Brendan Gaughan has one top-five finish so far in 2004. Credit: Autostock
By Ryan Smithson, NASCAR.COM
October 1, 2004
08:14 PM EDT (00:14 GMT)
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- It has been a long rookie year for Brendan Gaughan, who has found himself fully immersed in a Silly Season that he had hoped to avoid.
Gaughan has faced questions about his job with Penske Racing South for much of the second half. Those questions became louder last week when Penske reportedly used Travis Kvapil instead of Gaughan in a test session for next week's event at Kansas.
On Friday at Talladega, Gaughan said he was more concerned about getting back to the front than addressing his job status.
"You (media) are the ones making that stuff up, not me," Gaughan said. "That's what everyone wants to write about and it is a big topic. I am more worried about what we can do as a team and all those teams than what everyone else is worried about."
The speculation comes at a bad time for Gaughan, who is faced with his fourth and final restrictor-plate event of the year -- and rookies rarely have an easy time getting to the front at restrictor-plate tracks.
Gaughan qualified 26th at a track where Roger Penske has never won as a car owner. In short, it's a tough track for Gaughan to make up the ground he lost during a mid-season slump.
His teammates also had lackluster qualifying performances on Friday. Ryan Newman qualified 19th, just his fifth start of 15th or worse this year. Chad Blount was 31st and Rusty Wallace was 33rd.
Since his lone top-five of the year in the spring Fontana event, Gaughan has lost ground in the points. A period of six straight DNFs, which ended three races ago, has sent him to 32nd in the points.
Naturally, Gaughan's job status became more of an issue as the DNFs piled up, but Gaughan says the talk does not faze him.
"It does not bother me, that is what you guys want to write about," Gaughan said. "I am just trying to get our stuff going and work on helping Ryan get to the championship."