Brendan Gaughan hasn’t been competed in a NASCAR race since the Daytona 500 in February, but that doesn’t have him worried for today’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox).
“I’m no rustier than anybody else,” Gaughan said this week ahead of his start for Beard Motorsports.
The 44-year-old Gaughan, who hasn’t competed full-time since 2017, noted that “nobody has raced a superspeedway race since the last time I raced one.”
That race saw Gaughan pilot the No. 62 Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish as he earned 30 owner points for Beard Motorsports. It was enough to ensure Gaughan would be able to sttart today’s race in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated qualifying for races.
“We’re excited that we were able to stay in the top 40 in points,” Gaughan said. “We were sweating that for a bit, especially after Bristol (on May 31). I said earlier that I love Tommy Baldwin and B.J. McLeod – they’re my buddies and I like them a lot. After Bristol, I started to go ‘uh-oh’. … Who would have thought we’d be sitting here in the world the way it is now and that seventh-place finish at Daytona for the No. 62 pays dividends yet again, and kept us locked in for Talladega.”
Sunday’s race will be Gaughan’s 14th for Beard Motorsports. The part-time team, which gets chassis from Richard Childress Racing and engines from ECR, has just one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw, one part-time employee, car chief Drew Mickey, and two mechanics who help out on race weekends.
Despite the lack of man power, Gaughan is not to be overlooked on superspeedways.
“When we show up, we’re not some team that everybody goes, ‘Oh boy, watch out for that one,'” Gaughan said in a media release. “When we walk in that place, people want to work with us. Now, our first year and even our second year a little bit – I had to go up to people and remind them a bit and say, ‘Hey, hey, Jimmie (Johnson), don’t forget, I’ve got a big-thumping ECR motor and a good RCR-built Chevrolet. Remember, I’ve got good stuff.’ Now, we show up to the racetrack and I’ve got guys from other manufacturers going, ‘Hey, do you have to play in the Chevy games or are you a free agent?’
“Then I’ve got Chevy inviting us to play in their reindeer games and say, ‘Hey, you’re a Chevy, you’re here with us.’ It feels great to know that this little bitty team, when we show up now, people come and find us and say, ‘Hey, we’ll work with you. We know how good you are.’”
Unlike his previous starts for Beard Motorsports, the team hasn’t had a practice to help dial-in the car before Gaughan rolls off the grid from 39th.
“It affects us probably more than most teams,” Gaughan said. “Most teams at least have some sort of an engineering staff, at least have some sort of equipment to pull that race car down repeatedly to make sure they’re going to hit their travels. Our race team does not. It’s difficult, also, to get time in other peoples’ shops right now with the way NASCAR has the teams sequestered. … I do know that it got pulled down, I do know they were able to get some time on the pull down rig. But not as much as others or other races we’ve had. …
“But thankfully, for us, the equalizer is that there is going to be a competition caution and I have a feeling the No. 62 team will be very graciously looking forward to that competition caution if we happen to miss our travels, hit the splitter too hard or anything like that.”
Gaughan believes the early stages of the 188-lap race will see many drivers, including him, “practicing” moves to see what their cars are capable of.
“The way this thing is now with the organizations that all work so well together, I think you’ll be able to see people probably practice those together, maybe even orchestrate some of them during the race if they get a calm setting to maybe say ‘Hey, can I see what mine looks like in the front versus the back’,” Gaughan said. “Maybe some teams will work with each other to do that. I think you’re going to see maybe a little bit of coordinated effort team-wise and some people will get it faster than others, just like anything else in life. You’ll have a lot of laps to be able to try and practice a few things if you put yourself in the right situation.”