SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal-December 2019

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 67 of 130

THE HOUSE WINS NASCAR Racer Brendan Gaughan returns to his off-road roots to win the one race that has eluded him and his family By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo Racing against time, extremely tough competition, and a course that was one of the hardest and wettest in decades, Brendan Gaughan pulled a team together of friends and relatives to win the Class 1 division at the 52nd BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. The son of South Point Hotel Casino owner and NASCAR team owner Michael Gaughan, racing has always been a part of Brendan’s life. “My dad was the first to introduce me to off-road racing. He raced the SCORE Baja 1000 back in the early 70s and as a kid I remember always going to Mexico to experience it all,” said Gaughan. “My first off-road race was in 1991 and we grew up as ‘desert rats’ and I enjoyed learning from Off-Road Hall Of Fame Inductees such as Bud Feldkamp and Malcolm Smith, who drove for my dad’s off-road team.” Gaughan began his off-road racing career winning several local championships in 1995 while driving for Walker Evans. He then moved into driving Class 8 and Trophy Trucks with Evans until the team began racing NASCAR in the Truck Series. That led to Gaughan driving in the NASCAR Cup series where he won the series Championships in 2000 and 2001. “Even though I was in NASCAR, I would go race off-road when I could,” said Gaughan. “While we won several races, the SCORE Baja 1000 was always the one the eluded us.” After a lengthy NASCAR racing career, Gaughan retired from racing full seasons in 2017 but remained as a part-time driver. This allowed him the time to return to off-road racing. The idea to pursue a SCORE Baja 1000 win was re-reignited when he got a call from Stronghold racing to drive their Class 1 vehicle with Brandon Bailey at the 51st BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000. “They called me up a month or so before the race to co-drive and I had such a great time,” said Gaughan. “We finished second in class and that’s when I got to thinking about seriously trying to win the SCORE Baja 1000. My dad and I had a discussion, and he was all in for a return to the desert but insisted on a brand new Trophy Truck. I liked these vehicles as I drove them back in the 90s with Walker Evans, but we’re buggy dorks, and I love being a buggy dork. Despite my dad arguing for a Trophy Truck, I wanted a new Jimco Hammerhead Class 1 buggy.” Gaughan said the “amusing discussion” between him and his dad ended up with a compromise. “While dad wanted a Trophy Truck and for me to race in U.S. desert races, I managed to talk him into pursuing the SCORE Baja 1000 in Mexico, and instead of a new buggy, we called Damon Jefferies who had a used Class 1 buggy that was built in 2005 and raced by off-road racer Harley Leitner. We got a hell of a deal on it and shook it down. Working with Collins Motorsports, we made some minor modifications, and added 40-inch diameter BFGoodrich tires.” In preparation for this year’s SCORE Baja 1000 race, Gaughan put together a team of co-drivers for his number 162 South Point Casino car that included short course champion R.J. Anderson, and Buddy Feldkamp, son of ORMHOF Inductee Bud Feldkamp. “The plan was to get R.J. to start the race but the problem was that he had never driven a buggy,” said Gaughan. “That worked perfectly as I didn’t want someone to go real fast and break the car. He did an amazing job despite the rain-washed course and got us to the lead. Buddy is a super solid racer and also did a great job before giving the car to me to drive it to the finish line. I had my nephew Jake by my side and it meant the world to have him there with me.” With the team ahead of the competition, Gaughan ran into some transmission trouble that might have ended their day so close to the finish. “We got the car over the mountain and headed towards the finish line when we thought we blew the converter out of the car,” said Gaughan. “We had no mechanic on board so I decided to limp it in first and second gear to the finish. It was surreal as we made it into town, as I have driven through Ensenada since I was 10 and as I was driving on the same streets realizing we had just won the SCORE Baja 1000!” The win was special for Gaughan considering he and his family had been trying to win the race since 1970. “To me, there’s no NASCAR win that compares to winning the SCORE Baja 1000,” said Gaughan. “This is the one race that every racer wants to win, and our family has been trying to win this race since I was five years old. Once it all set in, I got emotional. It was an amazing moment to have my nephew with me and the effort put out by the Collins Motorsports team. There’s a lot of history here and it’s also reflected in the car. It has a Doug Fortin H-pattern four-speed, the type of transmission I’ve used for years, and an LS7 Kevin Kroyer motor, who has been building engines for me for more than 15 years.” “One of the funny things that happened after the race, is that Dr. Bud Feldkamp Sr. has a parking spot at his office that says ‘Reserved for Baja Winners,’” said Gaughan. “Since his son Buddy also finally got to win this race with me, he managed to get to the office before his dad and parked in the spot.” The win for Gaughan has set his expectations higher for next year’s SCORE season. He says that he will run the full 2020 season and try for a championship. “I’m racing at the Daytona 500 in February and after that, I’m going to start pre-running.” SJ

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