Xfinity Series Spotlight: Brendan Gaughan

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Brendan Gaughan doesn’t let racing define his life.

It would be easy, though. The Gaughan family has roots in off-road racing and Michael Gaughan sponsors Brendan’s Xfinity Series car with South Point Hotel & Casino. The family casino business is where Brendan Gaughan also excels, which is not surprising for someone who grew up in Las Vegas and had casino pioneer Jackie Gaughan as a grandfather.

But now a NASCAR veteran, Gaughan splits his time between racing, family, and numerous businesses. That includes the Mesquite resorts purchased a few years ago, which is where Gaughan focuses most of his attention as a member of the board of directors.

“I live by the John Thompson theory of the deflated basketball,” Gaughan said of the Georgetown basketball coach. “I’ve never let the air in the Goodyear tires be what my life is based off of. So if (racing) ended tomorrow, I still have something to do.”

Juggling his many responsibilities hasn’t slowed the elder statesman of Richard Childress Racing. But while winning races and championships is a major focus for Gaughan, the 41-year-old lives his life knowing it won’t last forever.

“I’ve got a couple of companies with some buddies in town, including the sign truck business,” he said. “You know those goofy sign trucks you see drive around that advertise?

“And I’m starting a new business that I can’t really talk too much about yet, but it involves a NASCAR official that is leaving NASCAR as well as my old spotter and me. It’s a very amusing business that we’re in the middle of starting right now, so I’m spending a lot of time with that at the moment. So, I got a lot of stuff.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What are some of your favorite things to do in Las Vegas now that you are back living there?

Gaughan: Richard Childress Racing allows me to come and go out of Las Vegas, so it is back home for me. I like going to a Bishop Gorman high school football game and watching my niece cheer. I like going to a Bishop Gorman high school baseball game and watching my nephew play. A women’s soccer game watching my niece play. Those are some of my favorite things to do and anything with my munchkins (his two sons). Vegas is family and home just like small town North Carolina is to most of the folks in racing. There are lots of things I love doing here, but it’s more family things.

NBC Sports: Was it because of your family that you decided to go back to Las Vegas and move from North Carolina?

Gaughan: From 2008 until just about the middle of 2014 we were living most of the time in North Carolina. But for me and my family, Las Vegas in home. That’s where my sons are going to go to school; that’s where all the other businesses that I own and that I run (are), and so it was a very difficult decision to for me on one hand because I like to be with my team. My whole career I’ve been the guy that stayed in the hotel rooms with the guys and was at the track in the morning with the guys and went to the shop every day and bought lunch with the guys. That’s how I based my life and then all of a sudden I was spending 19 and 20 days apart from my kids at a time. They were living in Vegas, and I was living in North Carolina, and it was getting very difficult. To the point where I was ready to say I was done (racing) and it was time to go home. I went and talked to my guys, and they looked at me and said, go home. They’ve said I’ve done my tour of duty, and they gave me the permission to go home and that really prolonged my desire to be here because now I get to be at home, and I get to be Mr. Mom. I get to take my kids to school three days a week and pick them up from school and do anything I want with them all day and run through the other business that I have to take care of. It’s worked out well; we got some wins right about when that decision was made and started running really well.

NBC Sports: You played football when you were in school but ended up being a walk-on with the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team, how did that happen?

Gaughan: I had big (football) scholarships to big teams – Nebraska, Notre Dame, big places, and when I got hurt (with a hip injury) those things disappeared. I ended up at Georgetown to play football, and I played two years of football there, was All-Conference one of the years, and enjoyed the hell out of playing football there. But I had been going to camp at Georgetown since I was eight years old. The Georgetown men’s basketball teams were one of the only athletic programs ever allowed to stay in our family hotels. I was familiar with the team, familiar with the staff, and I got on the team my freshmen year because the team was down to like nine bodies because they had everybody injured and they needed a practice player. Not that I was the best practice player on campus but I was one that wouldn’t be a distraction to coach Thompson or the team, and I didn’t think that I should start. So I was in the right place at the right time and had I taken my big scholarships to the big schools, I would never have played college basketball.

NBC Sports: While at Georgetown you were teammates with a few players who went to the NBA, including Allen Iverson. You and Allen even became good friends, so I have to ask, was that the reason behind the cornrows you sported at Dover in 2005?

Gaughan: (Laughs) The connection was not to Allen Iverson. The person who did that was a kid I played with named Daymond Jackson. I was hanging out in Washington, D.C. because it was the Dover race, hanging around campus with my old buddies and Daymond had a stepdaughter that was 14, 15 years old and I had my long hair at the time. I was growing it out to donate it to Locks of Love, and she looked at me and said, I could row your hair. I said no you couldn’t, and she said it was long enough she could do it. So his 14-year-old daughter cornrowed my hair, and I figured what a place to do it because that race that I had bunch of the players coming from when I played. And I’ve always liked to buck the system and be a little different and in the NASCAR world that is definitely different.

NBC Sports: Your family has a deep sports and business background, so when you look at the two sons you’re raising, have you thought about what you want for them?

Gaughan: I think about it on a daily basis. My family grew up racing cars in the desert and racing was a family activity for fun. When I retire, I’ll be racing off-road cars and all the stuff I’ve wanted to race for fun that I haven’t been able to. I would love them to race for fun and enjoy it as a family function, but if they don’t race cars for a living that’s not going to bother me. I will do for them exactly what my father did for me, and if they want to do something and if they want to try something, I will be there to support all of it. If my son looks at me and says he wants to be a ballerina, I will go get him a tutu, and he will go to ballet class. I don’t care. I will do whatever it is they want to try and support whatever they do.

NBC Sports: One of my first memories of you is Homestead 2003 (when he was wrecked and lost the Truck title), do you think about that day and what could have been? Or have you made peace with it?

Gaughan: I don’t remember much of that day. The hit was that hard that I don’t remember much of it. That was a really hard hit that I took after the initial wreck. So, I don’t remember even the interview (when he told Jimmy Smith to kiss ass). I know what was said, and I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember any of it. But I don’t live by regrets; I don’t live by saying ifs and buts. None of that means anything to me. It put me here at this point of my life and made me more of the person I am. Would I have loved to have said I’m the 2003 Truck Series champion? Absolutely. But I don’t sit there and say, oh my God my life is utterly worthless and changed because that didn’t happen. That’s just foolish to say.

NBC Sports: Did you think you’d have a championship by now?

Gaughan: Oh, I thought I’d have a lot of them. My career definitely did not play out the way I thought it would play out, but I did many of the things the way I wanted to do it, and many of those decisions were wrong. Some of them were right. I looked back and learned a lot of things from each one and lot of what I learned I make sure I don’t do wrong in my other business. No, I did not win the races I thought I would win. I did not win the championships I thought I’d win, but I haven’t given up yet. I’m still here with a chance at an Xfinity championship.

NBC Sports: Are you satisfied with your career to this point or do think things could have gone differently?

Gaughan: Hmm. Things could always have gone differently. If Michael Jordan said he was satisfied, I would be surprised. You always think you want to win one more or do one more thing, win one more championship. I’m no different. I would love to have been able to do more, like spend more time in Sprint Cup. I got one full season, and then kind of dabbled here and there, and there were times I really wanted to get back there and try it and get an opportunity again. So yeah, there’s a lot of things I would say I’m not satisfied with but not being satisfied is not the same as regretting or thinking my life did not play out right. It’s just, OK, I’m still here right now with a chance to win races, I’m still here with a chance to win championships, and I will continue to do that as long as I have four wheels underneath me.

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Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

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Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

POINTS REPORT

Noah Gragson remains the points leader after his win. He has 2,107 points. AJ Allmendinger is next, 26 points behind.

Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg hold the final two transfer spots. They are one point ahead of Riley Herbst, eight points ahead of Daniel Hemric, 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 29 points ahead of Jeremy Clements.

Texas Xfinity driver points

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

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Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he has run much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

Gragson, 24 and set to jump to the Cup Series next season, led 85 laps. He won by 1.23 seconds.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Allgaier from the race.

“The 7 (Allgaier) chose the top behind me, and I haven’t seen the replay of it, but the 7 chose the top behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Hill) made it three-wide on the 9 (Gragson), and I was three-wide at the top, and I think we ended up four-wide at one point, which doesn’t really work aero-wide in the pack.”

Pole winner Jones, a playoff driver taken out in the crash, said Nemechek “was pushing a little too hard. Nothing to fault him there for, but probably a little early to be going that far. It is what it is.”

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Allmendinger’s crew repaired his car and he later had the race lead.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Below the cutline after the first race are Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Clements.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson is threatening to turn the final weeks of the Xfinity season into a cakewalk. He clearly had the day’s dominant car Saturday in winning for the fourth race in a row. … AJ Allmendinger’s car was damaged in a wreck in heavy traffic, but his crew taped parts of the car and gave him an opening to finish fourth.

Who had a bad race: Jeremy Clements, in the playoff field, finished 36th after parking with mechanical trouble near the race’s halfway point. … Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed only 17 laps into the race and finished last.

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.