A Frustrating Day for Gaughan at Martinsville
For Brendan Gaughan, Martinsville Speedway has never been a favorite on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule. The Las Vegas native much prefers the speedways to the Virginia short track, and following Saturday’s Kroger 250, Gaughan reiterated his desire to tackle the bigger race tracks.
“I hate Martinsville,” Gaughan said after finishing 25th in the fourth race of the NCTS season. “We had a good truck here today, and that’s what frustrates me. I didn’t qualify well and put the whole South Point Racing team in a hole. I’m just looking forward to Kansas right now.”
After a good test at Ace Speedway earlier in the month and turning some of the quickest laps in two practices on Friday, Gaughan and the South Point Racing team had high hopes for their No. 77 Chevrolet and its performance on Saturday. Gaughan even admitted to looking forward to a race at a track that he has never cared for.
Unfortunately, Gaughan’s excitement for the race quickly faded with a 34th place qualifying effort.
“I screwed up,” Gaughan said after qualifying.
Knowing that he would have his work cut out for him on the race track, Gaughan told the South Point Racing pit crew that he would do his best to stay out of trouble on the race track and with good pit stops and strategy, a solid finish was attainable.
When the first caution flag waved at Lap 7, Gaughan opted to bring his No. 77 Chevrolet down pit road from the 30th spot for adjustments to help a tight condition. To make up positions on the race track, Gaughan would need a near perfect truck.
The South Point pit crew made a track bar adjustment and added a rubber to the right rear. After leaving the pits, Gaughan was penalized by NASCAR with a ‘tail end of the longest line penalty’ for speeding off pit road. Gaughan returned to the track, back in 34th position.
When the race restarted, so did the beating and banging and door-to-door racing that have made the short tracks famous. In fact, Gaughan sustained left front damage to his truck, causing it to smoke heavily.
Gaughan waited on the caution flag at Lap 33, and then brought his truck down pit road so the team could fix the damage. Gaughan told the team that his oil and water pressure levels were fine, and that the smoke was caused by a tire rub. The team pulled the fenders off the tire and beat out some of the dents before sending him back onto the race track.
Again, Gaughan was penalized for speeding off of the pit road. He was sent to the tail end of the longest line again, and he restarted 33rd.
Just laps later, Gaughan’s day went even further downhill. Another truck turned into Gaughan causing him to spin in Turn One and hit two other trucks on the track.
Gaughan pulled into pit road so the pit crew could go to work on the damage. The team changed all four tires, added fuel, pulled the left and right front fenders away from the tires and attempted to bang out the dented sheet metal. The No. 77 team lost one lap on the pit stop as they worked to repair the truck. Then NASCAR penalized Gaughan for two additional mistakes – pulling up to pit and pitting before pit road was opened.
Gaughan was assessed a one lap penalty and a tail end of the longest line penalty. He restarted at Lap 43 in 34th place, down two laps to the leader.
Just laps later, Gaughan would lose another lap to the leaders on the race track.
Now three laps down, Gaughan told his crew that he needed help with a tight handling condition – especially if he was going to be able to make up any of the laps on the race track.
“I need something in the front end,” Gaughan said. “It’s real tight and I can’t pass the slow guys with this.”
Part of Gaughan’s tight handling condition was a result of the earlier contact on the race track. But the team went to work to fix what they could.
The South Point team made a track bar adjustment, changed tires and added fuel. On the pit stop, rear tire changer Danny Goad was struck in the eye by a lug nut. But that didn’t keep Goad from going back over-the-wall just laps later.
Gaughan returned to the track in 34th spot, three laps down to the leader.
Still determined to get his laps back, Gaughan decided to stay on the track when the caution flag waved once again at Lap 84.
Gaughan told crew chief Bryan Berry that he still needed for grip in the front, but that the adjustments had helped him. Being the first driver in the laps down line meant Gaughan could fight for one of his laps back.
When the race restarted at Lap 90, Gaughan beat leader Mike Skinner. When the caution waved at Lap 93, Gaughan had earned one of his laps back the hard way. Now, two laps down and in 32nd-place, Gaughan came down pit road for more adjustments. The South Point team added fuel, put three rounds in the right rear and made another track bar adjustment.
Once the race restarted, another quick caution waved. And just laps later, Gaughan had a chance to earn another lap back on the race track, however the No. 77 Chevrolet wasn’t strong enough to hold off Skinner a second time.
By the halfway point of the race at Lap 125, Gaughan was in 31st place, two laps down to the leaders.
The eighth caution flag of the race waved at Lap 151. Gaughan told his crew that his truck had loosened up a bit and that the truck was close to where it was in practice.
Gaughan came down pit road for two tires, a half rubber out of the right rear, a track bard adjustment and fuel. The team came back down the pits a second time for the two left side tires. Gaughan restarted in 30th spot.
Because Gaughan was multiple laps down, he found himself not racing for position very often on the race track. Instead, he would need for trucks ahead of him to fall out of the race in order to gain spots on the track.
But Gaughan’s day wasn’t over just yet. While trying to earn another lap back at Lap 208, Gaughan found himself racing with Matt Crafton (another lap down truck) and Kevin Harvick (who was in third place).
Gaughan felt that Crafton was giving him the line and that he would be able to squeeze into the hold in front of him, but the No. 77 truck was instead blocked. The block caused Gaughan to hit Harvick, which led to Harvick losing several spot on the track.
Due to the contact, Gaughan had a left rear bumper bar that became loose and hung off the race truck. NASCAR told the No. 77 to pit at Lap 211 to remove the bar.
Gaughan returned to the track in 27th place. He was able to pick up two more spots before the checkered flag waved.
“I hate Martinsville,” Gaughan said after the race. “But that's what happens when a driver qualifies bad. We had a great truck in practice yesterday, and I was really hopeful about our chances here, but it is just way too difficult to start in 34th on a short track and do something with your truck. There are too many unknowns and too many things can go wrong,” Gaughan continued.
“I'm really sorry for what happened with Kevin Harvick. He was running really great. I thought that the 88 was giving us room to pass him and when I was about halfway into the corner, I realized that wasn't the case. He had the best Chevrolet out there today and he probably had a chance to beat the other guys, and I cost him that deal. I'm really sorry about that.”
Although frustrated by his performance, Gaughan commended the efforts of the South Point pit crew.
“The boys did a great job on pit road,” Gaughan said. “They worked hard and they didn't give up on me or on this race. I'm really proud of them today.
“We knew we had a good truck coming here. We’ve had good trucks at every race this year – and we need to show that. I just hate that I put us in a difficult situation with my qualifying run. We're just going to have to go back to the shop, and we'll take another good Chevrolet to Kansas and see if we can get back on track there.”
Gaughan finished 25th, and he fell to 14th in the NCTS driver points standings. The South Point Racing team will have a few weeks off before returning to the race track at Kansas Speedway.