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Interview With Brendan Gaughan

BRENDAN GAUGHAN * No. 4 Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge

“We were the top-qualifying Dodge, which made us pretty happy to be at the top of the Dodges. But, as you can see by the qualifying results and finish results, I think maybe NASCAR needs to look at giving us a little help on the superspeedways. I think there wasn’t a single Dodge in the top 10, and with the teams that we have that should be impossible. There should have been at least one or two in there. We struggled right from the start. We just got really tight. The racecar just from the drop of the green flag got tight. We held in the top 15 for the first 30 laps or so – that’s easy for the first eight (cars). But after that we actually held our own for a while. But man, once it got darker and more rubber got laid down on the racetrack we had just one of the worst aero-pushes I felt all year. Shane Wilson and the guys worked hard to try and fix it. We did four rounds of track bar, and four rounds of wedge to try and loosen it up. That’s how aero-tight we were, and it still didn’t it loosen us up. We were just trying to make some adjustments. We took the nose in a little bit on one of our pit stops. We came in and adjusted the valence, to see if that didn’t help. We were getting ready to actually even change a pair of shocks. That’s how far we were going to try to make us better, because these guys don’t quit. In the end, we dropped it and blew a drive shaft out of it off the jack. When it dropped it, it popped the driveshaft out of it and basically ended our night of at least being on the lead lap and making a run for anything. We just had to go back to the garage, fix it, and get out there so we could finish and gain some points.”

“Chicago is one of those tracks that’s like a Las Vegas, Kansas or Kentucky, where losing that 30 inches isn’t going to be a big deal because you don’t run up near the wall. The place, maybe, in a few more years may widen out even more. I’ve watched how Chicago has been able to get two grooves in the last couple of years, which is nice. But I don’t believe that at a track like Chicago that will ever be a big issue. I’m just glad (the SAFER-barrier) is there. I like having it there. I don’t think it’ll be an issue at a place like Chicago. It’ll just be a plus.

“It doesn’t really add any comfort level there, it’s just nice to know. When you hit it, it still hurts, man. Plain and simple. I’ve heard some guys say, “Hey, it felt like it was softer.” I’m calling that malarkey. When you hit it, it still hits just like a wall. But it’s nice, because all the things that the human eye can’t see, all the impact results, all the G-numbers and forces that get put on the body are being decreased in a pretty substantial number from all the testing I’ve seen. It’s nice that they’re there. I’m glad that they’re there. It helps you know that, hey, it’s still going to hurt, but it’s probably going to take away from of that deadly force impact that we’re all trying to get away from. It’s nice to know that the folks out in Nebraska were able to get that done.”

“No, I don’t get many chances to go back to Vegas. We stay pretty busy with as many sponsors and stuff that we have. Jasper is one of our owners, so we’ve got to do Jasper appearances just about every week. Kodak keeps us pretty busy. We do stuff for Dodge on occasion and stuff for Goodyear on occasion. We stay pretty busy during appearances. It looks like, with any luck, I’m going to be able to get out to Las Vegas by accident. I think NEXTEL is going to send me out there to do some sort of appearance. So, NEXTEL is going to be nice enough to pay to have me go home. So, I figured that was the best of both worlds there. I get a free ride home and spend a couple days with my nieces and nephews and some of my family. A couple of our friends have gone through some rough times recently, so I really want to go out there and see them.

“I miss most of my friends. My friends and family have always been big to me. They’re that core group of guys that I talk and write about quite often. I miss them pretty big. One of those very special people whose wife was pregnant, unfortunately she just lost the baby. I’m kind of bummed. I want to get out there to be there with him and his wife because I was the best-man in his wedding.”

“Well the fortunate thing for me is I turn left. I’m not an engineer. I don’t claim to be an engineer. That’s my teammates’ job is to be the engineer. I turn left. I give Shane Wilson the feedback, and Shane does what he can with what we have. Whatever we choose to do, there are a lot of people a lot smarter than I am trying to figure out how to make us go a little bit better. A lot of the stuff has to be done in-house before it even gets to NASCAR. We’ve got to do some more homework apparently. I’ve never met a guy who said that you need to rely on NASCAR to give you help. In the Truck Series all they did was take stuff from Dodges because they said we were too good. The Orleans team still found a way to win. It always starts in-house, and we’ll work on that in-house, some. But, if all of us are off, that’s when you have to say, ‘Okay, maybe there is something here.’ What they’ll do I don’t know. That’ll be the engineers and NASCAR and those people sitting down and saying what they can do to help us out a little bit.”

“I always laughed in the past when guys would say, ‘Well, we were running 30th today, but we had a great racecar.’ I’ve always thought that was amusing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we’ve been having a great year – we’re not. We’re having pretty much an awful year. We’ve had a few moments of brightness, but it has not been what any of us wanted nor expected. Fortunately we have a lot of great individuals on this team that care a lot about what they do, that care a lot about how the Kodak team performs, and the organization is working on making us a better team. The next three races we’re running brand new racecars. We’ve got our first full Penske car coming. It’s car No. 77 ironic enough, and it’ll be our first Penske chassis. It’s going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So, that’s a big deal for us. At Chicagoland we’re taking another brand new chassis. At New Hampshire we’re taking a brand new car. At Pocono we’re bringing one that’s been tested, but it’s a brand new one that’s only been tested once. We’re trying to fire off some of the new equipment and see if that’s really going to help us or if we need to go searching in another area.

“Absolutely. Right after the season ended last year, I was talking about how we were working on a sponsor and we’re really excited at the Orleans Team that some things were going to happen here and there. That was my focus. We were all set on running things from there. This deal came as late as everybody thought it did. It didn’t happen until about the first of the year, and when it did, it happened rapid-fire. In this business, playing catch-up is impossible. You have to be a couple weeks ahead of the game. To be able to compete with the Ryan Newmans, and the Jimmie Johnsons and the Jeff Gordons, you have to be on top of your game. To come in as late as this team did, I think we’ve done some pretty good things on pretty short notice. But, we need to get a lot better, and we’re going to.”

“I expect to go out and win poles and races. That’s what I do as a racecar driver. That’s what we all do. I’m the one that’s the biggest advocate of those things. As for the owners, you’ll have to ask them. But, we’ve sat down and looked and tried to figure out what it is. We have great people in this organization that are very concerned and don’t like it. Don Miller and Mr. Penske and Mr. Bawel, they don’t like running like this. Mr. Penske and Don. Miller aren’t accustomed to running like this, so they’re putting an effort on it. Rusty Wallace, who is also one of our owners, just sent us one of his Penske cars that we’re going to use in the next six races, I think, just to get our fleet stronger because we have been playing that much catch-up. As a matter of fact, the No. 12 team – we’re not going to use it for like 10 more races – they just sent us a car. This organization is really working hard to try and help us get up to speed, and once we’re up to speed that’s going to benefit the whole organization.”

“Baker has been a huge asset – forget the team standpoint first – just to me. There have been times that, man, I couldn’t figure out what a car was doing and Baker can come down and say, ‘Hey, the car isn’t handling.’ There have been times this year that I’ve been struggling with something, and he said, ‘Hey man, it’s you. Fix it.’ He’s very blunt about it, and I was able to go and fix it. Fortunately for me he’s up there and can see when it’s good and when its bad. He kind of understands and can watch what’s happening. He’s really been a godsend in that respect of being able to help me get my confidence up a little bit when things aren’t going well. Also, he’s great from a team standpoint. He keeps all of the guys motivated. When he’s up there barking and yelling orders you know that we’re doing really well. He knows he can help the team and knows that we’re good. I love having him up there. It’s great to let him be part of this organization.

“We believe that’s where the Kodak team belongs. We ran the Jasper colors that weekend, and some of the old guys on the Jasper Engines team were joking about how they were thinking those colors were beginning to be bad luck because every time we ran them this year we had bad runs. At Michigan we led for the first time for real, and had a lot of good things going. So, I told them, ‘See, it has nothing to do with the Jasper Engines scheme.’ We just have to get our ducks in a row, and we’re getting there. Michigan is a place that was great to me in the Truck Series, and we get to go back there one more time. Now that we’re at the halfway point you can look at all of these places that we go back to. We had a bad day at Pocono, but you know you never let it happen twice. We’re going to go back there with a different racecar and be better than the first time. We’ve got Michigan again, Bristol again, California again. Those are three good tracks that we did really well at. We go back to Richmond again where we were a little rough, but we’ve learned from there. We go to Dover, Talladega, Lowe’s and Martinsville again too. We’re looking down the stretch of tracks that we’ve been fairly good at, and I’m excited about it.”

“They’re not doing anything that’s new. They’re doing the same thing that we’ve all been trying to do for years. That’s why multi-car teams are a benefit to this sport. We can go and share equipment and share ideas. That’s one of the reasons why the Jasper team became the Penske-Jasper team. It was another team to get in the engineering loop. The thing we’re lacking right now is the identical apples-to-apples comparison. We don’t have that yet, we’re still apples-to-oranges. That’s why it’s really important for us to get these Penske cars in the shop and get on the same page. Then it’s going to benefit us. I think down the road the Penske Racing team is going to be – we’re already really strong with how well Ryan runs, and Rusty is no slouch – once we get us up to speed I think we’re going to be a pretty good force to reckon with.

“By far our best race was at the California Speedway. We finished sixth. We led one lap and ran in the top 10 most of the day. We slipped back at one point, made the right adjustment and went back forward. I’d have to say, by far, that was our best race. That was in a new Hopkins car. If you look at our finishes that was by far the best one. Bristol was one of the most fun races. We ran up as high as third almost the whole day, and had a deal in the end. But, that was fun to go to Bristol and do that well. At Michigan, to lead a bunch of laps, that was definitely fun. It definitely to finally get up there and be able to run where we know the Penske team belongs. I try not to look at disappointments too much. You try to learn from the races. You try to take the notes you have and learn from them. But, after that I don’t call it a disappointment. You learn from it. You’re not happy with it, but you keep on going.”

“In this sport you’ve got to do it. With point positions being so valuable and points being so valuable, you’ve got to get on the racetrack. We really only had the one engine problem at Texas, where we had the engine let go. That’s part of racing. That’s part of the business. At Pocono, that was my fault. I downshifted from third to second instead of going from third to fourth. That was nobody’s fault buy my own. No motor is going to turn 13,000 RPM, or whatever the heck it was when you go from second to third. I can’t blame that on the engine boys. That was a driver’s error. We couldn’t get back out after that one. But it’s always been important. Each time we’ve gone out, take Dover for example, we went out and gained something like 13 positions. We went back out this week at Daytona and gained four positions. Those are all points. Those are all things that at the end of the year, man, if I had done that in the Truck Series a few times we would’ve been able to win the championship. All we needed was those four and five positions.”

ON Duke's Mike Krzyzewski TuRNING DOWN LAKERS JOB
“Was I surprised he stayed at Duke? Not at all. I happened to know coach Krzyzewski in a little bit of a way. I’ve been able to go out to dinner with him quite a few times and spend some time with him. He’s a great man. He reminds me a lot of coach Thompson. He’s a great man who’s very good at taking boys and turning them into men. That’s what he does. He’s very much involved in doing things and molding people. I don’t believe he would even have a good time in the pros. To most of the players the game is different. They practice different. They expect different things. I don’t think he’d have a good time, just like I know coach Thompson would probably not have a good time. So, I was not surprised at all. I’m glad that he stayed Duke if it means when my Hoyas get back on top we can still go and beat Coach K.”

Courtesy Dodge PR

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