McDowell gets first NASCAR win at Road America

Michael McDowell celebrates his victory after the NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America 180 fired up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 27, 2016 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Getty Images)
Michael McDowell Chevrolet celebrates his victory after the NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America 180 fired up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 27, 2016 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Getty Images)
Michael McDowell celebrates his victory after the NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America 180 fired up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 27, 2016 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Getty Images)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Michael McDowell’s Twitter handle is @Mc_Driver.

After Saturday, he may want to consider changing it — to something like @Mc_Winner.

McDowell led 24 of the final 25 laps of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville for his first victory in 94 series races.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular finished .534 seconds ahead of his Richard Childress Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan after two late restarts, including a green-while-checkered that pushed the race to 48 laps from its scheduled 45.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Brennan Poole was the top-finishing rookie, third, in his first start at Road America, after starting 12th.

The top three drivers were in Chevrolets.

The victory was the perfect finish to some unfinished business McDowell had at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile racetrack. In 2011, he started from the pole position and led a race-high 30 laps, but ultimately finished 12th. In 2012, he started second and finished second.

“It means a tremendous amount to me,” said McDowell, who will compete in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. “I’ve been so close here at Road America. To finally finish it off was huge.”

It almost wasn’t, as Gaughan’s late charge nearly spoiled McDowell’s day. The 2014 race winner spent much of the day running in the second half of the top 10 after getting out of pit stop sequence with the leaders. On the penultimate lap, though, Gaughan bolted from fourth-place to second after making a three-wide pass of Daniel Suarez and Justin Marks in Turn 5. From there, McDowell – and victory — was within reach.

“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.”

McDowell didn’t waver and pushed the Childress team’s winning streak at Road America to three, joining Paul Menard (2015) and Gaughan (2014).

The win was not without incident. Team Penske’s Alex Tagliani, who started from the pole position for the second time in two NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Road America, maintained that a lap-29 tangle with McDowell was deliberate.

“We were the car to beat,” said Tagliani, who led 17 laps and had just regained the top spot going into Turn 5 when he was bumped from behind by McDowell and spun going into Turn 6. “The opportunity presented itself and he took the fastest car on the track out.”

Tagliani, who finished second here in 2014, wound up seventh.

McDowell, when asked about the incident during his post-race press conference, said it wasn’t intentional.

“He went wide in Turn 5 and I got under (Justin Marks) and (Tagliani),” McDowell said. “I was alongside of him and he just decided to turn in. Once we made contact, I just came off the brake and pushed him out of the way. And the reason I did that is because if had I not, I’d have been stuck there too and I would have got run over.”

The race was slowed by six caution flags for 13 laps, including one for light rain.

Elliott Sadler leads the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship standings by 47 points over Daniel Suarez.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville

Road America

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Saturday, August 27, 2016

1. (2) Michael McDowell(i), Chevrolet, 48.

2. (8) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 48.

3. (12) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 48.

4. (5) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 48.

5. (7) Ryan Reed, Ford, 48.

6. (11) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 48.

7. (1) Alex Tagliani, Ford, 48.

8. (14) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 48.

9. (13) Darrell Wallace Jr., Ford, 48.

10. (17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 48.

11. (25) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 48.

12. (6) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 48.

13. (27) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 48.

14. (39) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 48.

15. (24) Ray Black #, Chevrolet, 48.

16. (22) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 48.

17. (4) Owen Kelly, Toyota, 48.

18. (9) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 48.

19. (18) JD Davison, Chevrolet, 48.

20. (21) Alex Kennedy(i), Chevrolet, 48.

21. (10) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 48.

22. (36) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 48.

23. (31) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 48.

24. (32) David Starr, Chevrolet, 48.

25. (16) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 48.

26. (28) Tomy Drissi, Toyota, 48.

27. (26) Stanton Barrett, Ford, 48.

28. (35) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 48.

29. (20) Scott Heckert, Ford, 48.

30. (40) Alon Day, Dodge, 48.

31. (38) Paige Decker, Chevrolet, 48.

32. (3) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 47.

33. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 43.

34. (19) Kenny Habul, Chevrolet, Suspension, 26.

35. (37) John Jackson, Dodge, Brakes, 22.

36. (33) Nic Hammann, Dodge, Rear Gear, 22.

37. (34) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 20.

38. (23) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, Electrical, 6.

39. (30) Jeff Green, Toyota, Brakes, 4.

40. (29) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, Accident, 2.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  74.573 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 36 Mins, 20 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.534 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 13 laps.

Lead Changes:  6 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Tagliani 1-9; B. Gaughan 10-11; E. Jones # 12-15; A. Tagliani 16-23; M. McDowell(i) 24-27; E. Jones # 28; M. McDowell(i) 29-48.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. McDowell(i) 2 times for 24 laps; A. Tagliani 2 times for 17 laps; E. Jones # 2 times for 5 laps; B. Gaughan 1 time for 2 laps.

Top 10 in Points: E. Sadler – 770; D. Suarez – 723; J. Allgaier – 720; T. Dillon – 713; B. Gaughan – 707; E. Jones # – 678; B. Poole # – 669; B. Jones # – 652; D. Wallace Jr. – 606; R. Reed – 568.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.