Gaughan finds victory lane at Road America after challenging day
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
ELKHART LAKE – A victory anywhere for Brendan Gaughan would’ve meant a lot to the 38-year-old Las Vegas native.
To pick up NASCAR Nationwide Series victory No. 1 at Road America, it was almost a dream come true.
“I’m floored right now,” Brendan Gaughan said moments winning Saturday’s Denver Gardner 200 Fired Up by Johnson. “I’m just so happy. I’m speechless for a change.”
And for those who’ve ever met Gaughan or seen or listened to an interview, that’s shocking.
Gaughan is often flamboyant, but most of all, almost always in good spirits and has a smile on his face, no matter what kind of struggles he has on the race track.
It was Gaughan’s first career Nationwide Series victory in his 98th start and his first NASCAR victory since winning a truck race in 2003.
Gaughan survived what was a challenging day for the drivers and NASCAR.
The race was delayed more than a hour even before the green flag dropped on the 50-lap event because of scattered rain. Then just beyond the halfway point, the clouds opened up and it rained over the 640-acre facility. That forced NASCAR to send all the drivers into the pits to change from the slick tires to the wets.
In five years of the event, a different and thrilling ending has taken place each time. Rain made its first appearance during the race. This year, for the third time in the event’s history, the race needed a green-white-checkered to settle on a winner.
Drivers, especially NASCAR drivers, often say they are a fan of road-course racing, simply because it’s a change of pace, a different challenge.
And with a challenge like Road America, it’s a savoring feeling for drivers to test their wits on the historic road course.
Now imagine the challenge when it rains?
Gaughan was asked afterward if NASCAR should adopt more rain racing. He emphatically replied no, adding it’d be idiotic if you tried it on an oval.
The reason? Too many physics that work differently on an oval than on a road course. In addition, there is very little chance to establish a racing line in the wet on an oval.
It was just the third time in series history a race was run in wet conditions. The other two instances were in 2008 and 2009, both in Montreal.
“You’ve got to almost play it by ear,” Gaughan said about changing race strategy in rainy conditions.
Gaughan raced for much of his racing developmental years in Wisconsin, racing on the old off-road course inside the Road America facility. He’s also taught at the Skip Barber Racing school, which also has a facility at Road America.
Gaughan once called Road America and Wisconsin his second home.
“This is a special state to me,” Gaughan said. “A lot of my fans and friends are in Wisconsin.”
What we saw once again at Road America was another thrilling finish, a thrilling race overall.
What could possibly be in store next year?
Follow Nicholas on Twitter: @dettmann_wbdn