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Gaughan Returns to the Desert to Relax

Brendan Gaughan began his racing career in the desert --- actually winning the first race he entered back in 1991. His love of the desert grew over the years and offered him the thrill of the challenge and an opportunity to race with his family, most of which are ‘desert rats’ at heart.

After burying himself in his NASCAR career Gaughan’s time for running off-road became limited. So limited in fact that he didn’t really have a chance race competitively until 2005 when he and his partner Bill “Batman” Holbrook joined forces with Bud Feldkamp to win the Vegas to Reno event in a Class 1500 (unlimited) Buggy.

That victory flamed the Gaughan family flame and led to the purchase of a new Kreger Fab built off-road buggy. The car is a ‘Best in the Desert’ (BITD) class 1500 powered by a small block Chevy motor built by Kroyer Racing Engines.

“After we won the Vegas to Reno race with Dr. Feldkamp last year, Michael Gaughan got all excited and said, ‘Let’s go play in the desert again,’” said Gaughan of the genesis to this new off-road endeavor. “So we had a brand new Class I unlimited buggy built by a guy named Derek Kreger of Kreger Fab out of Orange, California.

“It’s a gorgeous Class 1500 (BITD) Buggy. We’ve kind of talked about it throughout the year and it was at the Open House on display in September. We finally got it done and running.”

The time to shake down Gaughan’s new ride has been scarce, but shortly after the NASCAR season ended the work began in earnest. A test in the California desert reveled several weak links in the design and fixes were implemented. Several weeks later Gaughan entered the Henderson Terrible’s 400 event. The goals were set realistically given the newness of the systems wrapped into the ferocious off-road vehicle.

The initial outing, a rare for off-road qualifying session, proved that the Kreger built car was fast ---- bad fast.

“Best in the Desert does qualifying for the Trophy Trucks and the Unlimiteds,” explains Gaughan. “They’ve never done that before. They set up a 2-mile course in the desert. I told Derek that whole race was just a test. The racecar was just barely done and we hadn’t been able to really go test it and shake it down, so we knew something was going to break. But for two miles I was sure the thing would live. So I wanted to go out there and set the world on fire and to make a splash. We’re doing this to try to sell more racecars for him and more engines for Kevin. We definitely did that.

“We came out of the box and we qualified second. We blew both of my brother’s teams away and one of them was the points leader. One of them qualified 18th and other one qualified 22nd or something like that, so that was kind of fun. I told the guys, “I have one goal and that’s to beat them on Thursday.’”

With that goal accomplished Gaughan set his sights on the bigger race picture. Problems surfaced during the event’s “pre-run” when the transmission failed. A flurry of work and several gallons of midnight oil got the car ready for the race the following day. Unfortunately the transmission failed in the event but the experience gained was invaluable.

Offering comparisons between the NASCAR formula and off-road Gaughan says, “In NASCAR the pieces are so old, not it a bad way but most of the stuff’s been around forever and everything is about the same. In NASCAR when somebody introduces something new, it will probably break. When a new transmission comes out it might break for a couple weeks until somebody figures it out. When somebody finds a new engine piece, engines might blow up for a while until they get it figured out.

“In the desert, we build everything from scratch. You can’t go to Ronnie Hopkins and buy a chassis. You’ve got to build it. Derek is a new Class 1 car builder. He’s never built one but he had some great ideas and so far the car itself is holding up. But we also have a new idea with this transmission from GearWorks. It’s called an Xtrac. Only a couple of people in the off-road world in America have them. Actually there are only two – us and one other company. They have some bugs but the neatest thing is they sent a guy from Indianapolis at 3:00 in the afternoon the day before the race. He was supposed to be going to England but instead of going there they flew him to Las Vegas with spare parts to fix this thing so we could race. They really are taking an interest in trying to make it better and that’s a fun partner to have, somebody who is going to come make it better when it’s not right.”

Despite the growing pains Gaughan is excited about his new car ---- one that he’s hoping to run in up to six races in 2007.

“The racecar itself is probably one of the most phenomenal suspension racecars out of the box,” Gaughan said glowingly. “We haven’t had much time to tune on it. There is a video up on the internet that shows how fast it is versus some of our other main competitors. It’s an unreal racecar and it’s scary as hell. It’s also phenomenal and I just can’t wait until we get this thing running.

“We’re going to run it probably six times next year and when we run it next year it’s going to be for real. Right now we’re just trying to make it break so we can shake the bugs out of it and see what weak links there are. Next year the weak links and the bugs will be gone and we’re going to go try to run the hell out of it.”

© 2006 Cyber Speed Design