whatever. I'm not laying blame anywhere. I think the Kodak team has been working hard trying to get better, and we have been getting better. Fortunately for me, people don't think it's the driver yet."
COMMENT ON THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE
"That was one of our main goals this season. Kasey Kahne owns that. He's done a heck of a job this year, and I think running all those other races helped him. I think it was a detriment for me not running the truck. Kasey has done a great job. I don't like finishing second. I'm 28th in points, and I'm really unhappy about that. We were fourth in the rookie standings for awhile, and that Talladega race really turned things around for us there. We got the top rookie four or five times in a row. I think at one point after the first five races of the Chase we were actually 14th in points. I think we're still like 18th or something. We've had some decent races in the last nine. We've got a pretty good Dodge here, too. We're just going to have to do something with it."
COMMENT ON HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
"It's been hard luck for me. This track has not been good for the Orleans team or myself. It's a fantastic racetrack. It's the only straight oval we've got. It's a nice place. It's going to be a great racetrack for me because it's my style. I remember our Orleans Dodge was the fastest thing on the racetrack here last year. Nobody was going to touch us. Yesterday, Steve Park had the fastest truck on the track for about half the race. I know it's going to be a good track for us. We've just got to catch a break."
ANY BIG PLANS FOR THE OFFSEASON?
"We're definitely doing the Speedway Children's Charity. We're going overseas again. I believe we're going to Afghanistan, I'm not sure yet. Other than that, skiing, going to Mexico a couple of times and go race in the off-road in early February with my brothers. Other than that, just start putting deals together and get my truck team healthy. We're not going to let any grass grow. I'll never let that happen."