It was a long night for the Jasper Engines and Transmissions Racing Team as it turned in a 23rd-place finish in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Brendan Gaughan struggled throughout the night and finished five laps down to the leaders, but still managed to secure top rookie honors for the event.
Just after taking the green flag, the field received the yellow flag when Greg Biffle had difficulties and several cars jammed up behind him. The track was cleared but before the tires had a chance to come up to temperature, the caution flag was displayed again.
The field received the green flag on lap 13 and Gaughan was finally able to get a feel for the handling conditions on the No. 77 Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge. Gaughan told the crew the car was tight, placing it at a nine on a scale of 1-to-10.
The next caution flag turned into a red-flag period after Brian Vickers hit the wall and damaged the SAFER barrier at a seam in the frontstretch wall. When the yellow was shown again, crew chief Shane Wilson called Gaughan down pit road for several chassis adjustments. Wilson instructed his pit crew to pull a spring rubber from the left rear in addition to providing a track bar adjustment along with four tires and fuel.
After taking the green and allowing the car enough time to come around, Gaughan informed the team of continually tight handling conditions from the center of the turns and off. Gaughan slowly slid back in the field and was eventually relegated to the 36th position before the next caution flag was displayed on lap 75.
Again, Gaughan was called down pit road. In addition to pulling the remaining spring rubbers from the left rear, the team performed another track bar adjustment along with a wedge adjustment.
Gaughan was posted in the 31st position when the field took the green flag on lap 80, but slipped back to 35th as the green-flag laps wore on.
Despite continual changes to the car's set-up, including adding a spring rubber to the right rear and camber shims, and changing shocks at one point in the event, the car never handled to Gaughan’s liking.
Just as it looked as though the night could not be any worse, Gaughan took a hit in the rear bumper from Jimmy Spencer. Gaughan said the car felt as though a tire was going down as he entered turn three and he was off the pace heading out of turn four when Spencer hit him. Gaughan accepted responsibility for the melee and went to find Spencer following the race.
“I think Jimmy had a good run going up until the point where he hit me,” Gaughan said. “I’m not really sure what I could have done differently. I had a tire going down heading into [turn] three and when I came off [turn] four, there was nowhere to go. I couldn’t exactly take my hands off the wheel in the turns to throw signals either, especially in three and four because of the bumps.”
Despite the team's 23rd-place finish, Gaughan received top rookie honors for the event for the fourth straight week, but his thoughts were with fellow rookie, Kasey Kahne.
“One of our goals heading into this season was to be top rookie, but I feel bad for Kasey,” Gaughan said. “He has had a stellar year, from qualifying to racing. It just seems he can’t get it to victory lane. It won’t be long for that team though. [Crew chief] Tommy Baldwin has them headed in the right direction.”
Gaughan’s Penske-Jasper-powered teammates, Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace, finished the event 14th and 31st respectively.