by Brendan Gaughan
Itís been a long season but we are finally here, the end of a 38-week schedule (36 races for me). I have learned a lot this year and look forward to the offseason to reflect on the knowledge I have gained.
The Kodak Racing team has faced a lot of adversity this year but through it all I have to say this is one tough group and their capabilities amaze me. Looking forward to the 2005 season, the next step is to pull the strengths together and as Shaner [Wilson] would say, "Execute."
Mr. [Roger] Penske gave us all a commemorative coin in the beginning of the 2004 season. A very strong statement was printed on the coin, "Effort equals Results." The thing is, it doesnít say how quickly the results would show. To say the least, it has been frustrating giving it the best of my ability, knowing the No. 77 team was giving its all, and still not having the positive results to show. As the old adage states, "Patience is bitter but the fruit is sweet."
I said many times in the beginning of the year, "I will never be happy with a 20th-place finish" but there were definitely times this year when a top-20 was an accomplishment. That is a tough pill to swallow and together, the team and I got through it.
Several people asked me what the biggest difference is between the Cup and truck series. The largest difference I can ascertain is competition. Donít get me wrong, I believe drivers in the truck series drive it hard every time they race, but we know at times there are only 10 trucks capable of the top speeds. With the Cup series, it is a whole different animal. There are about 36 drivers within tenths of a second from one another. That is amazing.
The men racing in the Cup series are here because they earned it. They caught someoneís eye because of their ability. With that said, I know there has been a lot of controversy concerning my team. Questions have been raised about Travis Kvapil and the opportunity he has been presented. For those of you who donít know, he was asked to drive the No. 06 Mobil 1/Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge for several races.
I have to admit it was difficult for me to accept but the bottom line is, Travis caught someoneís eye. He was given an opportunity and he took it. Who can fault anyone for that?
We are fueled by competition. That is the nature of the beast. Looking forward, all I can say is look out for the No. 77 team.
To quote one of my team owners, "We are on a journey." Mr. [Doug] Bawel said this during our team meeting prior to the Daytona 500. Just as with Mr. Penskeís words of wisdom, there was no time limit to this journey.
I have a small request. If anyone else has a few words of wisdom, can you please give it a timeline? Just kidding.
For the record, this team has had small victories this year. No, we have not won any battles but we have withstood the controversy. To me, that is success. I occasionally have to remind myself success is where you find it. No, we have not been stellar but we have kept it together and I see a promising future; a light at the end of the tunnel if you will.
Speaking of light at the end of the tunnel, I went to the Craftsman Truck Series banquet Nov. 20 in Miami. During the ceremony Steve Park was honored as the Craftsman Truck Series Most Popular Driver; that makes two years in a row for Orleans Racing. Congratulations to Steve. I know your Sparkies are happy for you.
To everyone out there, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Itís off to Mexico for me.