Gaughan Captures Top-15 in RWR Debut at Daytona
In what was his debut for Rusty Wallace Racing and only his second Nationwide Series race overall, Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet) scored a top-15 finish in today’s season-opening 300-mile event at Daytona International Speedway.
After starting the event from the 35th position, Gaughan did not take long to show his Chevrolet’s muscle, storming his way into the top-20 by lap ten. He soon moved into the top-15 and remained there for 79 of the race’s laps, en route to a 15th place finish.
Noted Gaughan, “I’m really proud of the guys on this South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet team. We had a very solid car all week long. We were able to stay out of trouble and up near the front for most of the race today; that put us in position for a good finish.
I feel like I might have given up a few spots on that last restart, but hey, for our team’s first race together, we’ll definitely take it. It was a good points day for us, so we’ll move on and do our best to get an even better finish for our South Point Chevrolet next week in Fontana.”
Meanwhile, a day that started with much promise and anticipation for Gaughan’s teammate, Steve Wallace (No. 66 USfidelis Chevrolet), ultimately ended with frustration for the third-generation pilot.
After having one of the strongest cars in pre-race practice, Wallace started his Chevrolet Impala SS from the inside of row nine for Saturday’s event. He would remain among the leaders for much of the race’s first half, spending nearly half of his 71 laps among the top-15.
However, a strong finish proved not to be in the cards for Wallace. On lap 72, while the No. 66 was running in approximately the 15th position, the No. 38 car of Jason Leffler hooked the left-rear quarter panel of Wallace’s Chevrolet at the end of the backstretch. The contact sent Wallace into a high-speed spin that ultimately collected several other competitors.
In a much-restrained post-race conversation, RWR team owner Rusty Wallace deemed the incident to be “one of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen.” NASCAR officials seemingly had the same viewpoint, swiftly and severely penalizing Leffler’s No. 38 team five laps for “aggressive driving.”
Said Steve Wallace, “Our team had an awesome USfidelis Chevrolet all week long. I was just logging laps in the first part of the race, trying to take care of my equipment and waiting for the last stint to come. I feel like we had a car that was definitely capable of a top-five or top-ten finish, but it just didn’t work out.
As far as the accident, I’m not completely sure what happened. We’ve watched the replays several times and I have a pretty good idea, though. I was going dead-straight down the backstretch; Leffler hung a right and hooked me in the left-rear quarter panel. That was it.
I’ve gotten along pretty well with Jason in the past. He said that he didn’t mean to do it, but if he can’t even drive in a straight line, then he needs to get a new job. I was glad to see NASCAR do what they did. I mean, I’ve definitely had my share of accidents as a young driver, but I’d never wreck someone on purpose going almost 200 mph at Daytona.
I hate it for our team and our sponsors, but trust me, this won’t keep us down. We have a great team with great race cars and we’re going to be contenders a lot this year. We’ll just take note of what happened today and head to California next weekend. We had a solid top-15 finish in that race last year and I totally believe that we can improve on that finish this time around.”