It has been 13 years since Brendan Gaughan competed in the Daytona 500. In 2017, that dry spell will come to an end.
On Thursday, the Las Vegas native announced he will make his return to the Great American Race. Gaughan, who currently races in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing, received a call in late December from former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team owner Jay Robinson (who currently fields the #55 and #98 cars of Premium Motorsports) about a friend of his wanting to run the 500. The friend in question was Mark Beard, a former NASCAR Busch (now Xfinity) Series racer. In 2014, Beard formed Beard Motorsports and attempted two races with Clay Rogers as the driver; Rogers failed to qualify for both events.
For the 2017 Daytona 500, Beard purchased the car that Leavine Family Racing’s Michael McDowell drove in the 2016 race, which ended with a 15th-place finish. The team also acquired engines from Earnhardt Childress Racing, which piqued Gaughan’s interest.
“They bought the old Leavine car, they’ve hired ECR to do motors — real racing motors — and they asked if I would be interested,” Gaughan stated. “So it’s got Richard Childress motors, and I’m going to have a Richard Childress pit crew — my guys — and so we’re going to the Daytona 500 and see if we can qualify.”
In addition to the Childress equipment, Gaughan will have familiar company in the race as former RCR teammates Austin and Ty Dillon will also be running the race. “I told Ty and Austin they better help me make the damn show,” he joked.
In his Daytona 500 debut for Penske-Jasper Racing in 2004, Gaughan finished 19th. He finished 5th in his most recent start at the superspeedway, the Xfinity Series’ July race last year.
Gaughan’s latest Cup experience was not as successful as his tenures in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. In 2015, he joined Premium Motorsports after the Daytona 500, driving the #62 car. Gaughan struggled as he failed to qualify for ten races, including four consecutive, and had a best finish of 35.75. The two parted ways after the Kentucky race.
As the team does not have a charter, Gaughan would have to race his way into the field of 40, either on qualifying speed or through a strong finish in the Can-Am Duel qualifying races.
“We’re an open team, but I feel very confident that with ECR motors we’re going to be able to make the show,” he commented.
The 2017 Daytona 500 will be held on February 26.