Gaughan will wait 11 months for his present


No matter how hard Santa Claus tries, it's difficult to put a bow on satisfaction. That's why Brendan Gaughan won't mind waiting 11 months to get his Christmas present. All the son of casino magnate Michael Gaughan wants for Christmas is to prove Roger Penske wrong, and the only way to do that is win the Craftsman Truck Series championship in November.

Penske fired Gaughan at the end of his rookie season on the Nextel Cup Series circuit. He was hired last week by his father to run a Las Vegas-based truck team next year.

"The decision was more theirs than mine," Gaughan said. "It's their team, and if they didn't want me there, I didn't want to be there. I'm happy where I'm at now."

Now its Travis Kvapil's turn to be thrown under the sleigh in the No. 77 Dodge at Penske Racing South.

In returning to the Craftsman Truck Series, Gaughan is back on familiar ground. He won six races in his family's pickup in 2003 to earn his ride with Penske. If he can rekindle that kind of success, it will prove to be one of his best Christmas presents yet - even if it's 11 months late.

For others, the Christmas wish list is a lot easier.

Tony Stewart would like a little understanding. While he readily admits his temper gets him in trouble at the track, his work with charity groups basically goes unnoticed.

With the 2005 season being the last for Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, it would be nice if both could find some youthful magic under the tree. A couple wins each and a run in the Chase for the Championship would be a great way for both to wrap up their distinguished careers.

Current Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch has a short list, and for once, he's been more nice than naughty. After winning the championship with nine top-10 finishes in the Chase for the Championship, he hopes to find a little respect sticking out of his stocking on Christmas morning.

Series chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton deserve a little credit during the holidays. While many fans and race teams bashed the Chase for the Championship when it was created last January, it proved to be a credible way for the sport to distance itself from baseball, basketball and hockey. It solidified stock-car racing as the No. 1 spectator sport in the country and the second most-popular sport on television. It's often difficult to give NASCAR credit for some of its ideas, but in this case, they deserve some.

Joe Nemechek should get a 21-gun greeting; Ricky Rudd an impressive fly-by; Greg Biffle a snappy salute. Sponsorships from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard make all three very popular among the Armed Forces - and in recruiting offices around the country. More impressive, all three consider their relationships with the military to be more personal than business, so all three should get a hearty hoo-rah for Christmas.

And for racing fans who bought tickets or spent hundreds of hours in front of the television this year watching the sport, they deserve a big present from NASCAR - better races.

Either fix the cars or do away with tracks where it's impossible to race side-by-side.

And you don't even need to wrap this present.

from The Augusta Chronicle




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