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How Gaughan Went From Big-Time Hoops to the Race Track

Author: Bryce Miller
Date: Sept. 5, 2013

All those Georgetown basketball practices, all the hours trying to contain elusive and electric guard Allen Iverson, all the elbows delivered from man-trees Jerome Williams and Jahidi White — every ache and bruise felt worth it on Nov. 16, 1995.

The fifth-ranked Hoyas’ 49-point dismantling of Colgate during the Preseason NIT steamed along as Brendan Gaughan made his move.

The deep reserve dribbled, stepped back, rose up from the free-throw line extended and launched a shot over eventual 13-year NBA player Adonal Foyle.

With his eyes closed.

“That was my one basket,” Gaughan said. “It was a nationally televised game, (announcer) Billy Packer was all fired up about it. Then I backpedaled, stole a pass and threw an alley-oop to my guy, but he didn’t jump.

“So I got the turnover. Fame is fleeting, I guess.”

Gaughan, who will punch the accelerator at 1 p.m. Sunday to start the Camping World Truck Series 200 at Iowa Speedway, is one of the most eclectic drivers across all of NASCAR.

In addition to scrambling around the court to guard Iverson, Gaughan kicked for Georgetown’s football team and still owns the program’s single-season record for extra-point percentage (39-of-40, 1994). He’s part owner of the slot machines tourists see and hear when they arrive in Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport.

Gaughan, a certified divemaster, has been interviewed while sharing underwater space with sharks at the Newport Aquarium, just across the Kentucky border from Cincinnatti. Along the way, Gaughan has raced in NASCAR’s top tier of Sprint Cup — with four Top 10 finishes — and the Nationwide Series before settling into a trucks.

The ever-present smile of the gregarious Gaughan seemingly grows larger every day.

“This is the happiest I’ve been in a decade,” he said.

Gaughan has the most Top 5 finishes in the series this season (6) and sits eighth in the standings, 88 points behind leader Matt Crafton.

“I don’t plan on racing anywhere in my life again other than Richard Childress Racing,” he said. “I want to stay there as long as he will have me, as long as I prove my worth — and want to do it in whatever series he wants me in.

“The equipment is beyond great. Every week I get to the racetrack, I don’t have to worry about any single, solitary thing, whether it is or isn’t good enough. I know I’ve got the best engines in the series, I’ve got the best engineering in the series, some of the best aero packages in the series.”

Gaughan built up layers of toughness and determination outside of a car, though.

While playing for Georgetown, Gaughan was tested by talented players who led the team to Big East titles and an Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament.

“My job was to guard Allen (Iverson) in practice. My job was to watch game tapes of Allen and make him better,” he said. “I had a good time. I liked the challenge. It was fun.

“I did whatever coach (John) Thompson wanted. If coach Thompson asked me to box out Jerome Williams, as soon as the ball went up, I boxed out Jerome. When Jerome was the leading rebounder in the Big East, I at least felt like, you know what, ‘Maybe I did something to make him a little bit better’ just by being a nuisance in his way.

“I’m honored to say I’m a Hoya. “

That time in the Washington D.C. area also included being a Hoya kicker in the Football Championships Subdivision, formerly called Division I-AA.

Gaughan said he still has plenty of leg, even at age 38.

“About 15-17 months ago, I outkicked a guy under an NFL contract,” he said. “I’m not going to say who it was or where they play, but I hit a 65-yarder.”

These days, Gaughan’s foot is kept busiest by the gas and brake pedals of the truck sponsored by family-owned South Point Casino.

When the engine cools, though, he has a few basketball stories to share after his career that included a basket and three free throws.

“I like to say, ‘I got five points in NCAA history,’ ” Gaughan said. “You know what, it’s only five — but it’s five more than most people’ve got.”

NASCAR Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan is the grandson of Jackie Gaughan, a Las Vegas casino pioneer.

The eldest Gaughan, who has owned numerous gambling joints during his lifetime, still comes down from his residence at the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas to play poker every afternoon.

“It’s fun to see people react to my grandfather,” Brendan Gaughan said. “He still plays cards every day at the El Cortez at 92 years old. He’s the last. There’s nobody left, except him. He’s the last of the famous ones who helped build the town. It’s almost the end of an era.”

The family’s Vegas-inspired gambling connections extend beyond Jackie Gaughan, too.

Brendan’s father, Michael, secured the deal for slot machines at McCarran International Airport in the 1980s. A year and a half ago, Brendan said, one machine he and his family operate hit a $5 million payout.

The family operates mostly independently now with the flagship South Point Casino in Las Vegas and a pair of others in Mesquite, Nev.

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