Gaughan Back On Track With Rusty Wallace Racing
Buddy Shacklette - AHN Sports Reporter
Rusty Wallace didn't forget Brendan Gaughan and Wallace kept calling.
Wallace was a mentor to Gaughan during his only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and he's Gaughan's boss.
The former NASCAR champion and television analyst owns a pair of NASCAR Nationwide Series rides and this season he's putting Gaughan in one of them alongside son Steve Wallace. It was five years ago that Gaughan was a Sprint Cup rookie and Wallace was the seasoned veteran in the twilight of his career.
Gaughan, who had nearly won the NASCAR Truck title the year before, was fiery and ready to take on the world and it was Wallace who became Gaughan's mentor that season. "Rusty took good care of me back in 2004. He tried hard to help me back in the Penske day,'' said Gaughan, who will start 35th in Saturday's Camping World 300 at Daytona International Speedway. "I grew up a lot that year and learned a lot from him that year. What better way to show my appreciation than to come here and do well for him.'' Wallace would get his last career Cup victory that season at Martinsville and ran 16th in the points, while teammate Ryan Newman won a pair of races and Gaughan scored four top-10s and finished 28th in points. Gaughan and the team unceremoniously parted at season's end and Travis Kvapil was back in the Penske ride the next year, while Gaughan returned to his father's South Point Racing team in the Truck Series. "I got out on my own accord. We all wanted to go a different direction,'' explained Gaughan. "It was amicable when we all left and I was happy to go and run for the South Point team. I've grown a ton since then.'' The Las Vegas native went truck racing - two years with his father and the last two years with Circle Bar Racing - but never matched the same kind of success that he and former crew chief Shane Wilson did in 2002-03. The whole time Wallace would inquire about Gaughan's driving availability, but it wasn't until now that they were able to put something together. "Timing in life is everything,'' said Gaughan, who posted Thursday's fastest Nationwide time at 184.132 mph at Daytona International Speedway. "It was too good of a thing to turn down.'' Gaughan assumes the equipment that David Stremme drove to five top-five and 16 top-10 finishes en route to an 11th-place finish in the series standings. Coming with Gaughan is Bryan Berry, who has crew chiefed his trucks the last three seasons and was a Nationwide crew chief for Ricky Craven in 1997-98. "The one thing I like about this is it's a family deal. The whole family's involved,'' said Berry. "I think that when the situation is right (to go cup racing) Rusty will do it and hopefully we'll prove to him that we're the people to do it with.''