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Brendan Gaughan Post-Race Report - Atlanta

Craftsman Truck Series racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway provides some of the most exciting competition on the circuit and Friday’s John Deere 200 was no exception. For Brendan Gaughan it was a night of vindication mixed with a touch of frustration after he got just a little too close to the excitement on the final lap.

After a last place finish at California and three weeks of quality shop time, the Orleans Racing team couldn’t wait to get back on track and they unloaded “Lonestar” – Gaughan’s favorite truck – for the first time in 2006.

Dodge lagged behind the curve during qualifying with the fastest Ram driver 22nd on the starting grid, so Gaughan had to take his 32nd starting spot in stride and focus on the 130-lap race.

Irish eyes were smiling on Gaughan after the green flag dropped as he flew around the 1.5-mile speedway and passed more than half the field by the time 27 laps were in the books. The No. 77 Orleans Hotel and Casino Dodge headed to pit road during the first caution 13th in the running order but an unfortunate jack handle malfunction dropped Gaughan to 27th on the restart.

It took Gaughan 45 laps to regain the lost track position but with 15 laps to go he was 12th and had the top 10 in his sights. It was tough going from that point as Gaughan lost a position but for the third time in as many races this season, a late race crash set up a green/white/checker finish.

Multiple racing grooves and two-lap shootouts make for volatile conditions to begin with. Add a full moon overhead and you get a last lap crash that involved at least a half a dozen trucks.

Gaughan never even saw what hit him as he swept off Turn 4 but when the spinning stopped all he could do was back his truck across the start/finish line. Thankfully, Gaughan climbed out unhurt but he was dismayed to see the damage sustained by his beloved “Lonestar.”

It took NASCAR more than an hour to sort out the pandemonium on the final lap and issue the unofficial race results. According to the scoring loops, Gaughan was scored 18th at the moment of caution. Upon even further review, NASCAR awarded Gaughan 13th.

The 13th place finish marked Gaughan’s best finish of the season by 11 positions and tentatively boosted him forward nine spots, to 21st, in the Series’ standings.

“The guys are smiling,” said Gaughan. “We had a couple of mechanical failures on pit stops which killed us but when the money was on the line the boys pulled off a fantastic third stop to get us three or four positions. Lapped traffic was murder tonight and was tough to get around. We drove ourselves all the way back to the front three different times and we finished. That’s the important thing.

“If anybody noticed ‘Lonestar’ went right to its old home in the top groove and passed everybody. So we need to get this thing back in the shop and rebuild it.

“The guys are working hard. We know that the Dodges still have a lot of work to do to make them a top five truck every week. But as bad as the Dodges looked at California and as bad as we failed at California and the wreck we had at Daytona – we were the best Dodge here by far. So we definitely think we have a handle on things. We’ll put this baby back together. We’ve got bullets loaded, tracers marked and we’re ready to go.”

The Orleans Racing team will regroup over the coming off-weekend and be ready for action when the Craftsman Truck Series shows up at Martinsville Speedway for Race #4.
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