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Gaughan ready to get back on track at home

Grandson of legendary casino owner looking for first NASCAR truck victory since 2003

By Andy Samuelson

Brendan Gaughan’s homecoming to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend has been sweeter than recent trips to Sin City.

“It’s definitely a little different this time around,” said Gaughan, the grandson of legendary casino owner Jackie Gaughan. “I’ll always call Vegas home -- it’s where I’m from. It’s where my family lives, it’s where I own a home, but this year I’ve also been spending a bunch of time back in North Carolina.”

That’s because last offseason Gaughan’s father, Michael (a former racer and current casino operator, who runs the South Point and built up Coast Casinos) dissolved South Point Racing, which started in 1999, forcing his son to find another NASCAR truck sponsor.

The former series Rookie of the Year did, catching on with Circle Bar Racing. But that was the easy part. Finding success on the track this season has been more of a struggle.

“We’ve had good trucks, just not the good finishes to show for it,” said Gaughan, who currently is ranked 14th in the points standings and has had only four Top 10 finishes this year.

“We’ll make our way to the front of the race, but then stupid things seem to happen and that’s what really drives you nuts,” continued Gaughan, who hasn’t recorded a truck win since 2003.

“When you’re running 30th and you wreck, it’s not that big of deal. But when you’re running fifth and you blow-up — that’s real, real frustrating.”

However, the one-time hoops standout — he played on the same Georgetown team as Allen Iverson — says a little karma from the hometown crowd might be the medicine he needs to get back on track.

“It would just validate the fact that we are still racing, still love Vegas and it’s still important to us,” said Gaughan, who won at LVMS in 2003 and also led the points standings that year until a final race wreck dropped him to fourth overall.

“With the history of how we’ve struggled as of late, how we’ve struggled here in Vegas the last couple of years, it would mean the world to come back here and give the hometown fans something to scream about," he said.

But first things first: Gaughan has to get past the problems that have plagued him on his favorite track ever since that victory five years ago. After moving back down from NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in 2005, Gaughan hasn't recorded a Top 10 finish on Vegas’ 1.5-mile superspeedway.

“I’ve raced here since 1997. This is my track and I used to have an advantage on it. I could have closed my eyes sometimes and known exactly where I was at on it,” Gaughan said.

But in 2006 the track got repaved, in addition to creating higher banking in the turns, and more than a few drivers have commented about its bumpy surface.

“Honestly, it’s not as smooth as you would think a new track would be,” Gaughan said. “But it’s a fantastic race track and you saw last year that people were getting three-wide. I think you’ll see four-wide this weekend. And even if it’s a little bumpy, it’s bumpy for everybody.

“We just have to figure a way to get back to where we were here.”

The one thing Gaughan won’t have to worry about his filling the stands with his fans, as friends and family have bombarded him for ticket requests all week.

“I think that’s part of the fun in coming back home,” he said. “This town has been so good to me and my family. I’ll do just about anything to be good back to it. Hopefully I can help do that just a little bit by pulling off a big win.”

Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at andy.samuelson@lasvegassun.com or 702-948-7837.

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