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.