I usually don’t start my weekly NASCAR piece with what happened the week prior, and if I do, it’s never about anything in the Nationwide series. But there’s a special circumstance this week because of having just experienced my most exciting race of the NASCAR season, and the funny thing was, I didn’t even have a wager on it.
The reason for the excitement was because Brendan Gaughan, from Las Vegas, won his first Nationwide series race and was ninth overall within the three major NASCAR series he’s driven in over his 18 year career.
After getting himself in all kinds of trouble throughout Saturday’s race at Road America’s 4.04-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Gaughan managed to run his No. 62 South Point Camaro fastest in the rain (Nationwide runs road course races in the rain), and between great pit strategy and skilled driving, he was able to drive himself to victory.
I was happy not only as a Las Vegan, but also because I know what an emotional year it’s been for the Gaughan family after Brendan’s grandfather, Las Vegas pioneer Jackie Gaughan, passed away in March. When leading with four laps to go, all I could think about was how much a win would mean not only for Brendan, but also for the entire Gaughan family.
It’s a rough stretch for a while when someone in the family passes on. I was in a daze for a year when my mother passed, but then there’s a point where you get some kind of sign that things are going to be okay. When Brendan won, I knew immediately how he was feeling, and while doing his victory interview on television, he walked over to his car and pointed to the spot above the door where his name is supposed to be and it had the name John “Jackie” Gaughan written instead.
It was a great moment that had several layers of goodness to it. The LVH Super Book books Nationwide races all season and opened Gaughan at 40-to-1 odds to win and closed him at 25-1, but didn’t have many takers. It was Gaughan’s first NASCAR win since a Truck series win at Texas in 2003, a race I remember all too well because my sports book got hammered on him at 10-1, which in retrospect was obviously a bad price.
Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race takes us to Kentucky Speedway for the fifth race this season on a 1.5-mile track. This will be the fourth race run on the mildly banked speedway whose past winners have been Kyle Busch (2011), Brad Keselowski (2012) and Matt Kenseth (2013). Kenseth has the best average finish (4.7) among all drivers, and dominated on 1.5-mile tracks last season, but his only top-5 finish on them this season was third at Charlotte last month.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski won on the first two 1.5s this season and Hendrick Motorsports Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have won at the past two. Kevin Harvick has finished second in the last two at Kansas and Charlotte.
Those are going to be the drivers you want to key on this week, and you can throw another Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., into the mix as well.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].