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Gaughan excited about new series

Louis Brewster, Staff Writer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Throughout his racing career, family has played a major role for Brendan Gaughan, whether it was with his father, Michael; Walker Evans, Mike Farris or Tom Mitchell.

"I like that type of environment," the Las Vegas resident said. "It's always been about family."

It's no different this year, although Gaughan is now in a new series, one that he hadn't given much thought to previously. But when Rusty Wallace comes calling, it's hard to resist.

Gaughan will be in today's Nationwide Series Stater Bros. 300 (4:45 p.m., ESPN2), driving the No. 62 Chevrolet owned by Rusty Wallace, Inc., and 16th in the points after the season opener last week at Daytona. It will be his third career Nationwide start, but second at Auto Club Speedway.

In 2001, before his career in the truck series took, Gaughan made his first Nationwide start at Fontana, finishing 41st following an early accident. He admits he never thought about competing in the series, although he was the subject of several offers in the ensuing years.

Gaughan, who first gained national attention by winning the Winston West championship, has spent most of the decade racing trucks. He posted eight career wins, including six in 2003 when he finished fourth in the points race after leading going into the season finale at Homestead.

It was the 2004 season, however, that indirectly led to Gaughan racing for Wallace. They were teammates at Penske Racing; it was Gaughan's lone year in Sprint Cup.

"This is a great opportunity with Rusty," Gaughan said after Friday's first Nationwide practice.

"I am enjoying my time with Rusty; it's truly a family operation. His son Stephen is my teammate, his son Greg is my PR guy, and his wife, Patti, serves as the office manager.

"This is great equipment and a great team."

Gaughan, whose Daytona race was his first in a car since 2004, was prepared for a second season with Rick Crawford in the truck series this year. It was important to the former Georgetown University basketball player to keep his word, but Wallace's lure turned out to be too great.

"If nothing else, Rusty is persistent," Gaughan said. "He kept calling my dad asking about going full-time.

"Finally, when we got the sponsorships in place, I had to make sure it was OK with Rick and Mr. Mitchell. Rick helped me out during a tough time in my life, and I had to make sure he was OK with it."

The No. 62 isn't fully sponsored but has enough to run the series.

And it will carry the logo for South Pointe Casino, which is owned by the Gaughan family, thanks to NASCAR's allowing the word "casino" to appear on the car.

Gaughan will be in today's field competing against several Sprint Cup drivers stepping down, including past California Cup winners Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle. Other Cup performers include Jeff Burton, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip, David Ragan, David Reutimann and Joey Logano.

While he would like to return to the Cup level again, it's not what drives Gaughan.

"I know how to race cars. Racing is what I'm all about," Gaughan said. "I'm not really about (returning to Cup). I would love to, but with the right team and on my own terms, just like David Stremme this year (at Penske Racing).

"Maybe Rusty would like to go to Cup. Then, perhaps, I'm sitting in the right spot. But right now, my focus is on the Nationwide Series. Where this will lead, I don't know."

But Gaughan knows he's comfortable being around Wallace.

"There's great communication within the team; we share everything," Gaughan said. "In the year I was with Rusty at Penske, he taught me so much. He taught me to pay attention to springs and shocks. I learned a ton."

But it all goes back to family.

"The Wallace operation, which includes many people with whom I've raced with," Gaughan said. "It does remind me of the South Pointe teams, and that warms my heart a little bit."

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