It was a great ending to a tough rookie year, but Brendan Gaughan closed out the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series finale with a sixth-place finish. With the Homestead-Miami Speedway event completed, the Kodak/Jasper Racing team is looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend off.
From the first practice lap of the weekend Gaughan was pleased with the car’s handling and his satisfaction continued throughout the weekend. During the post practice download sessions, Gaughan told Shane Wilson the car would go anywhere he wanted to put it and minimal changes were made in preparation for the 267 lap event.
Gaughan started the event from the 17th position and was prepared to take the car to the front of the pack. On lap one, just after taking the green flag, the field received the caution flag when Mike Bliss and Hermie Sadler had trouble heading into turn one. The track was cleared and the competitors re-took the green flag on lap 4.
After allowing the tire pressures to come up, Gaughan told his team the car was a little tight but the balance was still good. On lap 48 the Kodak/Jasper Racing team received the caution flag they needed to adjust the car. Gaughan brought his machine down pit road for four tires and fuel along with a track bar adjustment to free up the handling. The green flag was displayed on lap 52 and Gaughan was posted in the 15th position.
On lap 55, Wilson asked Gaughan if the car felt any better. Gaughan told Wilson the car was a little loose though it rotated better but asked Wilson to give him a few more laps to allow the car to come to him. A few laps later, Gaughan’s machine had settled.
When the next caution flag was displayed, Gaughan was posted in the 13th position. After a four tire stop, Gaughan returned to the track and radioed in to his crew telling them he had bad news. The clutch was not working properly and Wilson instructed his driver to use the clutch as little as possible and save it for pit stops and restarts. Gaughan babied the clutch and it offered only minor problems, particularly upon entering and exiting the pits.
Around lap 224, Gaughan told his team the car was tight but he thought he may be the problem. He said he felt as though he were overdriving in the corners trying to maintain pace with the other drivers and he knew he could go faster if he were to slow down. He also said he knew he would be okay.
Gaughan continued to drive hard through the end of the race. After climbing into the top-10 and falling back again with the clutch issues, Gaughan was determined to end the event with a top-five.
Gaughan’s determination persevered though he was not able to add a top-five to his 2004 statistics, but he was overjoyed with sixth-place.
“This race was indicative of the performance you can look for from the No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Racing team next year, Gaughan said. “We have definitely struggled, but this is the way to end the year, on a really high note. The car was great from the time the team took it off the hauler and that does a lot for the confidence all weekend. Confidence is not over-rated.
This just gives us something to build on for next year. We still have some homework to do but we are a lot closer to where we need to be for success to follow.”