Dropping the Hammer with Brendan Gaughan

Above all, Brendan Gaughan is all smiles when it comes to his NASCAR career.

Above all, Brendan Gaughan is all smiles when it comes to his NASCAR career.

In today’s NASCAR, a driver like Brendan Gaughan is a rarity in the garage area. Candid, charming, precise, yet approachable, the 42-year-old Las Vegas, NV native clearly has the drive and wit of a young gun interlaced with his valuable on-track experience.

Make no mistake, Gaughan’s refreshing personality is genuine and welcoming. Much like his West Coast comrade Jimmie Johnson, he was a young off road racer, competing in events in Nevada in the early 1990’s. After seven years of off road truck racing, it was onto stock cars, where he cut his teeth in the Winston West Series before making his presence known as a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor in 2002.

Of course, fans may recall his close bid for the Truck title in 2003 as well as his honest perspective of that series’ season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, he’s more than just a frank driver. Truly, this is a racer who loves this sport and takes the time as an accessible ambassador for NASCAR.

Presently, Gaughan searches for his first win of the 2017 season while securing his second straight playoff berth. Sitting 12th heading into Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America, he realizes that he’s encountered some bad luck along the way.

Regardless, Gaughan and crew chief Shane Wilson are determined to return to their winning ways soon. After all, this duo captured a popular win at this venue in 2014.  Undoubtedly, the No. 62 team knows what it takes to be a factor on a weekly basis.

For now, Gaughan took the time to talk about his season, social media, and his experiences with NBA legend Allen Iverson. To say the least, it proved interesting when this popular racer filled in the blanks during the interview. After all, this driver that embodies authentic, old school NASCAR in a sport that truly needs a leading voice like Brendan Gaughan.

Without further ado, let’s get to the racetrack now by “Dropping the Hammer with Brendan Gaughan!”

Rob Tiongson :  So Brendan, you’ve made the NASCAR Xfinity Series kind of your home over the last three or four years.  So for you, as you’re battling to make a Playoff spot, what are some things you’re encouraged by with your performances, and what are some things you’re looking to improve on?

Never one to mince words, Gaughan realizes his team must remain resilient in 2017.

Never one to mince words, Gaughan realizes his team must remain resilient in 2017.

Brendan Gaughan :  I mean, the good news is, we’ve had a lot of bad luck this year, and a lot of people say that – and I’ve been doing this a long time – I can’t remember a year I’ve had this many wrecks, and really none of them by our own making.

We just had some terrible stuff happen, and we’ve been up front.  So the good news is, normally when you’re sitting where we are in points and you’ve had the finishes you’ve had, you’re running the mid-20’s and you’re scratching your head going, “What do we have to do?”  We have been up front and fast every week.

You know, we’re running second at Talladega when we got wrecked, running sixth at Bristol when we got wrecked, running ninth at Richmond when we got wrecked.  So we’ve been fast, and that’s all you have to know, is that the guys know that our racecar’s been fast.  We’ve just got to shake this monkey, and we’ll be just fine.

RT :  Knowing that the playoff format is the way it is now…

BG :  That is the greatest thing NASCAR’s ever done.  If this was 2007, or any other year of my career, right now you’d be looking at sponsors for 2018, you’d be talking about 2018, you’d be experimenting or building new stuff. You’d kind of just poop this year out and say, “Well, this year’s done,” as far as the championship goes.

And now, you don’t do that anymore.  Now we know we are still a fast Chevrolet team, and we know that we have a shot to make a splash in the playoffs.  So you don’t have to panic, you don’t have to do anything different.  We’re in a playoff spot currently, and we just have to keep maintaining.  Would love to pick off a few more spots to give us a little breathing room, but we’re feeling good.

RT :  Speaking of some changes, I’ve heard some rumbling of perhaps midweek races coming, maybe not next year?

BG :  I have no clue.  Those are things that NASCAR does that, for me – the good thing about me is, I am not NASCAR.  I do not have to make those decisions.  When they tell me to show up, I show up.  When they tell me to go home, I go home.

So, we’ve run Wednesday races at Bristol for a long time in the Truck series.  We’ve done some Thursday races in the Truck series.  Whatever they want to try to do, they’re trying to make the sport better, they’re trying to listen to what some of the fans say.  But I think sometimes they try to listen a little too much.

RT :  I agree on that, and sometimes it’s a being careful what you wish for kind of a thing, wouldn’t you say?  Now, let me get a little bit off-beat here.  You’ve been quite active on social media over the years.

BG :  Always.

RT :  That’s a good thing!  How important is it for you to interact with those fans and kind of keep that connection there, even on the bad days?

BG :  Nowadays, that’s… is world is a different world than I grew up in.  When I grew up, you didn’t have those things.  You had to get face-to-face, and we still get face-to-face.  We still try to make sure we’re in the face of all the fans, and making sure they see us.  But nowadays, social media is such a big deal for sponsor activation, for team activation, for everything.  Social media has kind of become the leading charge.

I mean, hell, at RCR, what do we have, two people that are in charge of digital media, or something like that?  I mean, we have people that that’s their whole job.  So it’s a big deal, and it’s fun.  It’s fun to interact, it’s fun to interact with the nice people and the fun people.

The only negative part about social media is how many negative people there are on it, and I think that it’s given a voice to the ugly and the hatred.  And that’s the bad thing of it.  But you know what, it still makes it fun.

If there’s some poor guy living in his mom’s basement that is that unhappy in life that the only enjoyment he gets from the five people listening that he gets to say ugly things.  The best is, they say ugly things about everything.  They don’t say anything nice about anything.  It’s like, you can tell the guy that doesn’t like you, cause he’s speaking good about another football team, basketball, whatever.

But you can tell the guys that, you look at their feed and all they have is, they hate the NFL.  They hate NASCAR, Major League Baseball, and the NBA.  They hate everything except My Little Pony, and something else. So it’s like, you just laugh and go, man, if that’s what makes this man happy, hey, more power to them.

RT :  And usually the ones with those eggs.

BG : Yeah, they’re always anonymous.  You’re never going to get those guys to have their real face on something. Actually it’s pretty funny, I have a very famous hater that is on my Twitter feed, and this man is ugly about most things, but very ugly about me.  Says all sorts of great things about me that are absolutely awesome. I love reading his stuff, and I know for a fact that he came and told me he was a huge fan and got my autograph.

You always say that I guarantee you that guy is going to tell you to his face that he’s… “Oh, I’m a big fan.”  I happen to know who he is because of somebody else, and he literally came in an autograph line once and I go, “Huh.”  And he got my autograph and said, “Man, a big fan.  I always love watching.”  I said, “Thanks, I appreciate it.”  And it just proved my point. Keyboard warriors.

RT :  Exactly.  Now kind of keeping in line with the “unusualness,” I guess, with the sport, let’s say that you’re the driver/owner right now, and you could pick three drivers from any era.

BG :  (chuckles)  Guess what?  I am not an owner, and I will never be again.  I owned my team for eight years, so this question may get skewed!

RT :  (laughs)  If you could pick three drivers you have as your teammate, which one would you pick because you like them, would want on the team towards the end of your career, and which one would you pick even if you’ve had some arguments or some dealings in the past?

BG :  Well, I mean, you’ve got to look at… you’re talking any era?

RT :  Any era.

BG :  Well, I mean, you’ve got to start and look at a guy like Jimmie Johnson.  I mean, he’s one of my best friends, so he’d be under the friend category, but it also is a pretty damn good pick.  If you’re talking about near the end of my career, you’ve got to have somebody young to take over for you.

I’d probably look at… who would I want as a young guy in their career that made a lot of splash?  You’ve got to look at a guy like Austin Dillon, won championships at every level, or a Joey Logano who, at a young age, was able to fill shoes and do a hell of a job filling shoes.  Or Chase Elliott even, something like that.

And a guy that I’ve had arguments with that I’d love to have there?  Didn’t have any arguments with him, I was always scared of him, but Dale Sr.  I was too scared to have an argument with him, but I got to do a couple things with him, and that’s a man that, if you can have the Intimidator on your team, you’d take it.

RT :  What was your favorite Dale Earnhardt story?  I’ve got to ask, while we’re on that topic.

BG :  You know, I was lucky to race against him a couple times, and lucky to test with him a couple times.  I won’t get into details, but what he did for me in Japan was very special to me and I’ll always remember.

RT :  That’s cool.  Back in ’98 I believe, right?

BG :  Yep.

RT :  Got a couple more questions for you.  I’m interviewing Brandon Jones next, so going to be fun here.  It seems like you and Brandon are kind of like brothers of sorts in RCR.

BG :  Everybody likes to call him my little brother.  Brandon’s a good kid.  He’s got a good family, and he works hard on the racecar.  And RCR has a really fun digital media crew, and they’ve started the rivalry thing between me, Daniel, and Brandon.  But Brandon kind of started the whole thing when he did the pillow in the firesuit thing.

RT :  Uh-oh!  (chuckles)

BG :   And so, that kind of started the deal.  And from there it’s just kind of steamrolled and kept going, and it turned into a whole social media thing with me, Daniel, him.  But I do like him, he’s a nice young man.  I’m proud of the young man that he is, and that to me is more important than any racecar driver.

RT :  I’ve noticed the RCR team just has this camaraderie, unlike other teams I’ve covered in this sport.

BG :  Yeah!  We’re a tight group.

RT :  Is it something like you would say is very genuine on and off the track?

Having raced for various teams, Gaughan feels right at home with Richard Childress Racing.

Having raced for various teams, Gaughan feels right at home with Richard Childress Racing.

BG :  I’ve been on a lot of teams in my life.  I’ve been on teams that didn’t play well with each other, and I’ve been on teams that have played okay with each other.  I’ve owned my own teams.

But RCR is probably is one of the better ones I’ve ever been on, where we do work together better than any organization I’ve been on.  Richard makes that happen.  And it really starts with, you look at the anchors of the team, with a guy like Austin and Ty, the grandchildren.  They make that possible because they don’t act any different or more special because of who they are. And if they start that way, it helps breed that through the entire organization, and it does.

So it starts with them, and then it goes to all the kids that you get in.  The kids are just reaching out for any help, and so we all help the kids. You’ve got a lot of veterans with a lot of kids, so they can come to any of us for help, and it works really well.

RT :  I know that you’ve got to work with, or play with, Allen Iverson.

BG :  Taking me from the Big Three game right now!

RT :  Oh really!

BG :  It’s on TV right now, the Colts are playing.

RT :  Now, I know that he kind of gave you some props during his induction speech.   First of all, how cool was that, and secondly, after all the things he put you through in his practice drills, have you thought, “Man, I’d love to have him drive my racecar”?

BG :  What you don’t realize is, it’s not what he put me through; it’s what I put him through.  

RT :  Oh!  (chuckles)

BG :  That was… yes, he did cross me up so hard that he did break my ankle literally, but he paid dearly for that. And Allen is a great guy.  It did not surprise me that he was somebody that would name a group like what he did from his college days, cause Allen was a really great man.  He definitely was somebody that was misunderstood.  And some of it for lots of reasons, some of it intentional.  He didn’t really care to change what people thought of them. But it did not surprise me that he’d do something like that, because I know the man that he is.

RT :  What would you consider to be your “Welcome to NASCAR” moment, good or bad?

BG :   My “Welcome to NASCAR” moment?  God, I was… that’s 20 years ago now.  My first “Welcome to NASCAR” moment was a different day and age of NASCAR.  But, a man named Dennis Huth was in charge of things.  Not Hoots; Dennis Huth.  Dennis Huth, trying to make my very first race ever, and they made me go through a rigorous test.  They made me follow Butch Miller and Ron Hornaday at a test.  I qualified for the show, and they reminded me that I was not in this race yet.  I was not cleared to race, even though I had qualified, cause it was their sandbox and you had to get reminded of that.

RT :  Look at you now, now you’re the one who’s initiating those guys!  I would like to think you are.  Now Brandon Jones, like I said, is my next interview.  If you got to be me for a moment, what question would you want to ask him that you think would surprise some fans?

Much like his predecessor at Richard Childress Racing, Gaughan's gritty on track style is matched by his warming personality. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

Much like his predecessor at Richard Childress Racing, Gaughan’s gritty on track style is matched by his warming personality. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson)

BG :  That would surprise some fans?

RT :  Yeah.

BG :   I don’t know if there’s much surprising about it, everybody kind of knows.  You can see what he is – he wears his cowboy boots, and that’s a natural wear for him.  He’s from Georgia, and he’s got a great deal.  But I’d say just ask him if he gets nervous and always hears footsteps if he doesn’t see me in front of him.

RT :  Fair enough!

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Brendan Gaughan for this awesome opportunity at New Hampshire! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Brendan and his No. 62 team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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