Brendan Gaughan is not retiring. First, nothing about the word has struck him as accurate. Second, he’s convinced he’s going to race until he’s 80.
But Gaughan is stepping back in 2018.
Speaking with RACER before the ’17 Xfinity Series season ended at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Gaughan fondly recalled his extensive career while looking forward with excitement.
Next year, he will again run the four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series restrictor-plate races for Beard Motorsports. And perhaps a few road course races along with other “here or there things.”
“I am very happy with going back to a part-time NASCAR role,” Gaughan said. “This has been 20 years of my life – it’s a lot work and it’s a lot of effort and it’s been a great 20 years. … It’s been a hell of a ride but I’m at the point now where I’m happy. I really wanted to get a win this year and that kind of stinks that we didn’t.
“Still, I’ve won in all levels [of NASCAR]. Every level I’ve raced a car I’ve won except for the Cup level. And, hell, I still got four races next year, you never know! I’ve had a great time, I’ve had an amazing run. … That’s the plan right now. You’ll find me somewhere in the desert [off-road racing], too.”
At 42 years of age, there is no one reason why this is happening now. It’s simply just time to do other things, even if Gaughan has had a great tenure with Richard Childress Racing.
Gaughan’s children are getting older. Son Michael is going to be getting into sports and Gaughan wants to be around for that. He also has non-racing pursuits to devote time to, such as a liquor business, City Lights Shine, among other ventures in Las Vegas.
In 1997, Gaughan made his NASCAR national series debut in the Camping World Truck Series. There, Gaughan rocketed to stardom as a brash young talent. In 2003 (pictured above), when he lost the championship in the season finale at Miami, he gave a memorable television interview that further helped him stand out.
The following year, Gaughan ran his only full-time season in the Cup Series. The No. 77 Dodge was a Penske-Jasper Racing entry.
“I would have loved to have a chance in really good equipment. I never really felt like I had a year in good equipment up there and that would have been a lot of fun,” Gaughan said when asked if he would have liked to have run more than one full year.
“Look, Shane [Wilson, crew chief] and I worked hard there, it was great. But there’s no mystery the stuff I was in was not what we thought it was on the outside. Another one of my dad’s favorite sayings, all that that glitters is not gold.”
There were other opportunities for Cup rides, but Gaughan said they were never right for him.
After going back to the Truck Series from 2005 to ’08, Gaughan moved into a full Xfinity ride in 2009. Since then, he has been a staple in the series. This season marked Gaughan’s fourth consecutive full year.
In 2014, Gaughan picked up his first two career wins. Across all three NASCAR national series, Gaughan has made 487 career starts. And while he is a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, a title in one of the top three divisions eluded him.
But Gaughan does not believe in regrets.
“Do I look back at 20 years and go, ‘Whoa, man’? Yeah. You can drive yourself crazy if you look at things in life and say I should have turned left instead of right,” Gaughan said. “You can’t ever do that.
“To me, I look back on it and say, you know what, I had chances to win championships all through the years. I’ve had chances to win races all through the years. I’ve been on great teams. I’ve been on horrible teams. I’ve driven great. I’ve driven like s**t. I’ve made great friends and I’ve made good enemies.
“I’ve had a great time. I look back on it and smile.”
Friendships made along the way and the group he’s worked with at RCR are what Gaughan is most proud of. However, they are also what makes it the saddest to leave. People are what make a driver good and Gaughan considers himself very lucky because of that.
Hopefully, he said, he’s left Ty and Austin Dillon with a few things they’ll remember, and being a big brother to Daniel Hemric has also kept him young.
“I love Richard,” Gaughan said of his team owner. “He’s just an everyday guy. We all wish we could get lucky in our life and Richard’s one of those guys – he got lucky and has done great things with it. Really honored to say I got to drive for him.
“I’ve absolutely loved hanging out with Richard these last bunch of years and getting close to the grandkids [Ty and Austin]. It’s been a lot of fun, and I dig the fact in my life I’ve got to drive for Roger Penske – come on, that was a dream come true. Now I got to end my career with the man that was Dale Earnhardt’s owner, the man who has seven NASCAR Cup championships.”
As Gaughan now goes into life’s next chapter, he is not satisfied. Only because to him, that means you’re sitting around doing nothing. And Gaughan has no time, or plans do that.
“I’m happy with the choices I’ve made, the good and the bad,” Gaughan said. “I’m proud of the stuff I’ve done. Wish I would have a few more wins here or there. Wish I would have maybe a couple more championships here or there. But in the end, I did it my way and my way was definitely a little more out of the norm.
“I was entertaining at times. I was many things at times. My daddy knew Frank Sinatra, so hell, I did it my way.”