Racing Back to Victory is Tougher Than Expected

Daniel HarmonContributor IJune 4, 2008

Back in 2003, Brendan Gaughan was the talk of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. With an unsponsored truck that carried a paint scheme to promote The Orleans Hotel and Casino, which his father owned, Brendan dominated the truck series.

With six wins and a total of 18 top 10's, he was a virtual lock to win the Craftsman Truck Series championship. Tough luck caught up to him in the final race of the 2003 season when he was tagged in a wreck not of his own doing.

The championship was given to Travis Kvapil, but Brendan still was given credit for his incredible year finishing fourth in points.

His success in the truck series led to an opportunity to drive the Penske-South No. 77 sponsored by Jasper Engines and Kodak Film. Brendan jumped at the opportunity to climb behind the seat of what was then a NEXTEL Cup Series car.

He found himself with numerous DNFs but also had strong runs, including a run at Talladega where he almost won.

When Penske gave up on Brendan, he found himself driving for the same team he has so much success with in his truck series career.

With a teammate in Steve Park and finally a sponsor with Jasper Engines, he started the 2005 series looking to pick up where he had left off back in 2003. Success wouldn't come so easy.

Brendan failed to qualify for two of the first five races and found himself struggling in just about every race of the 2005 season. The teammate was gone at the start of 2006, and the struggles for Orleans Racing continued.

Brendan had yet to win a race and was once again without a sponsor. The 2006 paint scheme was the same as that on the No. 62 truck in 2003, but it didn't bring the same results.

2007 was Brendan's strongest year on his return trail to victory lane. So many races had Brendan involved at the finish. The most notable of them all was his second place finish at Bristol, when he led a portion of the race and was in the top five all race long.

It seemed that the pieces were falling into place for the newly named South Point Racing team to strike victory lane in 2008.

The offseason leading up to Daytona had a deal fall through that would have formed Wyler-Gaughan Racing. It would have led to Brendan having a teammate in the Toyota camp, as well as for at least four races an experimental cup ride.

When the deal didn't work out, the South Point Racing team stopped fielding trucks, and Brendan moved on to Circle Bar Racing.

With a team that can win races each year, Brendan was optimistic. He ran well at Daytona before being taken out by an accident. Strong runs, including a third place run at Charlotte, have given this team the belief that they can run strong in the future.

Brendan seems to be on the right track, but it wouldn't be the first time he's been on the right track and not made it to victory lane.

The odds are that Brendan Gaughan will eventually find his way back to victory lane at some point. When he does, its not going to be without paying his dues. Maybe as a rookie he earned success too quickly, but he has certainly had his share of tough times.

One of the most overlooked drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Brendan has something to prove. He wants to prove that he is just good as he was the year he owned the truck series.

Will the path back to victory lane end this season? It’s an impossible question to answer. All that can be said is that when the green flag waves for the next truck race, root for a man who has had his share of hard luck to breakthrough in victory lane for the first time in what seems like ages.

Brendan is proof that success in sports isn't guaranteed. Dominating in 2003 is not dominating in 2008. Times change as well as competition. Sometimes only a select few ever find their way back to what used to be.

Eventually though, Brendan Gaughan will be back on top in the Craftsman Truck Series. Even if it’s only for one weekend.