It is Tuesday of NASCAR Week, high noon, the Coronado Cafe at South Point. Michael Gaughan, who owns the joint, is about to break bread with his board of directors, which is what he calls the men who serve as his department heads and confidants.
They really don’t look like a board of directors. They, like the owner, are dressed casually, which is the South Point style. They make you feel as if they are your confidant, too. This is also the South Point style.
Michael Gaughan turns to Steve Stallworth, the former UNLV quarterback who runs his equestrian center/arena, and asks if he has scheduled a jousting match. It seems like a joke. It isn’t. The South Point a few years ago really did host a professional, full-contact, heavy-armored jousting match in the equestrian center/arena.
Jim McKay would have been impressed.
The topic switches to auto racing, which is why the visitor is sitting at a round table with the South Point board of directors.
Michael Gaughan is asked if he is proud of what Brendan Gaughan, his youngest son who has turned 40, has accomplished on the racetrack. He nods his head. His way of saying, yes, he is very proud.
Then he says this season probably is going to be it for Brendan.
Yes, this is probably going to be Brendan Gaughan’s last season driving the black and yellow gold No. 62 South Point Chevy in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress.
Last season was to have been it, his old man said. But Childress talked him into letting Brendan make another season of left-hand turns — Childress’ racing grandsons, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon, really like having Brendan around, Michael said.
This is where you might be thinking that if Brendan Gaughan has turned 40, isn’t he old enough to make his own decisions about his auto racing future?
The answer is yes, but it is Michael Gaughan who writes the check that pays for the South Point logo on the hood of Brendan’s Chevy. And pays for a bunch of other stuff that goes into Brendan being competitive in NASCAR’s top support series.
In auto racing, the guy who writes the check almost always gets to make these decisions.
The next day, Brendan Gaughan will say that he and his old man have yet to sit down and talk about this being it. But if his old man decides not to write the check, then, yes, that will be it, because it’s difficult to be competitive in NASCAR without a good sponsor, no matter how heavy one’s foot is.
In chatting with Brendan Gaughan, one laughs a lot. For a kid of means, he doesn’t have a spoiled bone in his body. Instead of pretension, you get self-deprecating humor. You get the impression he’d like to drive Richard Childress’ car and hang out with the Dillon boys for at least one more season after this one. Or two.
In chatting with Michael Gaughan, you laugh some more, because for a man of means, he doesn’t do pretense, either. You get the impression he needs some executive help up at the Casablanca in Mesquite, where he is part-owner. It always has been understood that when Brendan was through with professional racing, he would transition into the casino business.
Brendan Gaughan has driven in 50 Sprint Cup races, including the Daytona 500. He has driven in 152 Xfinity Series races, winning two. He has driven in 217 Truck Series races, winning eight.
He has had a nice career, he said, because he never thought he’d drive in one NASCAR race, much less 419.
But this is it.
Or is it?
The board of directors were finishing their can apple pie when Michael Gaughan told a visitor that if Brendan Gaughan wins the Xfinity championship, he’ll probably write another check for 2017.
Good to know, Brendan said.
He’ll drive in the Boyd Gaming 300 today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It might be the last time he races at his hometown track.
Will there be reflection on the starting grid?
There is always reflection on the starting grid, Brendan Gaughan said. In this business, you never know which race will be your last. So you reflect on all of them, each one as special as the next — each one one more than you thought you’d get to do in the first place.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.