Brendan Gaughan, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, recently took time to do a Q&A session with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his racing career.
TCSR: Why did you choose to go to Georgetown University?
BG: “Well, Georgetown kind of chose me. I was being recruited by a lot of schools around the country to play football, and I got injured my senior year, and the Georgetown football team was moving to Division I-AA. They were previously a Division III team. They were in a non-scholarship league and was starting a new era with a brand new football coach. The new football coach called me up and recruited me to go to Georgetown. I went to Georgetown to play football.”
TCSR: You also walked-on to the basketball team. You are also friends with former Georgetown and NBA star Allen Iverson. What’s it like being his friend?
BG: “Unlike most schools, Georgetown is one big family, whether you played for coach (John) Thompson in 1978 or 1998. Georgetown basketball is a very special fraternity. Allen and I are friends and remain friends.”
TCSR: As his former teammate and friend, what do you think about his career?
BG: “Well, his career is winding down. Allen has always been very competitive in his career. He’s a very small guy and has never been afraid of going through the middle to score points. He’s the toughest person that I know, as far as how he’s been able to play through pain. The last couple of years, he’s been affected by some family things, which has affected his life and his game. He’s had a phenomenal career no matter if he ever plays again. I definitely think he’s going to be a Hall of Famer once he’s done playing.”
TCSR: You put corn rows in your hair at Dover International Raceway for a race in 2002. Why did you do that?
BG: “I did it, because I could. We had a bunch of guys that I played with at Georgetown coming to the race. And I had really long hair that I was donating to ‘Locks of Love,’ and I donated it three weeks after the Dover race.”
TCSR: Besides being involved with the Georgetown football and basketball teams, what made you want to go into NASCAR?
BG: “I grew up racing. My father used to race in the Baja 1000, which is a desert race in Mexico. I grew up watching my dad race, who also raced in the deserts of Las Vegas and Southern California. My dad did it as a hobby, but he really enjoyed it. When I got old enough, along with my brothers, we all raced. But I was the first one in the family that showed some real interest in it as a job. I wanted to do more with it, but I also knew I had to get my college degree so I did both at the same time. When I graduated from college, the guy that I raced for was one of the men that founded the Craftsman Truck Series. He offered me an opportunity to drive a truck, which I did, and that’s why I’m here today.”
TCSR: You were the SNORE (Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts) Class 10 champion in 1991, 1992, and 10003. Could you talk about winning those championships?
BG: “That’s when I was racing for fun. I wasn’t thinking about it as a career at that point. I just wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps. My partner was a young man, named J.C. Dean, and J.C.’s dad was our mechanic. So, we would work after school to put our race cars together. His father, Butch Dean, still does it to this day. He also maintained my dad’s race cars years ago. We were two kids following in our dad’s footsteps.”
TCSR: You were the Winston West Champion in 2001 and 2002. What did it mean to you to win those?
BG: “I drove for NAPA Auto Parts. It was really cool, because we broke a lot of records and the driver before I got there won the championship in 1999. Being a championship team, you are expected to do well. There was a lot of pressure in front of me. We had great cars and a great team. Everything was top notch. We put it to the other teams. It was a lot of fun.”
TCSR: When you were racing and moved to the short course, you met Walker Evans, who you previously mentioned as a founding father of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Could you talk about meeting him and how this meeting changed your life forever?
BG: “Well, Walker and my dad were friends growing up. We started to sponsor Walker in 1979 with one of our casinos at the time. I grew up knowing Walker, and I got a picture at 7 or 8 years old, sitting on Walker’s lap. He has this big Cowboy hat on and this picture was taken from a bar in Mexico. He was my hero, who I idolized in racing. As I got older, I knew I was going to race for fun. I thought it was cool, and then when I got the chance to work for Walker, he became my boss. I am one of a few that can say I drive for a guy, who I idolized. It was a really big deal for me. I did really well with Walker as my owner. To this day, Walker still goes to races with us.”
TCSR: Your biggest win came at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway, where you competed against reigning 5-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson in 1996. Why was that your most memorable moment?
BG: “In my off-road career, that was my biggest moment at the time. In the short course, off-road world, there’s nothing bigger than Crandon. Crandon is the Indianapolis 500 of the short course, off-road racing world. Everybody goes there, because it’s such a big deal. Jimmie Johnson and myself have been racing against each other since we were 16-years-old. We have been racing against each other our entire careers. That’s the only win I have over Jimmie Johnson.”
TCSR: Did you know when you were racing against him at a very young age that he would become the drive that he is today, as the reigning 5-time Sprint Cup Champion in the past several years?
TCSR: You made your NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in 1997 at Las Vegas in the Orleans Hotel & Casino Dodge for Walker Evans. Could you talk about that race?
BG: “It was awesome. It was my first oval race driving a stock car. It was a locally sponsored race in one of the three main NASCAR circuits, so we had a lot of pressure to perform. I previously had no oval racing experience. I had to do a couple of things, with drivers following me around the course in practice, to prove that I was eligible to compete in that race. I’ll never forget, I made a big rookie mistake in that race. I qualified well, but on lap 20, I passed Bill Elliott, who I was a fan of growing up, and the very next lap, I crashed into the wall. It was a bad day from that point on. It was definitely a learning experience, and a lot of fun.”
TCSR: You were the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2003. Could you talk about winning that?
BG: “When I went to the Truck Series full-time in 2003, I was with the NAPA Auto Parts team again. I was a leading rookie on the circuit for much of the year. I had a great time that year. We even won a couple of races. We ran for the championship the next year, and we had the championship won going into the final race. 2001 through 2003 were the best years of my life. I would not mind seeing those years again.”
TCSR: You’ve raced at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. What is it like racing over there in Japan, which has to be a different experience than racing here?
BG: “It was awesome. The cool thing about the Japanese fans – I’ve raced there once in a Winston Cup exhibition race and a Winston Cup West points race – and when we went there, there was no Dale Earnhardt, no Dale Jarrett, no Jeff Gordon, no Jimmie Johnson – no superstars – and the fans didn’t care. They didn’t know that there were no superstars. They came out and supported the race. They all thought we were those big named American drivers. It was really fun to go there. I wish we had a chance to go back there one day.”
TCSR: Do you foresee a NASCAR race ever going there, like an actually Sprint Cup race?
BG: “I don’t foresee a Sprint Cup race going there, but I definitely think they could do an exhibition race there, or a Truck and Nationwide weekend there. I don’t think they would do a Sprint Cup race there unless it is an exhibition race with money on the line, like the All-Star race in Charlotte.”
TCSR: Why did you make the switch to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series after driving in the Truck Series?
BG: “The stock car and the trucks are the same, so doing the NASCAR Truck Series, we all want to make it to the Sprint Cup Series. That is our goal. I had a great opportunity of driving for Roger Penske. That’s an opportunity that nobody could ever pass up. It was the next step in what I was trying to get to in racing. It didn’t work out well for me at the time. I learned a whole lot and had a great time doing it.”
TCSR: In 2004, you were able to race in the 2004 Daytona 500, your lone start in the biggest race of the year. What was that like for you?
BG: “Yeah, President Bush showed up, so there were secret service personnel all over the place. It was very surreal. We started the race and secret service people were guarding you on pit road. It was really cool. My sponsor was Kodak, and I was there with Roger Penske. We actually ran fairly well, but we didn’t have a great day. It was my first Daytona 500. I thought it was going to be my first of many, but that ended up being my only Daytona 500.”
TCSR: You have worked for several teams within NASCAR. What has been your favorite team that you’ve worked for?
BG: “We’ve owned a team for a lot of years from 2000 to 2007. We had some good years and some not so good years. I got to drive for Roger Penske, which was a big feat, at the Cup level. I also have gotten to drive for Rusty Wallace and a few other owners. Each one has had a positive and negative impact on my career. The Germain Racing team has the best equipment that I’ve had in a long time. They are the most prepared and the best stuff that I’ve driven.”
TCSR: When you retire from racing, what would you like to do?
BG: “I may do some broadcasting, but my retirement is a long time away. I can see myself doing broadcasting, because I’m good at it. I’ve also been in the casino business all my life. My family has been in the casino business since the 1940’s. I’m really good at the casino business. I could also see myself doing something in the casino business. Hopefully, retirement is years away.”
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