Brendan Gaughan had four top-10 finishes in the 2004 Nextel Cup Series.
By Lee Montgomery, NASCAR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brendan Gaughan discusses his short career with Penske Racing, his love for the Urban Youth Racing School, his plans for the future and what he got his niece for Christmas with NASCAR.COM staff writer Lee Montgomery.
Q: So how has your holiday been? Lots of green and red in Las Vegas this time of year?
Brendan Gaughan: There's a lot of snow in the mountains right now, too. We had a really big storm blow through the last couple days. It's so pretty to say you're in the desert and then look 20 feet away, and the mountains are all snow-capped. It's a beautiful town when it comes to the holidays.
Like today, I've been running around town, dropping off Christmas presents to my nieces and nephews, my brothers. My nieces and nephews, they're my world. My youngest niece is Gwenyth Rose - little Gwennie's not quite a year old. I'm dropping some stuff off and playing with her.
Q: So what did Uncle Brendan get her this year for Christmas?
Gaughan: Uncle Brennie basically got the same thing for all his nieces and nephews. But she got her own special little thing. I don't know what the heck you call half these things, but it's a special little teething ring for her because she's going to be teething soon.
My oldest (niece) is Emily, and she's like 5. The others are 5, 4, and two 3-year-olds. I got a 40-foot maze that my brothers are going to kill me for. It's one of those big huge things. You put up the maze, and there's a tunnel in it. The kids run through it. It's got balls and all the stuff to stop you and make you get lost and confused in there. I figured that would make my brothers have to chase them through. I'm sure they'll be thoroughly upset with me.
Q: That's awesome. That's great. I understand you visited the Urban Youth Racing School recently. How'd that go? Make any hires for Orleans Racing?
Gaughan: I've been involved with the Urban Youth Racing School for a couple years now. It's something I'm really interested in with playing at Georgetown and stuff like that, seeing some of the history. I really want to be actively involved in the diversity aspect of NASCAR.
The greatest thing they have going for them right now is the Urban Youth Racing School. It's a fantastic program. If the fans at home don't know about it, uyrs.com. Look it up. It's really a fantastic program. It's going to take off like a rocket ship here soon.
Went back there and did two nights with them. The first night I went with the kids and just got some cheesesteaks and hung out with them. I've been hanging out with them for a few years and watching a few of them grow up.
One young man, Ari Summers, is probably going to go work for Rick Crawford. And there is a young man there who I am interested in hiring. He's a very athletic young man, got a little bit of experience he needs with the school to learn how to (be a) mechanic. I'm probably going to have him try to go over the wall for me. I'm going to try to train him to be an over-the-wall guy.
Q: Sweet. That's cool. Not to be a downer or anything, has it been tough at all for you with what happened at the end of the season with the Penske team? Or are you a guy who once that's over with, it's done, and you move on immediately?
Gaughan: It may be a downer from the outside. I'm much happier right now. I'm sitting at home making plans to get our truck deal back up and running and back where it used to be. Steve Park is going to drive the 62 Orleans Dodge. He's a fantastic driver. We're going to give him the equipment that he's supposed to have and get things back running like they're supposed to.
I'm going to run a second Dodge truck. I think we're up to about 16 races. We'll see. And then there may be a few other things that I do next year that may surprise some people. I'm really excited about some of the opportunities that are out there.
I'm really happy with the place I am in my life. No matter what deal I do, I always like to make it a one-year deal first. A lot of things were written about a two-year deal versus a one-year deal and this and that. I don't want to be somewhere where I'm not wanted, and I don't want to be somewhere that they don't want me.
I'd rather do a one-year deal no matter what you do. Feel each other out, do a year, see if you like each other, see if you get along. If you don't, then you know what, you can walk away and say, "Thank you very much for the opportunity."
The Penske guys, we had a great. It was a lot of fun driving for Roger Penske. It was fantastic driving for Kodak, meeting Doug Bawel and the Jasper folks -- all the appearances I did for them. It was a great experience. I loved it. I wouldn't give it up for anything.
At the end of the year, it was what all of us wanted. I was fortunate that we were all able to look each other and go, "You know what? Thank you." I wasn't stuck there in situations like so many drivers are stuck in. That made me very happy.
Q: Doesn't sound like there's ill will left toward those guys at all.
Gaughan: There was never any to begin with. We didn't get the results we wanted, and I didn't want to be there if I couldn't do it, and vice versa. That team has some great potential. They're going to do very well in the future. Kodak and Jasper deserves to win. I'm excited that, with any luck, I can be affiliated with Kodak and Jasper for a long time.
When you work that closely with people, you make relationships, and you always end up keeping them around. Look at Kenny Schrader. He's still got Budweiser and M&Ms and everybody on his race suits.
Q: So this surprise you dropped there, are we talking something in one of three NASCAR national series other than trucks?
Gaughan: Oh, there's a possibility. You never know in this sport. You've been around this sport longer than I have, Lee, and you know that opportunities are always around the next corner. We'll see. If I take 'em, I take 'em. If I don't, at least I'm fortunate enough that I know I can go back and I have a sponsor for me to run about 16 races with.
This sport, everything comes and goes so quickly, and you never know what's going to happen. I want to be here for the next 15 years instead of the next couple.
Q: And you want to be in Nextel Cup? There's no bad taste in your mouth for that series?
Gaughan: No, there's no bad taste. That is something that I want to do, and I know that I want to have a shot to win races and I want to have a shot to grow in a relationship with a sponsor and a team that wants to do the same things I want to do. If I can find that, that's where I want to stay.
Q: OK, enough about the past. Let's look forward. You're going back to trucks. Can Jim Smith still kiss your ass?
Gaughan: (laughing) Uh, per most of my speeches with Jim Hunter and the great folks at NASCAR, no comment.
All I know is the Orleans Racing team -- and wait until you hear the crew chief I got coming for my second truck. It's going to be a great announcement when we get to finally announce that.
Q: You can go ahead and tell me if you want.
Gaughan: I would love to be able to tell you, Lee, but don't think that one's going to quite happen yet. I'm really excited about who's coming to crew chief me. It's going to be one of the greatest things the Orleans Racing has ever been able to do.
Charlie Wilson and Steve Park are both coming back, the whole team is coming back. We feel like we have a lot to prove. We know we're a lot stronger than we ended up running last year. Everything got so haywire for that program. This year, we're going to make sure things are done right.
Steve Park's going to get at least two or three wins, I'm going to go over there and try to get at least two or three wins. We're going to put Orleans Racing back on top of that truck series.
Q: And I'm sure Texas is circled on your calendar.
Gaughan: The way I look at it, Lee, I'm still on a four-race winning streak. Whoever won those races last year, I don't know. But I'm still on a four-race winning streak. When we go back to Texas, that's a big circle on my map. That and the Las Vegas race are big ones.