The time off, about a month long in duration, between the Las Vegas 350 and the Kroger 200 is something of a mixed blessing for The Orleans Race team. On one hand it gives the No. 62 Orleans and No. 77 Jasper Dodge teams a chance to regroup and recharge --- but on the other the racers’ hearts are not being quenched with door-to-door action in the Craftsman Truck Series.
The downtime has given the teams a chance to get some of the nitpicky things done in the team’s Las Vegas shops. Small stuff like repairing the AC unit on Steve Park’s hauler is now on the “done” list. Bigger things, such as tuning the stable of Dodges Gaughan and Park will drive in the final five races of the year, is on going and nearing completion.
“Right before Vegas we cleaned the shop up really good and gave it a good spring cleaning type thing,” says driver / co-owner Brendan Gaughan of the planned break in the truck series schedule. “It always helps when you can get some of the junk up off the floor.
“We’ve already got the two trucks back that wrecked at Vegas. They’re testing at Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday. We have right now nine complete race trucks in our shop that could be ready to race by tomorrow. We’ve got two more that are close to being done. So we’ve got 11 trucks for Steve Park and I to choose from these last five races.
“We’ve got two brand new chassis sitting there with no bodies on them yet, so if we run into any big emergency at the end of this year we can change it,” Gaughan concludes on the final preparations for the season’s close.
But to make sure that all the guns are loaded the team has spent time running the hardware that will do battle in the final races of the year. To that end Gaughan and crew loaded up and drove the quarter-mile distance to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Bullring” to do some testing. The track is a three-eights mile asphalt track, which is perfect to test various systems for venues like Martinsville and Phoenix.
“We went to the Bullring, which we’ve used for years,” begins Gaughan on the two-day test at the track next door. “That’s one of the big advantages of being at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Speedway gives us a great deal to go test here. They love having us. We love to be here and the Bullring is great for all the short tracks. It’s a great test for brakes, a great test for geometry.
“I’d say we probably just had one of the most successful tests of the year. It was one of the most successful tests I’ve had in a long time.”
Gaughan explaining the “Bullring” testing said, “We went with a couple different strategies. Charlie Wilson, of course, is still taking care of family matters but he’s in close contact with Danny Stockman, who is our acting crew chief for the No. 62 Orleans Dodge. Then Tony Liberati kind of helps out on both sides – giving Danny a hand if he needs it.
“We had three trucks that we took over there and we went with three different theories – different types of spindles and different types of geometry and roll centers and all these weird, goofy things that I as a driver don’t really understand.”
The tests went well, even though the engineers, and their high-powered tools, were left back at the shop.
“Rambo and I talked about it and we said no engineers,” Gaughan said with a laugh. “It was just a good old-fashioned test. The only tool we let our in-house engineer (Clint Jennings) use was a stopwatch and we ended up doing a great test. We found out the type of spindles we wanted and we found the brake pads that I’m happy with. We really think we made big gains. It was just a really, really successful test. We ran the 62 truck and the 77 truck. I ran both of them.
“It was all stuff that applies to Martinsville and Phoenix,” concluded Gaughan. “So I think Steve will be really happy with the 62 truck at Martinsville and I know I’m going to be really happy with my Jasper Engines ride.”
With all the trucks finding their sweet spots, the final five races should allow the Orleans Racing team to “make some noise”. That’ll make the month long hiatus from competition worthwhile --- and quench the racers’ hearts of the Orleans Racing crew over the off-season break.