Commentary

Wyler, Gaughan hope to bolster presence with 2008 merger

Eight-time winner Brendan Gaughan will saddle up for brand-new Wyler-Gaughan Racing in 2008, writes John Schwarb.

Updated: October 31, 2007, 2:38 PM ET
By John Schwarb | Special to ESPN.com

AROUND THE GARAGE

Toyota's domination in the Craftsman Truck Series in recent years is common knowledge, from having last year's champion (Todd Bodine) to a prime candidate this year (Mike Skinner) to winning 32 of 61 races dating back to the middle of 2005.

Earlier this month Toyota clinched its second consecutive manufacturers' title, and it's hard to imagine that crown going anywhere else soon, especially with this week's silly-season news.

HORNADAY BACK IN FRONT

Ron Hornaday

Kyle Busch was somewhat of a surprise winner last week at Atlanta, with Nextel Cup regulars having been shut out of Victory Lane all season. What wasn't a surprise was another shift atop the points standings.

For the fourth consecutive race and fifth time in six races, Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner traded the championship lead. With a second-place day at Atlanta, Hornaday took the baton, now four points ahead of Skinner, who finished fifth.

Who has the edge Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway? Hornaday was fourth in the April race on the 1.5-mile oval and fifth in last year's fall race, and has an average finish of 12.0 in nine starts. Skinner's average finish is 5.0 in seven starts, thanks to a streak of five consecutive top-5s, which includes a second to Todd Bodine in April.

SPARE PARTS

Skinner will attempt to qualify the Bill Davis Racing No. 36 Nextel Cup car again at Texas after failing to qualify at Atlanta. … BDR announced Monday that Phillip McGilton will drive its third truck in 2008. The 29-year-old former AMA motocross racer first drove stock cars last year in the ARCA series and ran a full-time ARCA schedule this year, finishing sixth in points. He will make his truck series debut at Homestead-Miami next month in the No. 22 Toyota. … Justin Marks, fifth in ARCA points, will make his second start for Germain Racing at Texas after finishing 22nd at Atlanta.

Wyler Racing and Michael Gaughan's South Point Racing are merging next year to form Wyler-Gaughan Racing, fielding the No. 60 and No. 77 Toyotas in the truck series and a part-time Sprint Cup car in 2008.

Since its inception in the middle of 2005, Wyler Racing has been a solid team, winning three times with Jack Sprague, including this season's opener at Daytona. The No. 60 is 10th in points -- the only single-car team in the top 10.

But compare that to multi-Tundra teams like Bill Davis Racing, which owns eight wins this year alone, and Germain Racing, which has two trucks in the top seven in points, and one can see where a one-horse Toyota operation could add value with another truck.

"I used to listen to that stuff on television, 'It's a team deal.' I'd say, 'What are they talking about?'" owner Jeff Wyler said. "Well, now that I own a team, it is a team deal."

Picking up the No. 77 means adding eight-time winner Brendan Gaughan, 13th in points this year in a Chevrolet with a career-high fourth-place points finish in 2003.

"It makes sense to us," said Wyler, owner of a Cincinnati-based auto dealership network. "Brendan's a terrific driver. I think he's got a real shot at winning a championship, or we wouldn't have done this thing."

Gaughan will also drive a Camry in at least six Sprint Cup races, building on an operation that got a head start in May when Johnny Benson drove a Wyler Racing COT at Richmond.

Wyler said the team will not attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 but would like to take a shot at Las Vegas if the team comes together quickly, given the Gaughan ties to the city. Eventually the team would like to run Sprint Cup full-time.

The biggest question mark with the new team is who will drive the No. 60. It has been reported that current sponsor Con-Way Freight will be out at the end of the season, and Wyler said future sponsorship might determine Sprague's status.

But given that Wyler was Sprague's best man at his wedding in July -- Sprague married Wyler's niece -- it would be strange to see the three-time champion driving for anyone else.

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.