BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Dodge Ram) NOTE: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway was scheduled to begin Saturday morning. Rain kept the trucks off the track all morning and the afternoon ...
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Dodge Ram)
NOTE: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway was scheduled to begin Saturday morning. Rain kept the trucks off the track all morning and the afternoon forecast isn't encouraging.
WHAT ARE YOUR RACING PLANS FOR 2005?
"The Orleans Racing Team plans primarily are for the No. 62 team and Steve Park. That is our primary goal, to get him the championship this year. He's going to run full time. We're looking for a sponsor still, but with Dodge's help the guys back at the shop are really pumped up about the new season. Things are settled down now for the Orleans boys and they're excited. As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to run a second Dodge truck out of the Orleans shop for at least 18 races. If we can do well enough, maybe we'll do the entire series, but for right now it's just 18 races. I have a sponsor. You're going to hear about it in the next couple of weeks. Fortunately for me, I've met some very great people in my life. I think very highly of them, and they think very highly of me. We're going to go have some fun. We're going to get the Orleans Racing Team back the way it used to be, kicking butt and having fun. Fortunately for me I fit in Steve Park's seat, so I'm going to use his stuff. Steve didn't like my Lonestar, so I've got Lonestar in my stable again, but the trucks are all Steve's. I'm just taking it on loan for a few weeks."
YOU'RE NOT AS TALL AS STEVE PARK. HOW DO YOU FIT IN HIS SEAT?
"There's only so much space in there. Steve has the seat as far back as he can have it, which probably wouldn't work for me. Somehow, because there is so little room, his knees are up in his chest and I fit perfect. I was talking about ordering new LaJoie seats for me so we could build a bracket and mount it. They were calling it the kiddie seat, but I got in the truck and I fit."
WHAT'S THE No. 77 ON YOUR TRUCK ALL ABOUT?
"I don't know. I'm never one not to want to have fun. Maybe there's something to it and maybe we're just doing it for fun. That's a great number for a Las Vegas team. All you're missing is one 7 and you've got the jackpot. I'd say it's just a good number for Vegas."
WHAT'S BILLY WILBURN DOING FOR THE NO. 77 TEAM?
"He wanted to come and crew chief again, and we're excited to have him. To have someone Billy Wilburn's caliber just proves the excitement and commitment the Orleans team has again. He's my crew chief. Charlie Wilson is the crew chief for Steve. Charlie's got that truck experience that Billy doesn't, but Billy's got experience with Penske and 20 years in the business. Billy is getting everything where we can work as a team better, and Charlie is working with the engineers and focusing on the setups. It's really been a great team deal. I could not have asked for a better situation. Those are just pieces of the pie you have to have. Billy might not be the best truck crew chief because he's never crew chiefed a truck, but with Charlie's help it's going to help him. We may be adding some people here in the next couple of weeks that may even shock people more than Billy Wilburn, people who are really, really good at the truck series."
ARE YOU GOING TO HIRE MORE EAST COAST GUYS?
"I'm not a big fan of the east coast guys. I'm just a fan of racers. If you're a racer, I don't care where you come from. Most of my guys come from the west or northwest, but some guys have expressed interest and in racing things change so rapidly. You've got to have backup plans and be ready for changes. We added Mike Snow to our PR Department, and that's a loaded gun right there. You're coming with the right people when you do that stuff. He's really excited to be out in Vegas. Anybody that knows Snow knows that Vegas probably isn't the best town for him to live in, but he's helped me out in the office trying to run this thing. He's really given the PR Department a large amount of respect. Billy Wilburn loves Vegas, and we've got a local Vegas legend, Dick Cobb, the 2001 Sunbelt Region champion, he was my coach when I was Late Model Racing. I finally settled him down and put him in the shop. We've still got all the west coasters, too. We've got a lot of good people and more coming."
DO YOU HAVE PLANS OTHER THAN RACING TRUCKS IN 2005?
"I may be looking at a few things. A few things may be looking at me. I'm doing things the way I want to do 'em. Some people have said they noticed the smile is back on my face. I'm having fun again. If I do something, I'm going to do it the way I want. I'm very cautious in anything I do. I've been Dodge loyal for so long and I keep that as a forefront in my mind. Right now, Dodge has a pretty tight budget. They take care of me the best they can. They always have and they always will. That's a factor in all my decisions. There's talk about a lot of things. I let everybody talk. I listen to all the deals. You never know what might be there. A lot of people have called and expressed some interest. I've called a few people and expressed interest. I'm fortunate right now that people look at my last season and think something else had to be wrong besides the driver. My sponsor thinks that and a lot of teams think that. I'm at a point in my life where I can kinda do it like I want, and right now, I want to come run 18 truck races with my Orleans guys. I love these guys and they all know that. This is a very important deal to me. I'm opened for options for any year. I'll listen and pay attention. If it's something I think is a good deal and has a lot of positives and good people involved -- you always want to do business with people you feel very secure around and feel are worth doing business with."
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT LAST YEAR? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENT?
"I learned a lot and you never would do anything different. Never. If you did something different, you'd never learn from what you did. I was fortunate I got to drive for Roger Penske. He's the captain. Rick Mears and Emerson Fittapaldi drove for him, and I can say Brendan Gaughan is on that list. I drove for Kodak. Those people are fantastic. I love the Kodak people and the employees. I bought nine Easy Share cameras and systems for Christmas. I gave 'em out to everyone I knew. I had the absolute wonderful luck of meeting a man named Doug Bawel with Jasper Engines & Transmissions and he joined the ranks of John Thompson and my father. I have that much respect for the man. I'm fortunate to say I met him. Hopefully I can stay affiliated with him as long as he wants me because he was there with a fantastic group of people."
DID THE CUP EXPERIENCE LEAVE A BAD TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH?
"No, we went up there and gave it a shot. There's pressure on all sorts of people at that level. There's politics and pressures, people that have to justify their own jobs. Once you get there you have to spend more money to keep a job. Things get difficult at that level for some. I turn left. I tell people I don't much about the mechanics of a racecar, and I don't, but I know more than I let on. I know enough to stay away and let the people who are really smart do their job."
DO YOU FEEL YOU DESERVED ANOTHER YEAR IN CUP?
"I don't know. That's not for me to answer. I'm much happier where I'm standing right now, much happier back in my Orleans trailer. I'm much happier dealing with the people I'm dealing with now, and I'm going to keep it that way. I never felt like I had anything to prove except to myself and my father. That's it. Those are the only people I really care about. Other than that, people can think what they want about me. They have."
YOU GOT ROBBED OF THE 2003 NASCAR TRUCK CHAMPIONSHIP. WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET ANOTHER SHOT AT IT?
"People called that robbed. That's racin'. I can't say I was robbed. I gave it a shot. We were there all year. We dominated the season. Nobody can take that away from us. Out of two seasons, one as a non-factory Dodge team we won twice and one season as a factory Dodge team we won six times. We had great runs. I don't think anybody doubts who the strongest team was that year, but that's racin'. That's why you run 25 races instead of saying we were the champion after Phoenix or something. I would absolutely love to put NASCAR Craftsman Series Truck Champion on our resume, especially on our team's resume. We've won Winston West Championships and a lot of races, rookies of the year, popular driver, Gatorade front runners. We've won just about everything except we didn't win that NASCAR Craftsman Truck Championship and that's Steve's to get now. Our main concern with the Orleans team is Steve Park. We want to get him that championship. We want that championship banner hanging in our shop with his name next to it. I just want to go back having fun and being the guy everybody says I wasn't last year. I know I wasn't having the same fun I was used to having."
DO YOU THINK YOU WERE READY FOR CUP LAST YEAR?
"I was ready for Nextel Cup driving wise. Maybe I needed to learn a few other things like how to play politics better. In the end, I don't do that very well, and I don't think I'm ever going to do that very well. When I see a spade a spade I call it a spade. It may end my career. It may be the worst thing, and my father yells at me for it. My dad plays politics a lot better than I do. In the truck series you have Wayne Auton and that's the end. What he says goes. You don't need to play politics around here. When you're talking about the Orleans Racing team, you're talking about me and my dad. That ain't a very political structure there. We're pretty happy go lucky people and we love guys who make commitments to us and we love families and we love taking care of our employees. There are no politics to be played around here. If there were politics to be played as the media said I'm out of a ride and Steve Park is out of a ride, too, and I'd be in the truck. That would be playing politics. We don't need to play that around this house. That ain't the way it works."