NASCAR Xfinity: Michael McDowell scores first win at Road America
Michael McDowell celebrates in victory lane after winning the Road America 180 on Aug. 27, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Michael McDowell missed out on practice and qualifying for the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Instead, he headed to Road America in Elkhardt Lake, Wis., to pilot the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet NASCAR Xfinity Series entry in the Road America 180 on Saturday before heading to MIS for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. The move paid off, as McDowell claimed his first-career Xfinity Series win and his first-career win in a NASCAR national series on Saturday in the Xfinity Series’ last of three-yearly road-course races.
McDowell claimed his first win after dominating the second half of the race that originally was scheduled for 45 laps but extended to 48 laps by a sixth caution on lap 44. McDowell led exactly half of the race, running up front for 24 laps.
“It means a tremendous amount to me,” McDowell said. “I’ve been so close, here, at Road America. To finally finish it off was huge.”
Brendan Gaughan finsished second, giving Richard Childress Racing a one-two finish in a race it has won the last three years. Paul Menard won in 2015, and Gaughan went to Road America’s victory lane in 2014.
Gaughan took second position late in the race and closed in on McDowell in the closing laps, but was unable to make a clean pass for the win.
“When you’re racing your teammate, you’ve got to have a little more respect, maybe, than normal,” Gaughan said. “I almost got close enough to him to make him make a mistake.”
Brennan Poole finished third after overtaking Daniel Suarez on the final lap. Suarez finished fourth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-five. Reed’s fifth-place finish was his first top-five of the season.
“I’m just so proud of our No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association team,” Reed said. “We never gave up, even after a rough start with not being as good as we wanted in practice yesterday. That’s the key; just never give up on anything in life, and you will find success.”
Road-course specialist Alex Tagliani, in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, dominated the first half of his only Xfinity Series race of the year, leading 17 laps after starting on the pole. He wound up with a seventh-place finish, due, at least in part, to an incident with McDowell on lap 29.
“We were the car to beat,” Tagliani said. “The opportunity presented itself, and he took the fastest car on the track out.”
The only other drivers to lead laps were Erik Jones and Gaughan, with Jones leading five laps and Gaughan two. Gaughan stayed out during a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 10 and was up front when the yellow flag waved on lap 12. Pitting under the yellow, he turned the lead over to Jones, who stayed out after pitting for a tire issue on lap 2. Jones lost the lead to Tagliani on lap 16.
McDowell took the lead from Tagliani near the halfway point of the race, but Jones got back up front by staying out during a lap-26 caution. On lap 29, McDowell retook the lead and ran up front the rest of the way.
Justin Allgaier was sixth, Elliott Sadler was eighth, Darrell Wallace Jr. ninth and J.J. Yeley 10th.