Paul Menard, a Wisconsin native, felt right at home and survived a yellow-flag-riddled finish at the NASCAR Xfinity Series' Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on Saturday, fending off Ryan Blaney and an upstart set of contenders in the process.
Much of the early event centered on Chase Elliott, who led a race-high 23 laps, as well as the stunning lack of yellow flags, but one lengthy flag and Menard stole the show by the end of the race.
Richard Childress Racing captured the post-race celebration:
Here's a look at the entire top 10, with the full order available at ESPN.com:
|5||Darrell Wallace Jr.||6|
ESPN.com also provided a look at the updated standings:
|6||Darrell Wallace Jr.||736|
Like most events this year, and especially those at Road America, the green start didn't last long.
After plenty of warm-up laps, the event went right to caution as Tomy Drissi found his way into the gravel and couldn't free himself. NASCAR on NBC put a humorous twist on the early mishap:
It seemed like an early sign of how things would unfold Saturday, but then a funny thing happened: The drivers broke a Road America record by going 19 laps without a yellow flag, though the streak was ruined by fluid on the track on Lap 24.
It looked as impressive as it sounds:
Before the caution, the race belonged to Elliott, who at one point ran up a ridiculous 11-second lead. Meaningful battles between Brian Scott and Ryan Sieg, as well as Menard and Regan Smith, provided most of the early entertainment.
Scott caught up to Elliott after the restart and pulled off an impressive pass to take the lead. The shuffle created a sense of desperation near the top. Then Elliott proved one simple mistake can turn disastrous:
Pole winner Ben Rhodes caused the third caution with just 10 laps remaining, creating another upheaval on the leaderboard.
At the restart, Blake Koch and others, most notably Menard, lined the top five. Menard, a Sprint Cup regular, entered hoping to establish some extra momentum for his iffy Chase chances.
Perhaps more interesting was Koch, who entered Saturday with no top-10 finishes in his career. His crew spoke about the late-race strategy, per Fox Sports:
As Koch and the rest were ready to hit the green flag, though, Smith came up lame with a dead engine and stalled in the middle of the track, prompting the final caution. It was a devastating blow for Smith, who entered fourth in the standings and had hopes to make another bid at a jump up the leaderboard.
Next, NASCAR delayed the restart thanks to fluid on the track, and in the process, Koch ran out of power and needed a push back to the garage. Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski were two of many to offer their thoughts on the lengthy yellow:
After six laps under caution, the race went green with four remaining. Menard's task seemed simple—fend off Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr. and others to the finish line.
Menard was able to pull off the feat despite a strong late push from Blaney, who can't complain about a second-place finish after entering the day 24th in the standings. As Jim Utter of Motorsport.com captured, though, he wasn't pleased with the yellows:
As for Menard, it's just what he and the team wanted on a bye week of sorts for the Sprint Cup Series.
If Smith was the day's biggest loser, Scott was the biggest winner as he advanced up the top 10. The lead at the top didn't change, though, thanks to Chris Buescher's ninth-place finish.
The Xfinity Series next tackles Darlington Raceway for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200. There, the series regulars will look to put the road course behind them and take back Victory Lane from the Sprint Cup regulars.
With Smith's hiccup and some surprising performances from Scott and others, it's not an event to miss—much on the leaderboard can still change.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.