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Gaughan validates RCR’s faith with win

June 24, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com

Veteran captures first NASCAR national series win since 2003

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In doing his best impersonation of a shark when he "smelled blood" in the late going last weekend at Road America, Brendan Gaughan proved at least two points for himself and his team, paying a fitting tribute in the process. In doing so, it placed the typically voluble driver in an uncharacteristic spot -- at a loss for words. 

The flood of emotions was free-flowing in Victory Lane after the 38-year-old veteran's first NASCAR national series win since 2003. It was a popular triumph for the jubilant Richard Childress Racing No. 62 Chevrolet crew and for a driver who has paid his dues in a NASCAR career that began almost 17 years ago.

Perhaps more important was the validation he received when RCR enlisted him for driving duties during the 2012 season.

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"I told Richard (Childress) that I just wanted to come here and prove that I could still win races and still be a race car driver, and since I moved here in 2012, it's been some of the best racing years of my life," said Gaughan, who navigated a rainy road course and held off late-charging Alex Tagliani in the Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville. "And to be reunited with (crew chief) Shane Wilson, to do it with Shane in Victory Lane and to do it with the Richard Childress Racing organization, it's just ... I'm floored right now. I'm so happy. I'm speechless for a change, and that doesn't happen often for me."

Gaughan and company will aim to make it three wins in a row for the Welcome, North Carolina-based team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in Friday night's John R. Elliott Hero Campaign 300 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Kentucky Speedway. The team has enjoyed recent success at the 1.5-mile track with Austin Dillon sweeping both Nationwide races in the Bluegrass State in 2012 and Ty Dillon prevailing there in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season.

Past Kentucky laurels aside, the RCR Nationwide program aims to build momentum off Paul Menard's victory at Michigan the previous week, then Gaughan's masterful drive in Wisconsin. And if the performance upswing isn't motivation enough, there's always the bubbly presence of Gaughan to fuel team chemistry. 

"We needed it, for sure, just because of the way we started the year off," said Mike Dillon, Richard Childress Racing's vice president of racing operations. "We haven't performed the way we wanted to, and the last couple races, really we've gotten some things going here, obviously. ... Then to have Brendan Gaughan as part of your organization and one of your drivers, the attitude that he brings to the track and to the shop, every time he's around. It's a great feeling and how you're supposed to be." 

Crew chief Wilson was partnered with Gaughan for the driver's heyday of 2002-03, when he won eight truck series races. The two were reunited in 2013 at RCR, helping Gaughan to a seventh-place finish in the truck standings, his best effort since his earlier glory years.

When Childress moved its truck series platoon up to the Nationwide Series for 2014, it seemed only logical to keep the driver-crew chief pairing intact.

"It was really pretty awesome to make it happen, because once they've gotten back together, it's been a joy to watch and be a part of it," Dillon said. "We're real excited."

Gaughan competed heavy-hearted in the earlier portions of the season when his grandfather died March 12 in Las Vegas. In a touching tribute, the name of John "Jackie" Gaughan was in place above the driver's side door when Brendan Gaughan ended his winless drought at Road America.

It's a big reason he fought back tears in post-race interviews. 

"Just a lot of things," Gaughan said about the release of emotion. "I feel like I've been letting the team down a lot lately. My focus has not been where it needs to be all the time. It's been a very difficult year for me on many levels and to have my grandfather's name on the car ... it was an honor for me, and my first win in over a decade and I got to have my grandfather honored and memorialized on it, that's as important as it can be to any grandson."

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