By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – During Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday, Brendan Gaughan noted that he was having the most fun he’s had in his NASCAR career driving part-time for Beard Motorsports.
A day later, Gaughan is set to have even more fun with the No. 62 team after racing his way into a starting spot in Sunday’s race with a 15th place finish in Thursday’s Gander RV Duels at Daytona.
Though the end result was transferring into the Daytona 500, Gaughan said he was as nervous as he’s been in a long time, considering the chance that he and his team could be headed home if everything did not go as planned.
With his place in the Great American Race secured, Gaughan vowed that he wouldn’t be in this position again in the future.
“I haven’t been this nervous since I was a rookie in the Winston West Series,” Gaughan said. “The butterflies I felt coming up to this race, you know me, I’m the class clown and I try to relax, but I never want to come down here again and not lock myself in (during) qualifying.
“I make a vow that if I come back with the Beard Motorsports team ever, that we will make sure that we’re the fastest in qualifying no matter what because this absolutely sucks and I’m too old to feel these butterflies.”
Entering the race, Gaughan just had to keep his Chevrolet out in front of the Toyota of Joey Gase in order to clinch one of the final Daytona 500 starting spots. Early on, the Gaughan and Gase lost the draft and it looked as if they were content to settle it among themselves, running side by side for a number of laps before Gaughan had enough and powered his way past him.
“In the Xfinity Series, Joey is one of the toughest guys to pass on a restrictor plate,” Gaughan explained. “He side-drafted the hell out of me. I finally had to back up and do a man to man move and I had more motor. I flat out backed up, got a run, made sure I kept him pinned as much as I could and did a single one on one move to get him.
“Once that happened, I knew that we’d be able to pull away because I knew my motor was that good and then I just started looking for friends.”
Among those friends was fellow open driver Casey Mears, who had already locked himself into the Daytona 500 with his qualifying speed and like Gaughan also had an ECR engine under the hood, and Corey LaJoie.
Gaughan kept both drivers in tow and was able to cross the line well ahead of Gase, who finished 21st, three laps off the pace.