Brendan Gaughan survived a battle of attrition on wet road conditions to gain victory in the Gardner Denver 200 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. NASCAR Nationwide tweeted the result:
The race on Saturday featured seven lead changes, four leaders and plenty of gamesmanship between drivers and pit crews as several drivers had turbulent trips on the road track. Here's a look at the finishing results:
Of course, the big-picture takeaway is what happened in the overall points standings. Here's what the standings look like after a crazy race:
The first road race of the season not only tested each driver's ability to maneuver the unique track, but persevere through some adversity as the tire situation was touch and go for much of the race. From the very outset of the race it was hard for officials to determine whether drivers should put on the rain tires:
Cars stopped in the pits as we await Mother Nature to decide if it will rain enough for the rain tires; or allow the race to start on slicks— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) June 21, 2014
Ultimately, the race began with slicks on. Something that Sam Hornish didn't mind at all. The driver of the No. 54 car took the lead early and proved to be difficult to pass in the early going, as noted by Motor Racing Network and NASCAR Nationwide:
Lap 9: Hornish has led every lap thus far. Smith, Tagliani, Kwasniewski and Scott round out T5. #NASCAR— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 21, 2014
As the race progressed, the slicks became a problem as the rain continued to pour on the 14-turn track. By Lap 26 all cars were forced to go to rain tires, and that's where things got interesting:
Lap 26: Teams informed it is mandatory that they put on rain tires next time around. Track is under wet weather conditions. #NASCAR— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 21, 2014
Elliott Sadler weighed in on the track conditions:
After the pit stop for rain tires, Sadler radioed in and said "a bunch of cars almost slid off turn 3. This is going to be fun" -PR— Elliott Sadler (@Elliott_Sadler) June 21, 2014
The driver was certainly right. Things were about to get interesting. After sliding off the track on his first attempt at passing Hornish, Alex Tagliani was able to take advantage of a Hornish slide to claim the lead for himself on Lap 29:
Lap 28: Tagliani loses the 2nd position after sliding off course. Hornish holds on to first. #NASCAR— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 21, 2014
Lap 29: Hornish slides off track and quickly recovers, but Tagliani takes the lead. #NASCAR— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 21, 2014
Heading into the final 15 laps, Tagliani was still impressing in his first series start. The Nationwide Series also noted that the No. 22 car was driven by the 2013 winner of the race, AJ Allmendinger:
As the race came down the final stretch, drivers were put in a precarious position. The rain let up, but whether the track would dry up was another question entirely. With no official command from race officials to change back to slicks, it was a tactical decision that each crew chief was forced to make.
Tagliani held off on changing into slicks, instead focusing on putting as much distance between himself and the field of drivers trying to catch up. While Hornish slid and fell out of second place, Brian Scott put the pressure on the leader:
Lap 40: Hornish off track but quickly recovers as he falls back from second. Tagliani continues to lead. #NASCAR— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) June 21, 2014
The bet paid off heading into the final five laps. Tagliani opened up a five-second lead with Scott in second. The only questioned that remained was whether Tagliani could finish the race without any incident and with enough fuel.
The second question would prove to be the undoing of Tagliani. In a shocking twist, a full caution brought about by Justin Marks running out of fuel forced Tagliani to also run out of fuel. That's when an opportunistic Gaughan took his first lead of the race:
As if Gaughan's ascent to the front of the pack wasn't chaotic enough, a green-white-checkered ending awaited the drivers who survived the dramatic ending.
With three additional laps added to the 50-lap race, Chase Elliott and Gaughan engaged in a wild race to the finish that saw Elliott overtake Gaughan before the No. 62 car ultimately prevailed. Tagliani would finish second.
The win was a big one for Gaughan. With a top-10 spot in the Nationwide standings, he will now look to parlay this victory into an even higher spot in the standings.
He'll have the opportunity to do just that when the series heads to Kentucky Speedway on June, 27.