Las Vegas: Dodge - Brendan Gaughan interview

BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Care Dodge) "As long as I believe in what's being built, I believe we can win. It's not that we are a new team, but we are new. We have new Dodges, new chassis, new to the Penske organization. Our horsepower...

BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Care Dodge)

"As long as I believe in what's being built, I believe we can win. It's not that we are a new team, but we are new. We have new Dodges, new chassis, new to the Penske organization. Our horsepower is not new. Everybody knows about the Penske-Jasper engines. We're still trying to get things dialed in, get our engineering right, get our chassis done, get everything from the Penske side of things. Each week we've been getting better. Las Vegas is our next shot at doing better. I think there's no reason we can't go to any racetrack and win. Look at my teammates, Ryan and Rusty, they're fast every week. There's no reason we can't start matching that. We're getting better engineering wise, testing wise. The team is gelling. If there's a week you can, at least there's no rookie on the racetrack here. Maybe we are a Raybestos Rookie in the world of things, but not at this racetrack, so I feel pretty good."

IS THERE A TRACK SECRET AT LAS VEGAS?

"This is a throwout from my older owner Bill McAnally. He owned the Orleans Racing team with my father. We won Winston West championships with Bill. There's a big bump up in turn four, a big black spot on the pavement. It's called the Bill McAnally turn. Right before I started driving for him, he was still driving and he almost burned to the ground out there. The safety crews got to him, and he got out OK, but he left a mark on the speedway. I always laugh and say 'that's my owner's mark right there.'

"This track has nothing on it that's tricky. There's a dip down low in four and there's a bump up high in four. If you're really good in qualifying, you hit the dip. If you're tight in the race you run over the bump. Every other time you run between it."

COMMENT ON THE NEW TIRES

"You come here for the test and there's no rubber on the racetrack and marbles are everywhere. You're not running three and four wide like you can in the race. Goodyear always does a fantastic job of building race tires. They're not here trying to hurt us. They've kept me safe my entire life. They've building something trying to make racing more exciting. NASCAR is trying to make rules with the spoilers. I drove a truck last year, and I don't care. Shane Wilson (crew chief) and the Penske guys will figure that out. With any luck, I'll tell 'em what it's doing and they'll fix it. I still don't care about the softer tires, harder tires, spoiler, no spoiler. We all have to drive the same thing, and NASCAR does a good job with that."

HAVE YOU HAD EXPERIENCE CONSERVING TIRES?

"Back in the Winston West days and Craftsman Truck days, the races are a lot shorter, but you also get less tires. When you only get four sets of tires on a weekend for a Craftsman Truck race and one of them is burned off by the time you get to the race, you've got three sets for the race. You do have to learn how to conserve tires. Shane taught me a lot about that. We really worked hard on those things. The coaches I've got up there now, Billy Wilburn and Buddy Baker, those guys are more accustomed to these longer races. They coach me with that. Roger Penske is on my radio giving me coaching tips."

WHAT'S BEEN THE BIGGEST ADJUSTMENT SO FAR FROM TRUCKS TO CUP?

"I always like to make myself available. The toughest thing for me now is to say the word no. I don't like to say the word no. The Penske-Jasper folks have been great getting me places, and they take all the pressure off. I like to stop and talk to the fans. I'm having to learn to say the word no more often, and I don't like that. The biggest thing I have to do is getting used to is looking at the fans and saying I promise I'll be back. I do spend an extra 30 seconds with them than five seconds. If one time I have to go I just ask they understand that."

HAVE YOU HAD ANY TIME TO HAVE FUN OUT HERE?

"I've been having a great time. It doesn't matter if I'm running around or not. Being home has been nice. I've said it before. This race is going to be great and exciting but also a headache. I've got 30 tickets in the grandstands, 25 tickets in my dad's suite, seven tickets in the pits and a million other people asking. All the hotel rooms are full. The restaurants are all full. Everybody wants to come out and have a little fun. It's fun. It's home, but it's also a headache, and that's why we got out here a little early. We had 70,000 show up and cheer for us at the Craftsman Truck race. Vegas is always good for us. I'm staying at the house. Me and my roommate are back home, hanging out and playing with the PlayStation.

"I got to go to my nephew's baptism. I'm his Godfather. They planned it around this, and the Penske-Jasper folks left me that time so I could do it. That's special to me. I love my nieces and nephews. Last night signing autographs, my nephew Johnny sat there and signed with me all night. My family is big to me, and my nieces and nephews mean the world to me."

ROOKIES HAVE FINISHED THIRD AND SECOND IN THE FIRST TWO RACES. CAN YOU TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL HERE?

"The Raybestos rookies are putting pressure on us early this year. Third, second and the only number left is first. We've got to have another rookie in the top three just because we're doing it every week. If there is a week I can choose to do it, please, please, let me choose this one."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brendan Gaughan , Buddy Baker