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Guest Columnist Brendan Gaughan: Racing at home will be a thrill

By Brendan Gaughan

I'm really getting pumped up for my first Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No.77 Kodak Dodge.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a great racetrack. Mr. Englestad -- may he rest in the grace of peace that he deserves -- and Richie Clyne did a beautiful job building and designing the first of the mile-and-a-half tracks that everybody has copied.

They didn't try to copy Charlotte and they didn't try to copy Texas or Atlanta -- we built the flattest mile-and-a-half that everybody now is trying to build. This was the original and it's still the best.

At tracks like Charlotte or Texas, you can get away with going full throttle into a corner because you've got the banking. At Vegas, you've got to do a little bit of driving with it. The biggest thing here is whoever can keep jumping on the throttle the earliest coming out of the corners is going to be able to run away from the field. That's always been a common denominator of Vegas; the guy that can make the tires live the longest and get on the throttle early and keep getting on the throttle early will open up a big lead.

The nice thing about LVMS is that it has grown into a true three-groove racetrack. And, of course, everybody wants to come to Vegas -- all the teams love to come here and Vegas always packs the stands and does a great job with the race. To get around it, it takes a smooth throttle, it takes a light brake pedal and it's a fine balance between being loose and being tight. It's really a fine line and I think that we, better than most, are able to find that fine line just because of my crew chief Shane Wilson's knowledge here and the Penske knowledge here. I think we're going to have as good of a chance here as anybody.

Of course, we have to try to avoid trying too hard to do well here. I think Shane and I did that the first few years here in the Craftsman Truck Series and the Winston West Series. We hurt ourselves a couple of times because we just tried too hard to do well at our hometown track.

That won't be the case this week because it's not the home race for the Penske-Jasper team; this is not where they are from. It's just where Shane and I are from. The guys will do a normal job, and their normal job is awesome. We're going to have a good Dodge out here. Shane and I are going to come in here and know it's a racetrack we'd like to win at and know how to win at it and just do it right.

We've won in the Winston West Series here, we've won in the Craftsman Truck Series here and we've got poles here in the Winston West Series and in the Craftsman Truck Series. We've had great success at all levels at LVMS and, of course, it's where our Craftsman Truck Series shop is. The Orleans Racing shop is right over Turn 1 here.

To have success in the Nextel Cup Series here is going to mean a lot to me, of course. Unfortunately, we've also taken a lot of lumps at LVMS getting those successes so we're hoping we've gotten over the lump stage and this will be a good race for us. But with anything there are always learning curves and that may happen, too. We're not saying we're coming here and we're going to be the best but, with any luck, we'll be able to learn from the lumps and take from the successes and keep the success side rolling.

It's great to be home and I hope you all can come out to the race on Sunday and help cheer us on. I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the race with you on Monday. Brendan Gaughan, driver of the Kodak Penske-Jasper Racing Dodge and a Las Vegas native, is writing a column exclusively for the Las Vegas Sun during his rookie season in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

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