Michael McDowell holds off his teammate Brendan Gaughan and saved enough fuel to win the Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville. This is Mcdowell’s first career win in NASCAR competition in 94 starts. This is Richard Childress Racing’s third consecutive victory in Road America.
“Its just huge. I am so thankful and very blessed. I thank all my guys back in Michigan with Circle Sport Levine Family Racing for letting me be here. They know how bad I wanted a victory at Road America. Just thankful to do it. This is awesome,” said McDowell in a post-race victory lane interview.
“Our South Point Chevy was great all day. Michael McDowell and his Richard Childress Racing Chevy was awesome all day. Three years in a row where RCR has won at Road America. I love this racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was rain or dry, Im the only guy that wants it wet, but I don’t care either way. I love this track,” said Brendan Gaughan post-race.
The first half of the race was under dry, but foggy conditions.The opening laps of the race were dominated by Alex Tagliani. Erik Jones flat-spotted his tires and was on pit-road early, but received a lucky break as the caution flew for Garrett Smithley, who spun on the frontstretch. Cars began to hit pit road around lap 10 to help with fuel strategy. Kenny Habul went behind the wall due to a broken axle, but returned to the race. Justin Marks, who was running in the top-three, received a penalty for speeding on pit road during the first cycle of pit stops. As the second caution fell, teams began to evaluate their strategies for the remaining portions of the race. At the halfway portion, Tagliani lead McDowell with Kelly, Marks,and Suarez rounded out the top-five as teams were logging laps in preparation for the second half of the race.
The second half of the race began with McDowell passing Tagliani. A light sprinkle of rain began to fall around lap 25, which brought out the third caution. Many teams went with “slicks” instead of the rain tires due to the nature of the cell near the track. Kelly collided with Elliott Sadler, who collided with Brendan Gaughan, as they exited the pits for the weather caution. Tagliani, who dominated the opening half, made contact with McDowell racing for the lead and dropped back to 28th. Teams began to tell their drivers with 10 laps remaining to begin saving fuel if a late race caution pulls the race into overtime. The teams who took fuel became excited as the caution flew for Alon Day, who became stuck in the gravel pit. McDowell dominated the second half after Tagliani’s spin earlier in the second half.
McDowell scored the victory, Gaughan was second, Brennan Poole finished third, Suarez fourth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-five.
The Road America 180 saw six lead changes among four different drivers. McDowell led the most laps at 24, Tagliani led 17 laps, E. Jones led 5 laps, and Gaughan led two laps. The race saw six cautions for 13 laps. Three cautions were for accidents, two cautions for debris, and one caution for weather. The time of race was 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds. The average speed was 74.573 mph. The margin of victory was 0.534 seconds. The race went a total of 48 laps.
The Chase grid remains the same after Road America. E. Jones holds the top seed over Suarez and Elliott Sadler.
Sadler holds a 47 point lead over Suarez, a 50 point lead over Allgaier, a 57 point lead over Ty Dillon, and a 63 point lead over Gaughan.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway, a Labor Day weekend spectacle. The race will be on NBC and Motor Racing Network beginning at 3:30PM EST.