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With Cup ultimate goal, Gaughan back to Trucks

  |   News
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Despite team co-owner Steve Germain on Friday night going only so far as guaranteeing Germain Racing “would be even stronger” in 2011, just four hours earlier Brendan Gaughan had said he had a handshake deal to run a No. 62 truck next season as a teammate to defending series champion Todd Bodine.

“The Germains and I have had a great relationship for a long, long time, and the Hillmans [Germain general manager, Mike, and Bodine’s crew chief, Mike Jr.] and I have had a great relationship for a long, long time,” Gaughan said Saturday. “I want to race and I want to do it for a living and the more I race, the better I am so I don’t plan on ever saying, ‘I’m only doing this.’ But right now the only vision we have is driving the 62 truck for the Germains.”

Gaughan said Rusty Wallace Racing, which Friday morning announced current Germain Racing Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett would drive for RWR next season, was told Wednesday morning Gaughan wouldn’t return.

“We shook hands with Rusty [Wallace] on Wednesday morning and with the Hillmans on Wednesday afternoon. It was one of those deals where we really weren’t hiding anything — we really didn’t know what we were gonna do. I talked to Rusty and I talked to them and I’m honored to say that me and my dad are still probably some of the few people in the world that can take a handshake and mean it, so it’s exciting right now.”

And Gaughan said in the end, getting as much bang for the bucks figured prominently into he and his father, Michael’s, decision to return to the Truck Series. The Gaughan family, which fielded the Orleans Racing team in the Truck Series out of a hometown shop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from 2002-07, funded the greatest portion of Brendan’s 2010 Nationwide season using its South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as the No. 62 RWR car’s signature.

“We’ve been talking about it, all the way down the stretch that we needed to get some sponsorship at RWR to really make this thing work, because the 66, with 5-Hour Energy, is already fully sponsored,” Gaughan said of his current teammate, Steve Wallace. “But the 62 hasn’t been [sponsored] and the team’s worked really hard to get sponsors and the end of the year they’ve done great to get some guys to come on that are potential [sponsors] for next year.

“But at this point, as we’re sitting here, there’s nothing signed. So for me — I’ve got the new kid [son, Michael] and I really need to get my career back on track; and if I want to go Cup racing again I’ve got to win races and flat out go for a championship, if I want people to take me serious again.

“The best way for me to do that right now, without much risk at all, is the Truck Series. The Germains won the championship, they’re winning races and I’m going to have the same trucks that Todd has and the dollar figures right now match up to where we have full sponsorship.”

Gaughan said the peace of mind of being able to fully fund the 25-race Truck program for the same amount of money put into RWR’s Nationwide team tipped the deal in the Trucks’ favor for the Gaughans. But Brendan said it wasn’t easy.

“I love Rusty to death so this was one of those things where it was a really tough decision,” Gaughan said. “Rusty was such a great friend to me back in 2004 [when they were Cup teammates at Penske Racing], and driving for him now — he’s asked me to do as much for him as I can.”

Gaughan has eight career Truck Series victories in 162 starts, including six in 2003 when he was fourth in the championship, but hasn’t won a race since.

“We did some good things in Trucks, but we had some lean years, too,” Gaughan said. “And for me, this is the first time I’ve got to go to a race team that is winning races. My father and I and Shane Wilson built the Orleans Racing team from the ground up, and into that championship-caliber team that it was.

“I went to the Penske deal [in 2004 to drive the No. 77 in Cup] and that car was not winning races — and it hasn’t ever gotten any better, really — it’s never finished any higher up than I did. We went back to Trucks and the rules had changed and we lost the magic.

“And everywhere I’ve been since then hasn’t been winning programs — they’ve been top-10 programs and we’ve done top-10s in them. I want to make a racing career still. I don’t want to be a guy that just drives — that takes our family money and just plays. And if I want to be racing for a living I have to get back on track and the best place for me to do that with the money we have to budget, to get the best bang for our buck, is over in the Truck Series, because it gives you a good, full season.”

Germain was almost convinced Friday night.

“We’ve had some discussions with Brendan Gaughan,” Germain said. “Brendan has been a good friend of the family and he’s a great driver, and he’s somebody if he’d like to come to Germain Racing and drive in the Truck Series we’d love to have him.

“So we’re talking to them, and we’re going to do everything we can to try to make that happen. But we’re still just in the discussion stage there. Next year I think you’ll see us do even better in the Cup Series, and we’re going to have three strong Truck teams [including the No. 9 for Max Papis] perhaps next year, and we’re looking forward to coming back.”

Still, Gaughan wasn’t about to shut the door on the Nationwide Series. He finished eighth in the season finale Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“If the Germains want to run some Nationwide stuff at the beginning of the year because they have the equipment and they’re locked in — yeah, I’d love to go race some races for them,” Gaughan said. “If Rusty called me and said one of these sponsors just had to have me, I’d be honored to jump in with Rusty if he’d still have me.

“If anyone calls me and they’ve got good stuff and they want to race Cup, or anywhere, I’ve never said I won’t race.”

By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM
November 20, 2010 10:05 PM, EST