CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Most NASCAR fans know Brendan Gaughan for his humorous and outspoken nature, as well as his long-time pursuit of a national series championship, but far fewer know him as one of the rare breed that made his debut at the sport’s top level on international grounds.
For Gaughan, an opportunity to reunite with former sponsor NAPA Auto Parts during the recent Sport Clips Haircuts-VFW 200 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway was an opportunity to both show his appreciation to the company that launched his professional stock car career and to reflect on how it all began.
The journey started in November of 1998, when Gaughan was introduced to NASCAR Winston West Series (now K&N Pro Series West) team owner Bill McAnally, who had a growing association with NAPA Auto Parts.
At the time, Gaughan was driving for team owner Walker Evans part time in the West Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series), who had an invite to the season-ending Coca-Cola 500 exhibition race for the Cup Series at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
However, various circumstances prevented Evans from being able to use the invite to travel across the Pacific and field a car for the event.
“Walker had an invite at that point, and Bill didn’t,” explained Gaughan during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff Media Day on Tuesday afternoon. “The problem with that was that Walker didn’t have a West car available that he could send out there to compete in Japan.”
Enter McAnally, who did have a car available.
“We took Walker’s invite … this was before Bill McAnally became the Bill McAnally that you guys know today, the multi-time West champion owner, and we went to a guy that we were told could get us there for the race. Long story short, I ended up driving for this guy (McAnally) that I had never even met. I went to his house, helped him move in there and ended up moving his refrigerator (laughter).”
Though Gaughan crashed in the first practice session, qualified 18th and ultimately finished 19th after being involved in a late wreck with Bobby Hamilton, the reward was so much greater than just making his first start among the Cup Series field.
“That was what started the relationship with me and Bill,” Gaughan said. “That was it, that trip to Japan. … We moved Bill into a new house, made the deal with him, went to Japan, had a good time and then it all went on from there.”
“The way I look at it is that not too many people got to start their Cup career in a foreign country, you know? But that was how Bill and I met, and look what it’s spawned since then.”
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