Gaughan holds off Tagliani for win at Road America

 

The Sports Network

Plymouth, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Brendan Gaughan became a first-time race winner in the Nationwide Series after holding off Alex Tagliani on the final lap in Saturday's rain-soaked Gardner Denver 200 at Road America.

With a majority of this race run in the rain, Gaughan grabbed the lead from Tagliani in the closing laps when Tagliani ran out of fuel during a caution. Justin Marks stalled on the course, which forced the fourth and final caution and set up a two-lap overtime finish.

After the last restart, rookie Chase Elliott moved to the outside of Gaughan and took the top spot away from him, but Elliott got loose and overshot a turn later on that same lap, allowing Gaughan to reclaim the lead for good.

Tagliani, who had to be pushed back to the pits during the caution, charged through the field during the last two laps, but Tagliani came up 0.8 seconds short of beating Gaughan at the finish.

Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, claimed his first Nationwide victory in his 98th career start. He is running a full schedule in NASCAR's second-tier series this season, driving the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, after spending the past two years with Childress' team in the Camping World Truck Series.

Gaughan is an eight-time race winner in the Truck Series but had not scored a victory in any NASCAR national touring series event since 2003.

"I told [team owner] Richard [Childress] that I wanted to come here and prove that I could still win races and still be a race car driver," Gaughan said. "Since I moved here at [RCR] in 2012 [in the Truck Series], it's been some of the best racing years of my life.

"And to be reunited with [crew chief] Shane Wilson and to be in victory lane with him and the Richard Childress Racing organization, I'm just floored right now. I'm so happy."

Gaughan overcame adversity in this race, as he ran off course on three separate occasions. During his third incident, he sustained damage to the right-front panel on his car when he made contact with another competitor.

"I tried to give this race away three times today, and I'm fully embarrassed because I was not focused enough, but man, Richard gives you great Chevrolets," he said.

Tagliani, who drove the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, finished in the runner-up spot for the second time in his Nationwide career. The 41-year-old Canadian also placed second in Montreal, his home race, in 2011.

"We just ran out of fuel coming up the hill for the white flag, so they pushed me in and [crew chief] Jeremy [Bullins] decided to go on slicks [tires] and take the penalty," Tagliani said. "We were 23rd for the restart and then we fought back for second."

Earlier in the day, Tagliani won the pole for this race. He led a total of 19 laps.

The start of this scheduled 50-lap race was delayed nearly an hour due to rain that began falling on this 4-mile road course during the pace laps. NASCAR opted not to have teams switch to wet weather tires at the time.

However as the rain intensified at the halfway point, race officials put out the caution flag and made it mandatory for teams to use the wet weather tires. It was just the third time in Nationwide Series history that a race was run with those tires. The 2008 and '09 events at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal were the others.

"I love racing in the rain. It's fun," Gaughan noted. "It's fun to watch guys who haven't done it in the rain. They don't understand the rain line, and fortunately for me, I did."

Kevin O'Connell, a road-racing expert who was behind the wheel of the No. 23 Chevrolet for Rick Ware Racing, finished third, while Elliott ended up in the fourth spot. J.J. Yeley completed the top-five.

Jeremy Clements, Andy Lally, Landon Cassill, Elliott Sadler and Mike Bliss were sixth through 10th, respectively.

Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, moved to the front on the opening lap and went on to lead a race-high 25 laps, but Hornish struggled after switching to wet weather tires. He finished 12th.

Despite a 13th-place run, Regan Smith remained the points leader. Smith's advantage is now 10 points over Sadler. Elliott moved to within 11 of the leader.

Read more Nationwide Series stories from the Miami Herald

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