Gaughan keeps Nextel Cup door open

Brian Hilderbrand covers motor sports for the Las Vegas Sun. His motor sports notebook appears Friday. He can be reached at or (702) 259-4089.

Brendan Gaughan would neither confirm nor deny a published report that he is close to signing a deal that would have him running the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season in a second PPI Motorsports Chevrolet. PPI, which is owned by Cal Wells, fields the No. 32 Chevy for Bobby Hamilton Jr.

Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, only said that he is committed to running 18 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races -- including all that are companion events on Nextel Cup weekends -- in the No. 77 Orleans Racing Dodge. Steve Park will return to the Las Vegas-based team this season and drive the No. 62 Dodge in all 25 races.

Gaughan reiterated last weekend during truck testing at Daytona International Speedway that he had not ruled out the possibility of also competing in the Nextel Cup Series this season.

"I may be looking at a few things (in Nextel Cup)," Gaughan said. "There's talk about a lot of things. I let everybody talk. I listen to all the deals. You never know what might be there. A lot of people have called and expressed some interest (and) I've called a few people and expressed interest.

"I'm fortunate right now that people look at my last season and think something else had to be wrong besides the driver. My sponsor thinks that and a lot of teams think that. I'm at a point in my life where I can kind of do it like I want and right now I want to come run 18 truck races with my Orleans guys."

Gaughan finished second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings and 28th in Nextel Cup points last season in the No. 77 Penske-Jasper Racing Dodge, but parted ways with the team at the end of the season. Travis Kvapil has been hired to drive the car this season.

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