Brendan Gaughan Wins Rainy Gardner Denver 200

by June 22, 2014

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. — It took 98 races to do it, but Brendan Gaughan (Richard Childress Racing) is finally a NASCAR Nationwide Series winner.

Gaughan persevered on a dreary and rainy Saturday to win the Gardner Denver 200 at the Road America circuit to win his first race in any of NASCAR’s top-three divisions in 11 years. Gaughan would go through his share of ups and downs throughout the race with his No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Camaro resembling a lawnmower rather than a race car at several points of the race; however, several off-track excursions and even some damage to the body of his car was not enough to stop the Las Vegas native from rolling into victory lane. For Gaughan, the victory provided the eighth-year driver with a great feeling of jubilation after losing his grandfather, John Jackie Gaughan, three months ago.

“Life has not been easy right now for the Gaughan family,” Brendan said in victory lane. “Thank you to Shane Wilson and Richard Childress, I tried to give this race away three times today and I’m fully embarrassed – I was not focused enough. But man, Richard gives you great Chevrolet stuff!

Champ Car veteran Alex Tagliani (Team Penske) ran a solid race for a majority of the day and led 19 laps en route to a second-place finish, tying his best finish ever in the Nationwide Series. After running out of fuel on the last caution of the race, Tagliani pitted for fuel and a change to dry tires as the track quickly began to dry from its wet condition – the driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Mustang would have to restart at the end of the lead-lap cars as he would pit while the pit lane was closed.

In a two-lap dash, Tagliani would pass 21 cars in two laps with the advantage of his new slicks to get to the runner-up position. Tagliani would make contact with two-time race winner Chase Elliott (JR Motorsports) in the final corners to make a pass for the third position. The two drivers would discuss the move after the race and would shake hands after discussing the incident.

“Unfortunately it was not in the cards today,” Tagliani said. “We ran out of fuel and the team made a great call though – they put me on slicks and we took the penalty and restarted in the back. The track was a bit damp and it was difficult to make some passes on the inside and guys were blocking the inside so I guess second is okay, it was a good show at the end. I’m glad the sun came out at the end for the fans as there was a lot of fans here today.”

Elliott voiced his displeasure with the incident with Tagliani to ESPN after he climbed out of his fourth-place finishing No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro.

“He didn’t show us a lot of respect,” Elliott said. “I understand those guys are racing for the Owner’s Championship too, I just hate to see those road-race guys come in and just root you off the track like that down there in Canada Corner. It’s hard to be disappointed with that as bad as our day was going and as bad as our weekend had gone – it’s completely my fault, I feel like we had a top-five car.”

The fifth running of the Gardner Denver 200 was initially delayed for just under one hour to rain that had dampened part of the racing surface. While the teams brought wet tires to the race track, the conditions were not suitable for either the dry or wet tire compounds. Had the race started with the dry compound, the teams would face a total loss of traction on the wet sections of track; had the race started with the wet compound, the wet tires would burn up and blister on the dry sections of track.

Once the race finally got underway, Sam Hornish Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing) would pounce on the lead from his fourth-place starting position and would lead the first 13 laps of the race.

The first caution would fly on Lap 13 when Stanton Barrett (NEMCO-Jay Robinson Racing) would maroon his No. 87 Barcode Entertainment Mustang out in the gravel trap off of Turn 3 after locking up his brakes. At the same area on the track on the same lap, Kenny Habul (Joe Gibbs Racing) would go for a spin in his No. 20 Sun Energy 1 Camry after coming together with the No. 44 car of Carlos Contreras (TriStar Motorsports.)

Gaughan would take the lead under caution but it would be Hornish who would rocket back out to the lead at the drop of the green. Hornish would lead another 11 laps before the caution would fly for the second time of the day due to rain dampening the racing surface. All teams that were still running on track would switch to rain tires after NASCAR mandated that the teams do so. After all teams made the switch to wets, Hornish would once again take the lead but Tagliani would use his road-racing experience to track down the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry and claim the lead for his own.

Another caution flag would wave on Lap 39 for the slow car of Bobby Reuse (JGL Racing) – lasting for two laps. Once the green flew again, Tagliani would lead the field once more until the final caution period when he would run out of fuel. As Tagliani pitted for dry tires and to take a splash of fuel, Gaughan and Elliott would share the front row for what would be the final restart. Elliott would try his hardest to pass the No. 62 car – who had a fender rub on his right front tire – but it would be to no avail as Gaughan would scoot away from the rest of the field and out of the hands of a hard-charging Tagliani.

The top-10 of the final results was chocked full of surprise names. Road course racer Kevin O’Connell (Rick Ware Racing) would finish in third – a result that gave him his highest-ever career NASCAR finish while J.J. Yeley (JGL Racing), Jeremy Clements (Jeremy Clements Racing), Mike Bliss (TriStar Motorsports), and former Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Andy Lally (Viva Motorsports) would all finish in the top-10 at the end of the day.

Both Elliott and Elliot Sadler (Joe Gibbs Racing) would gain on Regan Smith’s (JR Motorsports) points lead with their results at Road America. Elliott would lead the three contenders with his fourth-place finish while Sadler would finish ninth in his No. 11 OneMain Financial Camry; Smith would finish outside of the top-10 in 13th-place. Smith now takes a 10-point lead into next Friday’s race at the Kentucky Speedway.

Top-10 Finishers of the Gardner Denver 200

  1. 62 – Brendan Gaughan – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing
  2. 22 – Alex Tagliani – Ford – Team Penske
  3. 23 – Kevin O’Connell – Chevrolet – Rick Ware Racing
  4. 9 – Chase Elliott# – Chevrolet – JR Motorsports
  5. 28 – J.J. Yeley – Dodge – JGL Racing
  6. 51 – Jeremy Clements – Chevrolet – Jeremy Clements Racing
  7. 55 – Andy Lally – Chevrolet – Viva Motorsports
  8. 01 – Landon Cassill – Chevrolet – JD Motorsports
  9. 11 – Elliott Sadler – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
  10. 19 – Mike Bliss – Toyota – TriStar Motorsports

Top-10 in Drivers’ Standings after Round 14 of 33

  1. 7 – Regan Smith – JR Motorsports – 516 | Leader
  2. 11 – Elliott Sadler – Joe Gibbs Racing – 506 | -10
  3. 9 – Chase Elliott# – JR Motorsports – 505 | -11
  4. 3 – Ty Dillon# – Richard Childress Racing – 475 | -41
  5. 2 – Brian Scott – Richard Childress Racing – 458 | -58
  6. 6 – Trevor Bayne – Roush-Fenway Racing – 453 | -63
  7. 62 – Brendan Gaughan – Richard Childress Racing – 410 | -106
  8. 60 – Chris Buescher# – Roush-Fenway Racing – 388 | -128
  9. 99 – James Buescher – RAB Racing – 388 | -128
  10. 01 – Landon Cassill – JD Motorsports – 368 | -148

# = Rookie.