It is a story that Brendan Gaughan has heard many times before. A lack of sponsorship is affecting his job status in NASCAR for the 2010 season. All of this comes as a shock, after what could be considered Gaughan's best racing season since the Craftsman Truck Series Season in 2003.
For the past few NASCAR seasons, Gaughan has bounced around a few teams. The No. 77 South Point Racing Team (formerly Orleans Racing) was closed after the 2007 truck season, and Brendan moved on to drive for Circle Bar Racing in their No. 10 truck. Brendan was called up to run for rookie of the year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2009 with Rusty Wallace Racing Inc. After seasons of lackluster standings in the truck series (and the 2004 Cup Season), Brendan finally had a chance to break out.
The 2009 season started out with Sponsorship from his father's casino, but eventually US Fidelis and 5-Hour Energy became primary sponsors for Gaughan and his teammate Steve Wallace. Gaughan showed the transition to cars from trucks did not phase him to start the season. Gaughan had three top 10s in the first seven races, and a pole at Bristol that was soured by an early cut tire.
Twice, Gaughan nearly ended his six year NASCAR winless drought. He came just a few laps shy of hanging on for a win in the May race at Charlotte, as Mike Bliss passed him just three laps before the race was called. Gaughan also was in the catbird seat in near the end of the race in Memphis, leading until a late debris caution and troubles on pit road cost him the race.
Gaughan finished the year with three top five finishes, and eight top 10s. Although consistency was not always the No. 62 team's best area, Gaughan still finished 9th in the final point standings, and second in the rookie of the year standings. Gaughan hadn't broken the top 10 in the final standings of any series since 2003. He appears to be on the bounce back.
Now, the problem is that his bounce back may take a hit. Rusty Wallace Racing continues to search for sponsorship for his second car (his son Steven has secured sponsorship). Gaughan's father Michael Gaughan has stated he will put up money for sponsorship if more sponsors would come on board and pick up at least 60 percent of the backing. Without a sponsor there will be no No. 62 for Rusty Wallace Racing, and potentially no ride for Brendan Gaughan. Team employees were told after the final race they are free to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Gaughan has had tough luck over the past few years, but given the opportunity to race in 2010, he has a great chance to turn it around. NASCAR fans can only hope that a guy like Brendan is backed, because he is a great guy on and off the track. Of all the drivers that are losing their rides in 2010, this one may be one of the biggest surprises.