BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge)
NOTE: Gaughan, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender, scored his best finish of the season earlier this year at California Speedway. Gaughan finished sixth in that race.
"I'm excited to be going back to California. Any time we get a chance to go back west I'm excited. It was our best finish. It was one of the few times this year we got a new car, and I believe we're taking the same car back out there. I'm real excited about that because it worked pretty good last time. We've had some changes on the team since then. The team is working even better than before. Everything is looking pretty good. We just got through with a good test at Memphis (for Richmond). The last five weeks we've had motors and transmissions and things go wrong, but we've had some great runs. We've been in the top 15 and top five, top 10 most of the time. The guys are pretty pumped. I got to go home (Las Vegas) for a couple of days and get to go see my nephew's first day of school today. Any time I get to go home and see my family and do stuff like that, it's real special to me. I get to see my nephew go practice soccer and start his first day of school. I don't know who's going to cry more, him or me. We're going to see which happens first."
COMMENT ON TEAM'S PERFORMANCE LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL
"It's one of those deals where we put it in the wall when we qualified and we wanted to keep that car, so we didn't get any Happy Hour. Shane Wilson and Matt Lucas, my crew chief and engineer, respectively, made a great starting call. We started and ended up coming in on the first pit stop 14th. We gained three spots. We were good enough to stay in the top 10. Unfortunately, we had a mechanical failure on the pit stop. One of our air guns broke and we ended back in 30 something and when you're back there at Bristol dangerous things happen. They happen up front, and when you're in 30th even more things happen. We got into a wreck. I think 10 of us or six of us or whatever got smashed up in there. We had to go to the garage. We gained 10 spots by going back out. You never quit in this sport. You've got to keep going. Unfortunately at Bristol it's tough to hide. You've got to drive really hard to stay out of the way. The guys put a front bumper back on to make it safe and we got everything back running and ran 15.8s. That was fast enough to be in the top 20. We ran around and tried to stay out of people's way and tried to do the respectable thing. I just wanted to make sure I didn't get in anybody's way. It's a tough deal. We had the Punisher there the first time and it looked so good. We took the same Dodge back, but it was a typical Bristol thing. I'm not mad at anybody. I'm not angry about anything. It's Bristol."
COMMENT ON RUSTY'S LAST CALL
"I'm excited about it. Rusty has been in this sport a long time. I don't know if he said it was going to be fulltime or just do a race here or there. Knowing Rusty I don't see him staying away totally. You've got the Busch team with Duraflame and they're having a pretty good run lately with Jamie Mc(Murray) and him driving. It's real exciting. I grew up being a Rusty Wallace fan when I started racing. Me and coach Briggs from Georgetown used to tape it and come back from basketball games and watch and root for Rusty. Miller is probably going to have a real busy year probably scheduled for him. If he chooses to go out knowing he can still win, I'd love to see him go out maybe trying to chase that championship."
WHAT GRADE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF AND THE TEAM THIS YEAR?
"A personal grade, I went through about four or five races that I was pretty bummed out and cost myself a lot of spots running the way we were running for a few races and really struggled for a few races just getting all bummed out running where I was. I forgot about just finishing as high as you could finish and got all tied up in trying to finish in the top 10. That hurt us. We put a little too much emphasis on those races. Other than that, I've been driving the heck out of things. I got back to driving as good as the car can drive. From there we just had some bad deals. We had a couple of penalties on pit road, coming in at the wrong time for the Lucky Dog and things like that. Engines and transmissions ruined some pretty good runs. I've always said you create your own luck. We go to Pocono and we're in the top 10 and then we have a penalty. We go to the back and get back on the lead lap twice and now we're trying to charge through the field and we get in a wreck. That's creating your luck. You go to a place like last week at Bristol and have a bad pit stop and put yourself back there. You created that luck. You go to Michigan and have good pit stops, take a couple of good chances and you end up in the top five and run in the top 10 most of the day and you blow a motor. It's a tough sport. Personally, I'd give myself a B or B-minus. I don't think I hurt us as much this year as we've had other problems go wrong. As a team we're still way behind. We only have one new Penske chassis. That's all we've used all year. As far as newer cars we've only had about six of them. It's been a long road to hoe. I still see a lot of good things. We have a new Penske chassis coming for Kansas I believe. We're going to use a couple of new chassis in a couple of weeks, a couple of new Hopkins. The new car we just tested at Memphis worked really good. The team is improving. I'm pretty excited about that."
HAVE APPEARANCES BECOME A LITTLE BIT OF A DISTRACTION?
"To me that's not a distraction. To me that's what this sport is about. It's fun. I ran for the last year and a half with no sponsor except the Orleans Casino, and that really wasn't a sponsor. That was the family business. I really didn't have to do appearances except for Dodge, the few times Dodge asked me to do stuff. For me it was exciting. To be able to go back and have a sponsor and be able to do things for Kodak that's the most enjoyable, seeing all the Kodak people pumped up about their race program again and the stuff we've done with them as been exciting. Jasper Engines is another program where people are pumped up about their racing program. It was fun to be able to go out and do things. We've had 24 races, and I've been out to the trailer to sign autographs every race. That's fun to me. That's a distraction from the tough stuff."
WHAT'S IT MEANT BEING ON THE SAME TEAM WITH RUSTY?
"It's pretty awesome. This is a guy, the second test of the season we went to was Rockingham. Here's a rookie driver that's kind of a teammate but not really a teammate yet. We haven't gotten into things. We're both vivacious people, always loud and aggressive and always pretty happy. I'm struggling at the test and this guy has a Dodge all painted up. He's got Miller Lite and all the sponsors on it and he says it's the best Dodge he's tested at Rockingham in six years. 'Get in it and drive it.' Here's a guy who's great at Rockingham. That was one of his tracks. We talked about it earlier in the season. That about knocked me on my butt. I jumped in it and went faster than he did. That makes you feel good when you know how good Rusty Wallace is. We went to the Brickyard and struggled again. Things weren't going all that good. Rusty got in and made a few adjustments and then we went faster than he did in our car. That makes you feel good. Even though we've been struggling, I've got one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history, and he can come over and help me out and make us faster. On a personal level, he's just a fun guy. His family has been nice to me, him and his wife Patti and his kids, Greg and Stephen. He's a really neat guy, fun to hang out with. It's one of those deals like coach Thompson man. You've got to have respect for a guy who's been around that long. To be able to be a part of it has been special."
HAS THERE BEEN ANYTHING YOU'VE LEARNED THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT TO LEARN THIS SEASON?
"I knew very well what we were getting into. Nothing really blindsided me much. It blindsided me it's taken this long to get some of the equipment we wanted. I thought we would be able to have a few more pieces of equipment that would at least be more competitive. That has been a little bit of a shock it took so long. The team and guys, got to be friends with them just like the Orleans team. No, nothing has really surprised me."
HAS IT TESTED YOUR PATIENCE?
"Absolutely. I've never been a very patient man. Look how I ran when I was in the back at Texas those two times. I'm not patient, and that's what hurt us in a couple of races. I quit being patient and saying this is a 15th place car today and we're going to finish 15th. I kept pushing things and cost us a valuable spot, but I got back inside the deal and got back calmed down. Once I got back inside myself and never lost faith in Shane Wilson and the guys because they've been working their tails off. We have a great team. The over the wall guys have been awesome and Shane Wilson, you know how much I love Shane Wilson. Once I got back and got settled down and said, 'OK, don't worry about those things, just do what you can do.' It's been OK."
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING A TRUCK?
"No, my contract with the Penske-Jasper team says I won't drive anything but the Nextel Cup car. Besides that, the equipment we have there, we have to give Steve Park the best stuff. I'm not going to be able to do anything that Steve Park can't do. Steve is a great driver and doing a great job. I think in the last eight races we have six top 10s or something and five top fives. He's had some great runs. Last week at Bristol he was the man. He came from the back in the last 20 laps (finished ninth). It was awesome. I was in the pits going nuts. We're also running Scott Lynch at the end of the year. We've got him tabbed to take over that truck seat and be the future of Orleans Racing, so I've got to leave all the equipment and the work they're doing for Scott and Steve. I'm not going to try to interfere with that stuff."
IS YOUR FAMILY STILL INVOLVED WITH OFF-ROAD STUFF? WILL THEY BE INVOLVED IN THE BAJA 1000 LATER IN THE YEAR?
"Both my brothers still race fulltime, still race in the desert fulltime. My brother John, I haven't got to spend time with him in years, came and spent the whole week with me before Bristol, hanging out in North Carolina with me. He got to see the shop and meet the guys. Now everybody knows I'm not the most wired guy in the family. My brother makes me look calm. It was the first time in years. I had both of my brothers on pit road with me during the National Anthem. I can't remember the last time the three of us had been at a race together. That was pretty special to me. They still race the desert. My brother Mike won the class 10 championship last year, and my brother John owns the team. I don't know how they're doing in points this year. They've still got a few races left, so I wouldn't be allowed to race it (Baja 1000). It's the same week as Homestead, so I'll be a little busy. That kinda bums me out. Even if I couldn't race it I'd be down there watching it, but I have a little scheduling conflict. I wouldn't jump in. I have too much respect for Me. Penske and Mr. Bawel. They've done a lot for me, and I'm not going to do anything to ruin that relationship. I'd definitely go down there and chase and help out and have a good time. I speak too much Spanish and lived there too much of my life to not go down there and have a good time at the Baja."
ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH TV COVERAGE IN FINAL 10 RACES?
"I think it's a good thing because you're going to keep more viewers. You're going to keep more viewers during the NFL football season, which is what we're competing against. We do have a little bit of a fear that NBC is going to focus on them (drivers in top 10). You watch the races they focus on the 8 car enough no matter where he is. They're going to put him in. The company car always gets shown. The only thing we ask, you know a couple of weeks ago the Kodak Dodge is leading Watkins Glen. We were up front at Michigan. We've been up front in four races. With NBC's coverage, the fans have been a little suspect about it anyway, are they going to give us equal coverage? That's a question that's an unknown. I can't answer that because we haven't gotten there yet. It's an unknown. I hope the Kodak team has good runs these last 10 races so we can get equal coverage. The chase is not supposed to change the way the race is televised. It's supposed to keep viewers and change the aspect of the competitiveness of the sport. As long as NBC stays true, and if I'm having a good run that day and they show the Kodak Dodge up there, or the Jasper Dodge if we're running that scheme that day, then great. I've got no problem with it."
HAVE THINGS GONE AS EXPECTED WITH THE FANS?
"I knew kinda what to expect. Fans for the most part are pretty cool. Fans cheer for their driver. They're doing their stuff. They're pretty amazing. The only thing that bugs me about fans, maybe they're a little drunk at the racetrack and drivers have places to go some days. They get a little belligerent when a driver walks by and doesn't stop. That bothers me because I'm a guy who tries to make all of the fans happy. At Pocono I signed for about 300 people walking out and I'm about 10 cars away from qualifying. I've got to stop and run down to my car. I've got two fans who say a few dirty words to me. I'm like, 'come on guys.' I go running down there and somebody crashes and we've got a 10-minute break cleaning up the track. I walk back over to another section of fans and keep signing because I like doing that stuff. When I turn around and have to walk away and don't sign this guy's autograph, speak up for me. I've had fans speak up for me. I spent six hours in Texas signing autographs and as I'm walking away three guys come running up late and they're already closing the doors. They start yelling at me. I had a couple of fans take up for me, and that makes you feel good. Fans are what have made this sport so great. Ninety-nine percent of them are awesome, and I enjoy spending time with them. That's why I like going out to my trailer every race and signing for three or four hours. It's just fun."
WHAT DO YOU THINK FANS LIKE MOST IN THEIR DRIVER?
"I'm a fan myself. I'm a fan of Jimmie Johnson and Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman. Most fans like to see their driver win it. I think that's what they all like. All fans aren't the same. Some fans like you because you're from their hometown. Some fans like you because they like your attitude. Every fan has their own feel about why they like a driver. I get to hang out and talk to them. I love the kids that come. I love the parents that bring the kids."
ANY CONCERN THAT TEAMMATES MIGHT INTERFERE IN LAST 10 RACES?
"This is not Formula One. We don't pull over for each other and we don't block for each other and things like that. The only thing I'm going to continue to do is if Rusty or Ryan are driving a better racecar than me, the same as when Jimmie Johnson goes to pass me or anybody else, I am not going to be -- insert your favorite driver who's not going to get out of the way here -- and be the guy that everybody says 'what is that jerk doing in that position?' If I've got a racecar that can go and compete for a win, I'm going to go and compete for a win. Earlier this year at California Speedway, I was fifth and he was sixth with Matt Kenseth breathing down his neck with 10 to go. I was blocking the hell out of him because I wanted a top five. The only teams orders we got there just don't take each other out. That's the only team orders we were given -- just don't wreck each other. I don't see any team orders like that coming into play. As far as other teams, I can't speak for them. For the Penske organization, Rusty and I are trying to go out there and win. The best way we can help Ryan now is to steal the most points. If I win and take away points from Kasey Kahne to help Ryan Newman stay in, that's the best way I can help, to go out there and finish the best I can."
IF YOU'RE RUNNING FIFTH AND RYAN IS SIXTH SUNDAY AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
"Same thing. I drive for Kodak and Jasper. I don't drive for ALLTEL or some of his sponsors. We are teammates, but at the same time, I have to represent my guys. If we're fifth and sixth, and it comes down to the last lap, I'm driving the wheels off the thing man. I haven't been told to pull over or stop. I've got to have good finishes for our guys, and a top five is a good finish. I'm not going to wreck him, and I don't think he's going to wreck me, but we're going to have a dogfight"
COMMENT ON RAYBESTOS ROOKIE RACE
"The way the rookie points are, they only take your best 17 finishes. We still have 12 races left and the points start getting jumbled up bad when you start seeing (better finishes). You look at the points and all of a sudden you'll see Kasey Kahne have less points than he had the week before. They start dropping races off. It's not over. It's definitely going to take a hell of a run from the Kodak team and Kasey to have a few problems, but it's not over. I think we're sitting third or fourth and we're going to be battling for every spot we can get in the Raybestos rookie deal because that's another championship the Penske/Jasper team had as a goal at the beginning of the season."