While the NASCAR XFINITY Series is boasted as the division in which “Names Are Made Here,” veteran racer Brendan Gaughan hopes to teach the young kids a lesson during this Chase run. The driver of the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet Camaro has advanced to the second round of the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase and is optimistic the team can be one of the final four to race for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Throughout the entire season, and especially the opening races of the Chase, Gaughan has taken a relaxed approach to things. Rejuvenated by the Chase format, the veteran Richard Childress Racing driver knows he has a serious chance of competing for the championship instead of just competing for another spot in the standings.
“Last year, we had a shot for sixth in points. There was a real long, outside shot we could have made it to fifth, but we were kind of stuck in eighth,” said Gaughan. “We couldn’t finish any lower than eighth, but we could maybe gain a few more spots in the standings. Yeah, you’re still racing for it, but are you really getting all that pumped up for eighth or sixth in points? Look, I’m sorry if you get mad, but it’s hard to get pumped up for that. I still want to go out and win every race and run up front, but the standings at that point don’t really matter.
“With this Chase format, you’re not saying ‘whatever’ to the points right now,” he said. “You’re coming into every race with butterflies. You’re coming into every race pumped up. It has the whole team pumped up.”
One of the team’s biggest assets in this format is crew chief Shane Wilson. A veteran atop the pit box, Gaughan describes his crew chief as ‘Same Same,’ meaning he is a creature of habit who rarely changes and never gets worked up.
“That is what’s good about Shane,” said Gaughan. “He doesn’t let the emotional roller coaster go up and down. He knows how to keep that even flow and stay analytical in every situation.”
That certainly came into play throughout the first few weeks of the Chase. Gaughan hit the wall during the Chase opening race at Kentucky Speedway, but was able to rally back to a sixth-place finish. Last weekend at Kansas Speedway, Gaughan was pinched down off the fourth turn, slid through the grass and heavily damaged the car. Despite the damage, Wilson and the crew got the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro back on the track to finish the race.
Heading Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks, Gaughan is 17 points behind the Chase cutoff. While other Chase drivers had issues at Kansas as well, Gaughan admits he and Shane will now have to shake things up a little bit to overcome the setback.
“All throughout this Chase, I’ve said all Shane and I have to do is to be Shane and I. Don’t change. Don’t try to be something we’re not. Now we’re in the situation where we have to change a little bit,” he said. “That’s also what is fun about the Chase format. Now we’re in the position where we have to do things differently. If there is a driver-crew chief combination that have been able to race in every type of situation, it’s Shane and I. We know how to be aggressive. We know how to be passive. We know how to let it ride. We know how to roll the dice. Shane and I, better than most, will be able to adapt and find success.”
The team will also have the advantage of brand-new RCR equipment on their side for the Texas race, the second race of Round 2.
“With the fact RCR is building me a brand-new Chevrolet with new technology on it to try and get us better, I’m really glad we got two weeks off,” said Gaughan. “Right now we have to make sure we put a product on the racetrack that can compete at a higher level than we have been. That is probably our biggest competition. We can’t control Erik Jones winning or having another race. We can’t control Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez just cranking out second- and third-place finishes. We can’t control that. Our biggest competition is ourselves and getting ourselves to where we need to be to make it back in this Chase.”
This Chase format is certainly not Gaughan’s first championship run. In 2003, Gaughan entered the Camping World Truck Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway leading the championship standings and battling with three other drivers for the title. Gaughan’s title hopes slipped away when he was caught up in an incident just past the 100-lap mark. While the formats were significantly different, Gaughan sees a lot of similarities between the 2003 battle and this Chase format.
“I take a lot from my championship run in the Truck Series in 2003 because that season ended with four of us at Homestead,” said Gaughan. “That was part of why I was so comfortable and feeling so confident about where we were, because I felt like I knew what to do (in 2003). It has a lot of similarities, if you think about it. I’ve thought a lot about that Truck Series championship battle and unfortunately right now it’s looking even more similar.”
At 41-years-old, Gaughan is not the young gun he once was and does not exactly fit the mold of “Names Are Made Here” in the XFINITY Series. While he admits the championship would not mean more to him now than it may have in 2003, he said it would “be a hell of a way to put a nice cherry on my career.”
“I would love to win the championship this year, because you don’t get a lot of opportunities all the time,” he said. “Right now we still have the opportunity and right now I’m trying to not let it pass by. Fortunately, Shane Wilson and all the guys at RCR are working their tails off to get us the next round of cars to step up our performance and make it to the final four in Homestead.”
If all goes according to plan and the team advances to the final round of the Chase at Homestead, Gaughan believes his age and experience will allow him to have more fun and take a more relaxed approach to the winner-takes-all championship race.
“For me, all it is going to be is joy the whole weekend,” he said. “If we can make it there, I’m going to have a smile on my face the whole weekend. People say, ‘You need to put your game face on.’ That is my game face. I am happy and I like to smile. If we can get there I will enjoy every second of it, I will appreciate every second of it and I will let the chips fall where they fall.”