Daytona Preseason Thunder - Day one notes

Brendan Gaughan, Key Crew Members, Savor Post-Holiday Present * Erin Crocker's Journey To Daytona The Longest Commute * NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton Pleased With Day One Performances * Roush Fenway Trio Tops Friday's ...

Brendan Gaughan, Key Crew Members, Savor Post-Holiday Present

* Erin Crocker's Journey To Daytona The Longest Commute
* NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton Pleased With Day One Performances
* Roush Fenway Trio Tops Friday's Single-Truck Speed Charts

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 11, 2008) -- Call it Christmas in January.

That's how Brendan Gaughan viewed his signing this week to drive Circle Bar Racing's No. 10 International MAXX FORCE Diesel Ford in 2008.

And the bonus is that half a dozen crew members from his now-shuttered South Point Racing team, including crew chief Bryan Berry, also found jobs with Tom Mitchell's organization as teammates to Rick Crawford (No. 14 Ford).

As the days before the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series session of NASCAR Preseason Thunder ticked away, Gaughan was losing hope of finding a ride for the 2008 season.

In fact, the Las Vegas native was considering something else altogether.

"I was going to be a ski instructor in Vail, Colo.," he said during a Friday visit to the Daytona International Speedway media center. "I had the job all lined up for me and it was looking really nice. I was kind of excited about it."

Gaughan now will be spending the winter on four wheels instead of two skis -- the latter definitely being his second choice.

"It was probably the toughest off-season I've ever had in my life, the toughest couple of months I've ever had in my life," said Gaughan, who has competed full-time in either the NASCAR Craftsman Truck or NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2002.

The driver spoke not only of his own future but that of his crew members.

"Rick Crawford is my hero and for about half of the guys in my (old) shop, he's their hero," Gaughan said. "They were out looking for a job in NASCAR at a very difficult time to look for a job and Rick had the positions open."

Gaughan got the job, but he wasn't the only one who applied.

The list of applications reached 65, according to Crawford, who ultimately trimmed the list to five.

"They were and are all respected as far as calling to give resumes for the job," said Crawford, winner of the 2003 Chevrolet Silverado 250. "All of them probably deserve that job."

Ultimately, the combination of Gaughan, Berry and associates tipped the scales.

Crawford calls it a merger.

"Not necessarily in business but the merger as far as teamwork is concerned," he said. "I probably have never seen a happier bunch of guys from the hard work."

The Alabama driver is positive he's bringing his best effort yet to Daytona.

"We're gonna come back to win this Daytona 250 and we're gonna race the two best trucks," he said.

'Long Tow' Award Goes To Erin Crocker ... Two days ago, Erin Crocker (No. 46 Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Chevrolet) was vacationing in Ireland, her family's ancestral home. She flew to Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday and on to Daytona Beach, arriving about an hour after the first round of NASCAR Preseason Thunder commenced.

Naturally, her luggage didn't follow on the trans-Atlantic flight.

Crocker, who anticipates driving David Dollar's Silverado in at least the season's first two races at Daytona and California Speedways, spent the past week enjoying the Emerald Isle -- home most recently to her mother's grandparents.

She found time, of course, for the must-see tourist stops.

"I kissed the Blarney Stone," she said, "but I've already got the gift of gab."

Sprague Eyes Another Daytona Win ... Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) won the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 250 in a three-way, photo finish over Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles/Exide Chevrolet) and Travis Kvapil.

Eleven months later, Sprague cherishes the accomplishment -- perhaps more so than in Victory Lane.

"It was certainly a victory that I never thought I could achieve just because it's so difficult to win here," he said. "It would obviously be great to win here again ... but it is so hard. It is the hardest race to win, I think, in anybody's career."

Sprague will partner with 2007 series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) at Kevin Harvick Inc. He considers Hornaday, likewise a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion, a good friend as well as a teammate.

"I think we will be able to make each stronger sharing information and things like that," Sprague said. "Surely, we aren't going to teach each other how to drive or anything."

Director Wayne Auton Gives Thumbs Up ... NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton, overseeing his eighth edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, passed out some compliments midway through Friday's opening day of testing.

Auton was pleased with the number of teams attending and the appearance of their equipment.

"The trucks really look good," he said. "The teams have done their homework."

He indicated feedback from competitors has been positive. "The trucks look very stable and the drivers are telling us they drive comfortably," he added.

Auton noted that all four manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota -- are posting similar speeds and all are represented among the top times in single-truck runs.

"With the new intake, the (air) flow under the carburetor is more consistent and that should create the opportunity for racing the fans will enjoy," he said.

Pit Stops ... Three Roush Fenway Fords topped Friday's morning session (single-truck laps) with now senior member Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern + Tool and Equipment Ford) posting the quickest speed of 177.420 mph. Rookie Colin Braun followed in the No. 6 Con-way Freight F-150 at 176.790 mph with Joey Clanton (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford) at 176.509 mph. Braun and Clanton were involved in an incident during the afternoon session that damaged both trucks and caused the teams to terminate testing for the weekend. Roush Fenway trucks have won twice at Daytona -- Carl Edwards in 2004 and Mark Martin in 2006. ... Billy Ballew Motorsports will have a distinctly different look in 2008, fielding both Toyota and Chevrolet trucks. Kyle Busch and David Stremme will share the seat in the No. 51 Toyota with a driver to be named next week for the team's No. 15 Chevrolet. ... Derrike Cope (No. 19 Xpress Motorsports Ford) will serve as an in-race mentor next month for rookie teammate Brian Scott (No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Ford) as he did last October at Talladega Superspeedway. Cope won the 1990 Daytona 500.

Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch this week's NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Saturday, Jan. 12. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.

Fast Facts

Session 2: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 250

Where: Daytona International Speedway.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Thursday, Jan. 11 through Sunday, Jan. 13.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Who: Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, Phillip McGilton, David Starr, Colin Braun, Erik Darnell, Joey Clanton, Todd Bodine, Justin Marks, Rick Crawford, Brendan Gaughan, Matt Crafton, Shelby Howard, Jason White, Shane Sieg, Terry Cook, John Wood, Scott Lagasse Jr., Dennis Setzer, Stacy Compton, Scott Lynch, Ted Musgrave, Kyle Busch, Wayne Edwards, Chad McCumbee, Brian Scott, Derrike Cope, Justin Hobgood, Andy Lally.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Derrike Cope , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Stacy Compton , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Andy Lally , Shelby Howard , Jason White , Brendan Gaughan , Justin Marks , Carl Edwards , Wayne Edwards , Erin Crocker , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Scott Lynch , David Stremme , Joey Clanton , Shane Sieg , Justin Hobgood , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Brian Scott , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil