A Huge Fan of Talladega Superspeedway, He Came Oh-So Close to Capturing a Victory in Last Year’s YellaWood 500
Talladega, Ala. (Oct. 2, 2020) – There has been a lot of talk this year about seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson and his retirement from full-time competition in NASCAR’s premier series this season. He will make his final start in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Let the record show, however, he’s not the only one who will strap into the cockpit for the final time at the 2.66-mile venue. The other? The comical and talented Brendan Gaughan.
A fan favorite for his witty commentary about racing in general, Gaughan will officially retire as a driver at the end of Sunday’s YellaWood 500. For the last four years, the Las Vegas native has only competed in four Cup series races a year – both at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway.
“I absolutely love racing at both tracks,” Gaughan is quick to say. “I always have. I actually hung up my helmet in 2017 (after completing a full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series) and never expected this. The Beard Family (who owns his No. 62 Chevrolet) has kept me racing at the two tracks that I love the best – and at a competitive level with a chance to win. I just enjoy the style of racing that both tracks offer. These last four years has been gravy time. Just exciting and cool. It’s only fitting that I go out where I have had my best career finish.”
Indeed. Gaughan references his fourth-place effort in 2004 but over the last four years on the high banks of Daytona and Talladega, he has been a factor to win on occasion. He was 11th in the 2017 DAYTONA 500, and then came back with two 12th-place results at both Daytona and Talladega in 2018. Last season he was eighth in the GEICO 500 at ’Dega, then came back for this year’s season-opening DAYTONA 500 to finish seventh. In addition, just a few weeks back at Daytona during the Coke Zero Sugar 400, he was eighth.
There is one race, however, that will stick in his mind forever, and it was one year ago here at Talladega. With just six laps left and running sixth midway down the Alabama Gang Superstretch, received an incredible push from five-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski on the outside line. Just as Gaughan had inched into the lead nearing the end of the Superstretch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Kyle Busch made contact on the inside lanes, sending Busch directly into the left rear of Gaughan, whose Chevrolet made a complete flip and landed on its wheels.
“I tried to drive it away buy they wouldn’t let me,” joked Gaughan of the incident. “That day and every race I feel comfortable in the race cars as NASCAR has done an incredible job with safety. For a few seconds, I had Brad pounding the back of my car and I had my hand up in the air to tell him to hit me harder. When I saw the front of that field, there was that moment where I said to myself, ‘I am in clean air and I am going to take the lead. The 62 is out front.’
“Then, in a flash, I was like, ‘why are the other cars going backwards and why are they upside down? Oh no, wait a minute, it’s me that is upside down.’ Hey, it takes talent to flip and wind up on your wheels. That’s how good I am.”
Gaughan’s career at Talladega stretches to not only the Cup Series but also to the NASCAR Xfinity series (two fifth-place results in six starts) as well as the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (where his best result was eighth in 2001.
“At both Talladega and Daytona, you have to be patient and learn where and when to go,” added Gaughan, whose career will show two wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and eight in the Gander Trucks. “That is why I love it. Driving these tracks takes more than brute strength. You have to use your smarts. The stress? I love it. It is part of the fun, too. There is no more stressful race than at Talladega when you are four-wide with someone pushing you trying to go five-wide. And, you hear on your radio, ‘one (car) on the bottom and three (cars) on your outside.’ Oh my!”
While he has enjoyed his time on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway, Gaughan has enjoyed the fans and being a part of the traditional “Big One on the Blvd” every Friday night of a race weekend. “I love the track and I love the fans,” said Gaughan, who in the future, will shift his full attention to his two casinos Virgin River and Casablanca in Mesquite, NV, along with his distillery and chemical company. I have so enjoyed being a part of the Big One over the years. The fans love it and we drivers get to interact with the fans in a cool way. I will miss it all.”
He gets one more shot this weekend. Win or lose, you can bet he will be having fun.