Former Hoyas player Gaughan planning big weekend
Things shaped up nicely for former hoops player Brendan Gaughan. His Hoyas play Thursday and perhaps Saturday while he races his truck Friday.
While many college basketball fans sweated their teams' seeds and opponents during NCAA Selection Sunday, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan took one more detail into serious consideration -- the day and time his beloved Georgetown University would be playing.
It turned out to be a good day all around with the Hoyas nabbing a No. 2 seed and a Thursday-Saturday portion of the bracket, perfect for a guy who has to work Friday.
"I'm very happy about that," Gaughan said. "I'll watch the first-round game, and if they win you might see me drive up to Winston-Salem [N.C., for Saturday's second-round game]. I think I know somebody that can get me tickets."
His connections are probably solid. Gaughan, driver of the No. 77 Chevrolet for South Point Racing, was a three-year letterman on the Georgetown basketball team from 1994 to 1997, playing a total of 25 games as a reserve. In each of his years the Hoyas made the tournament, including 1996 when the Allen Iverson-led team earned a No. 2 seed and advanced to within one game of the Final Four.
All those memories come flooding back to Gaughan every March, and he can't help but be just as excited for March Madness as he is for Friday's American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the third event of the truck season.
"There's so many fun things that happened back then, so many memories," said Gaughan, an eight-time race winner. "It's so exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time."
Not surprisingly, he's bullish on the current Hoyas team. He knows it inside and out, thanks to watching nearly all the team's games and talking regularly with current coach John Thompson III and his own former coach, John Thompson. He also has a fan's anxiety, already wondering about who will be waiting in the second round should the Hoyas win their opening-round game against Belmont -- longtime rival Boston College ("old Big East turncoats," he said) or Texas Tech ("you don't want to play coach Knight, no matter what").
Either way, Gaughan just hopes there's more Georgetown basketball to talk about after this weekend. And, oh yeah, he wants to get his race team back on track with a good finish at Atlanta. He finished 21st in both of the season's previous two races, catching some bad luck at Daytona with a late wreck and then fighting a poor-handling truck at California.
"We know we had a good truck at California, we know where the mistake was made. I feel really good now," said Gaughan, whose best finish in three Atlanta starts is 13th. "We know that we have good trucks from an engine and an aero standpoint. If we can have a tire with some grip, we'll see if we can't finally turn this corner."
Back to a friendly track
The 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway is a favorite of many drivers across NASCAR, who appreciate the high-banked speed and multiple racing grooves. Count Todd Bodine as one driver who knows the place especially well.
Bodine has top-5 finishes at the track in Nextel Cup and Busch cars, and picked up the first of three Craftsman Truck Series wins last year at Atlanta en route to the championship in his Germain Racing Toyota.
A year ago he came to the track with a new sponsor in Lumber Liquidators, and immediately made good on its investment by winning the pole (Bodine's first in the series) and the race.
"I didn't even have a fire suit made yet," Bodine recalled. "It was definitely the kickoff to a storybook season for all of us."
Crawford, a five-time race winner, has compiled his 250 consecutively, first climbing into a truck at the start of the 1997 season and never leaving, not even for a Busch or Cup start.
"It means I'm old," joked the 48-year-old Circle Bar Racing driver. "Not as old as [Ken] Schrader, but I'm up there."
Sprague, 42, raced from the truck series' inception in 1995 through 2001, winning three championships. He spent 2002 running a full Busch schedule and 2003 as a part-time Cup driver before returning full time to the trucks in 2004. He said he has no desire to go back to the cars, with good reason -- his Wyler Racing Toyota is a contender for this year's title and won at Daytona.
Clint Bowyer will pull triple-duty this weekend, driving his regular Richard Childress Racing Busch and Nextel Cup cars while also taking a turn in the No. 2 Chevy Silverado of Kevin Harvick Inc. Bowyer won his last truck start, in November at Texas in a Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Chevy. In five previous Atlanta races, a Ford has not won, while three Chevrolets, one Toyota and one Dodge have. Atlanta is one of three tracks where the trucks will race twice, along with Martinsville and Texas.
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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