Gamble Pays Off With A Sixth-Place Finish For South Point Racing At AMS
A key pit call by crew chief Bryan Berry helped propel Brendan Gaughan and the No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet to a sixth-place finish in Friday night's American Commercial Lines 200.
As Gaughan struggled with the handling of his race truck, Berry elected to bring the No. 77 down pit road for adjustments while under caution at Lap 77. The pit stop proved to be crucial in aiding Gaughan's driving of the truck, as well as the team's track position for the closing laps of the race.
The pit road call led to a sixth-place finish for Gaughan, who also jumped to ninth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship driver's points standings following the race.
Gaughan started the American Commercial Lines 200 in 20th place.
The race barely got started before the first caution flag flew - an accident as the field took the green led to a caution flag at Lap 3. Gaughan was in 14th spot.
Gaughan told Berry that his truck was loose, but he would have to get his tires hotter before he tell him what he would need to help him on the track.
By Lap 20, Gaughan had slid back to 17th-place on the track. The truck was loose everywhere Gaughan told his team.
A competition caution at Lap 25, which NASCAR had mandated because of the lack of practice due to rain, gave the South Point Racing team its first opportunity to work on the No. 77 Chevrolet's handling issues.
Gaughan brought his Silverado down pit road in 20th place. The pit crew went to work - making an air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment, changing four tires and adding fuel. A quick stop helped Gaughan gain four spots on pit road, and he restarted in 16th place at Lap 30.
By Lap 45, Gaughan was in 15th place. But he was still struggling with a loose condition.
"It's not bad through one and two, but it's really loose on three and four. They're killing me there," Gaughan reported. "I can't put a lot of steering into it. If I do, it won't hold the rear."
Berry told Gaughan to hang in there - they would work on fixing the problems during the next stop.
When the caution came out at Lap 56, Gaughan was holding 20th place. The team elected to make a right rear shock adjustment to help tighten the handling, changed four tires and added fuel. The team gained one spot on pit road and returned Gaughan to the track in 19th place.
Another caution at Lap 68 gave the South Point Racing team another opportunity to work on the truck. Gaughan, who was in 18th place, told his team that the truck was driving better but that it still felt like it would get loose.
Gaughan came down pit road for a second right rear shock adjustment, a left rear wedge adjustment and fuel. Gaughan restarted in 22nd place at Lap 71.
In just three laps, Gaughan had jumped to 16th place. Again, the caution flag came out for a spin at Lap 75. Gaughan told his crew that the truck was a little free, but that it was the best it had been all day.
Berry told Gaughan to come back down pit road at Lap 77. The pit call would give Gaughan enough fuel to make it to the end, while the rest of the lead lap trucks would need to pit one more time. The South Point pit crew again made a right rear shock adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. They changed two right side tires and added fuel. Gaughan restarted in 19th spot.
"The adjustments are working in our favor," Berry told Gaughan. "We've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain."
Gaughan quickly began moving up through the field, picking off one position after another. When the caution waved at Lap 89, Gaughan was sitting in 12th place.
As all the other lead lap trucks elected to pit, Gaughan stayed on the track and moved into the lead spot.
"This is the best this truck has been all weekend," Gaughan said. "Great job adjusting on it. Now, I'm going to make it wide, high and fast."
Gaughan led the field to the restart at Lap 96, but he couldn't hold onto the top spot as two trucks got by him. By Lap 100, Gaughan had slid back to 7th place and had scraped the wall causing minimal damage to the right side of his race truck.
"I killed the restart," Gaughan said under the caution. "That was driver error on the restart - I'm sorry. I'll get it back this time."
The race restarted again at lap 108. Gaughan moved quickly into sixth, and just a couple of laps later into the fifth spot. But a caution at Lap 117, halted the race for a ninth time.
When the field came to the restart at Lap 123, Gaughan was forced to check up to avoid a wreck. He lost three positions and fell to eighth, but he quickly gained them back on the next lap. But Gaughan wasn't done battling.
On the final lap, Gaughan and fellow Chevrolet driver Clint Bowyer went fender to fender for fifth spot. At the finish line, it was Bowyer by a nose - and Gaughan finished in sixth place.
It was South Point Racing's first top 10 of the 2007 season.
"I am still mad at myself, I can't believe I gave up fifth place there at the end. I had Bowyer beat, I screwed up and gave it to him," Gaughan said. "The South Point Chevrolet guys did not give up on us all night. We were awful for a long time, they kept working and Bryan (Berry, crew chief) kept making great calls. At the end of the day, he went on a fuel mileage strategy and then he ended up with a great handling Chevrolet."