Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan expanded his lead in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series to nine points over Travis Kvapil with a tough fifth place finish last week at New Hampshire.
This week Gaughan comes home to the West for the next two races, which should be a welcome site for the Las Vegas based team. They’ll start their homestand at the 2-mile track of California Speedway Fontana. In two weeks, Gaughan will perform in front of the hometown fans at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Both tracks should allow Gaughan to get some breathing room in the standings. Gaughan has been tremendous on the larger ovals. His challenges over the next month and a half will be on the short Virginia tracks of South Boston and Martinsville, where the second and third place contending teams excel.
Gaughan has four wins among his 15 top-10 finishes in 18 races. Just like the other NASCAR series, past trends on similar tracks mean a great deal. California Speedway is the sister track and nearly identical replica of Michigan Speedway, a place Gaughan has already won at this season. Gaughan’s success on the larger tracks makes him the 7-2 favorite.
Gaughan’s team is one of the only major contending truck teams that bases their shop outside of Charlotte. Throughout the entire 2003 season, they have experienced several lengthy delays in the post race inspections by NASCAR officials who must believe the Vegas based team is doing something illegal. The fact an outside team can come into the Truck series and be so successful so quickly is in some ways is a tribute to team owner Michael Gaughan who has gone first class all the way for the Orleans racing team.
It has been rumored Brendan will be courted by each of the top Dodge teams in the Winston Cup series for a full time ride in 2004. When and if that happens, its likely the Orleans racing team will be sold or at least have its shop moved to Charlotte where it is much more economical and gives the team the best possible opportunity to make a profit.
Drivers that should contend with Gaughan this week are last year’s California winner, Ted Musgrave (9-2), along with Kvapil (7-1), and Carl Edwards (6-1). Odds can be found at all Station Casinos properties and the Palms.
NASCAR hits Monster
The Winston Cup series continues this weekend at "The Monster Mile" of Dover Downs. Ryan Newman (8-1) won the earlier Dover race. Last year, Jimmie Johnson (8-1) swept the two races. Since 1994, four drivers have accomplished the feat. With the way Newman is going, he would be a nice candidate to continue the trend.
The "Young Guns" of Newman, Johnson, and Kurt Busch (12-1) have combined to win 13 of the 27 races this year. The only other driver with multiple wins on the season is Robby Gordon (30-1) who has two, both on the two road course events.
Matt Kenseth, with only three full Cup seasons under his belt, is on his way to the driving championship. Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Jarrett have all tailed off and taken a back seat. The elder statesmen such as Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Bill Elliott, and Mark Martin have been relegated to the seat behind the back seat. None have victories this season.
Jeff Gordon (10-1) is a driver that typically does well at Dover. In 21 starts, he has 10 top 5 finishes and four victories. In the first race at Dover, Gordon was second, Labonte third and Tony Stewart (10-1) fourth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr (9-1) might worth a serious look. Junior is a past winner at Dover and has expressed his intentions to add to his one win on the season.
Matt Kenseth (10-1) got his first Winston Cup experience at Dover in the fall of ”˜98 while subbing for an injured Bill Elliott. Kenseth took Elliott’s McDonalds ride to its best finish of the ”˜98 season. Since then, Elliott has managed three wins over his career, but Kenseth has gone on to win seven times.
Elliott Sadler (20-1) takes the spot normally reserved for Dale Jarrett (35-1) in the list of drivers to be considered at Dover. Sadler’s best finish is 10th in nine starts. Jarrett, meanwhile, is coming into Dover on a streak of 10 top 5’s in his last 14 starts there. Those types of numbers would have made Jarrett the second or third choice in odds to win the race, but we’ll key on Sadler of the two Yates entries.