It was a wild day as far as the weather was concerned at the Road America Saturday for the running of the Gardner Denver 200. Rain delayed the start of the race and the race ran through the rain for some of the event but when it was all said and done Brendan Gaughan prevailed to win his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series race of his career. Gaughan lost the lead on the final restart of the race to Chase Elliott but reclaimed the top spot and won the Gardner Denver 200 in dramatic fashion.
Alex Tagliani led the most laps and finished second as his pit strategy got him deep in the field late in the event. Tagliani made a strong late charge, moving from 22nd to second in the final two laps. Road Course ace Kevin O’Connell finished third in Rick Ware’s #23 Chevrolet with Chase Elliott coming home fourth. JJ Yeley finished in the fifth spot with Jeremy Clements coming home sixth. Andy Lally finished in the seventh position with the eighth spot going to Landon Cassill. Elliott Sadler finished ninth and Mike Bliss came home tenth.
The start of the Gardner Denver 200 at Road America was delayed about one hour due to a light rain that was falling at portions of the 4-mile road course. The NASCAR Nationwide Series had wet weather tires available but the track was not wet enough for the teams to put those tires on to start the race. When the race went green for the first time pole sitter Alex Tagliani was cautious into Turn 1 which allowed Dylan Kwasniewski to take the lead and Sam Hornish Jr to take second.
In Turn 5 Hornish was able to pass the rookie Kwasniewski to take the top spot. By the end of the first lap Tagliani had slipped back to fifth place. After four laps the top five was Hornish, Brendan Gaughan, Regan Smith, Tagliani, and Kwasniewski. On lap 5 Gaughan got off course course and dropped to sixth. He also picked up grass on his grille and had to pit on lap seven.
At lap 10 Hornish had built a 2.7 second lead over Smith. Also on lap 10 Kwasniewski got off while running fourth and he dropped to fifth.
The first caution flew on lap 12 when Stanton Barrett got off track and into the damp grass. He then hit a retaining wall and his #87 car came to rest in a sand trap. Also as that was happening Kenny Habul spun in Turn 5 when he closed the door on Carlos Contreras. Under the caution Dylan Kwasniewski had a transmission break on his car and he was pushed to the garage for repairs. His crew would get him back on track after losing only four laps.
The lead cars pitted under the caution and it was Brian Scott's crew that jumped him up from fourth to be the first off pit road. Sam Hornish Jr was second off with Tagliani third, Smith fourth, and Ty Dillon fifth. However, five cars stayed out that had already been to pit road under green and they led the field to green on lap 16. They were Brendan Gaughan, Andy Lally, Dakoda Armstrong, James Buescher, and Chris Buescher.
At the end of the first green lap Gaughan led over Hornish, Chirs Buescher, Scott, and Tagliani. Then on lap 18 Gaughan got off track a little again and Hornish passed him for the lead. Gaughan pitted at the end of the lap for his crew to clean grass off his grille. On lap 20 Ty Dillon's #3 car began to show smoke with an issue developing.
Hornish continued his early dominance in the event and continued to lead until lap 25 when the caution flew for rain. Hornish had the dominate car under the dry weather but the whole field was forced to pit and put rain tires on.
After the pit stops Brian Scott emerged as the leader followed by Trevor Bayne. Scott went off and into the grass coming off of pit road and had debris in his grille. Scott slowed down enough to allow Bayne to pass him so Bayne led the field on the lap 29 restart.
Bayne pulled away on the initial restart but Sam Hornish Jr would pass him for the lead in turn two. Meanwhile, Kenny Habul got in trouble on the restart spinning in turn one. Habul wouldn’t hit anything and would continue. Dakoda Armstrong also spun on the rain tires. The rain was playing havoc with the field.
Alex Tagliani would challenge the lead from Hornish but got loose and Hornish remained in front. On lap 30 Tagliani would get the lead from Hornish after a battle and Tagliani was in front showing his experience on the rain tires.
By lap 31 Tagliani had a two second lead over Hornish. On the same lap Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed made contact. No major damage was caused and they both continued.
For the next several laps Tagliani remained in the lead with Hornish trying to chase him down. By lap 35 Tagliani’s lead was six seconds. On lap 38 the race would be slowed again when Bobby Reuse was out of power and couldn’t move. From that point forward the strategies were off as some leaders elected to pit and others didn’t.
Tagliani was one of the leaders who decided to stay out and fought hard to remain in front on the lap 41 restart. Brendan Guaghan had pitted from about the fifth place and restarted outside the top 10. On the restart Trevor Bayne crashed hard ending his day after blatant contact from Ty Dillon. Bayne finished 27th. Meanwhile in the front of the field Tagliani’s lead grew to over a second and by lap 45 his lead was four seconds.
It was at that time that Brendan Gaughan became a player for the lead for the first time as he passed his teammate Brian Scott for the second position on lap 47. Gaughan showed his strength as his car seemed to be a lot faster than that of the leader Tagliani’s. Gaughan began to close in mainly due to Tagliani trying to save fuel and Gaughan running hard because he pitted and got extra fuel.
It seemed everything was working in Gaughan’s favor. He had pitted on the lap 38 caution and had plenty of fuel left in his tank to make it the rest of the way. Tagliani, had pitted on lap 26 and his race future was a little more in doubt.
The leaders continued to race as Tagliani was given the two laps to go signal. However, Justin Marks stopped on track out of fuel as he was on the same strategy as Tagliani and brought out another caution forcing the race to go into a green-white-checkered finish.
It was under that caution that the leader Tagliani would run completely out of gas and stop on the racetrack, handing the lead to Gaughan for the restart.
Tagliani would restart in the 22nd position and at the end of the field due to pitting when pit road was closed. Gaughan led with Chase Elliott alongside for the restart and Elliott pulled out the lead out of turn one. However, Gaughan did not give up and fought back hard as Gaughan reclaimed the lead as the field took the white flag. Gaughan remained in front and went on to win the Gardner Denver 200 at Road America.
Other notables in the field included Sam Hornish Jr in 12th, Regan Smith in 13th, and Brian Scott in 16th.
Regan Smith remained the points leader as the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to the Kentucky Speedway on June 28th. Elliott Sadler trails Smith by just 10 points. Third in points is Chase Elliott who is 11 points behind with Ty Dillon fourth in the standings 41 points back. Fifth in the standings is Brian Scott with Trevor Bayne in sixth. Brendan Gaughan is seventh with Chris Buescher, James Buescher and Landon Cassill rounding out the top ten.
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