Gaughan uncertain of future with No. 77


By Brian Hilderbrand

LAS VEGAS SUN

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Brendan Gaughan turned in his fourth top-10 finish of the season Sunday in the Ford 400 in what could prove to be his final race in the No. 77 Kodak Dodge for Penske-Jasper Racing.

Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, said he does not know if he will return to Penske-Jasper Racing in the Nextel Cup Series next season, but indicated he would run several Craftsman Truck Series races in 2005 for his family-owned Orleans Racing.

A Penske-Jasper official said last week that Gaughan's status with the team would not be evaluated until after the NASCAR banquet in early December. Gaughan has been the subject of several "silly season" rumors, including one that has him headed to the No. 0 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet.

"If I can run Nextel Cup and run the full season, great," Gaughan said. "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. 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. 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."

One thing Gaughan wants to do is to run as many truck races with Las Vegas-based Orleans Racing.

"Steve Park had a heck of a run to end the year -- from 29th in points ... to ninth and still couldn't catch a break all year," Gaughan said. "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.

"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 (races)."

In the meantime, Gaughan can take comfort in the fact that he was able to race with the leaders in the Nextel Cup Series when he was provided with comparable equipment.

"We took a shot at fifth in the end," Gaughan said after finishing behind fellow Las Vegan Kurt Busch. "I didn't care about any Chase for the Championship -- I wanted a top five for Kodak. I didn't care about the three championship guys (because) I drive for Kodak."

Gaughan finished second to Kasey Kahne in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year points and 28th in the Nextel Cup standings.




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