Brendan Gaughan takes lead with 6 laps to go, wins Nationwide at Kentucky

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Following a frenetic final restart with seven laps to go, Brendan Gaughan emerged with the lead and went on to win his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Gaughan took the restart in fourth behind leader Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon, and Brian Scott but quickly moved to third and took advantage of Elliott and Dillon’s hard battle for the lead.

While Elliott and Dillon’s fight raged on the front stretch, Gaughan roared by Dillon for second and on the next lap down the backstretch, he pulled side-by-side with Elliott. Gaughan then grabbed the lead off Turn 4 and never looked back.

“I love my restarts,” a joyful Gaughan told ESPN in Victory Lane. “…It means a lot [to win on an oval], especially the way we did it passing Chase Elliott and my teammate Ty Dillon – great race teams, great young race car drivers. [But the] old dog still had a little something left.”

Scott fought to finish second while Dillon held off Elliott for third, ensuring a 1-2-3 finish for Richard Childress Racing in the Bluegrass State. Regan Smith completed the Top 5.

Dillon had dominated Saturday’s race before a caution came out with 31 laps to go for Cody Ware’s blown engine. In the ensuing pit stops, Dillon managed to keep the lead.

But Elliott rose up to challenge Dillon on the restart with 26 laps left and was able to take the lead before another crash in Turn 3 quickly brought out the yellow again.

Elliott then nailed the next restart with 19 to go, while Dillon lost second to Michael McDowell. One lap later, Smith got into the back of Sam Hornish Jr. and sent the former Indianapolis 500 winner into the wall, bringing out another caution.

Dillon won a three-wide battle for second on the restart with 15 laps to go before a wayward tire carcass from Landon Cassill’s car settled on the front stretch to force the caution again and set up the final restart.

Understandably, Dillon was a bit somber after leading a race-high 155 laps but being unable to close the deal.

“These restarts are so tough, and I thought the top was the way to go,” he said. “I spun the tires a little bit [on the restart with 26 to go] and [Elliott] was able to get around us. Right before the caution came out, he had the nose on us, so that put us behind.

“All those cautions gave my teammates with four tires an opportunity to get up to the front. It’s just hard racing. I’m sick for my guys, I really am…It’s a good thing to lead all those laps for confidence, but it hurts for sure.”

However, Dillon congratulated his teammate Gaughan on a job well done, and so did Elliott.

“These cars are under-powered and aero becomes a big deal, and on the restarts, when you get the side draft on those guys and the guy behind you get such a great run, it’s hard to hold them both of ’em off,” he said of the final restart.

“Congrats to Brendan. It was cool to see those guys get the job done tonight.”

Elliott extended his championship lead slightly over JR Motorsports teammate Smith to a 20-point margin this evening. Dillon remains third in the standings, down 38 markers.

Six races remain in the 2014 season, with a trip to the one-mile, high-banked Dover International Speedway coming next Saturday afternoon.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES AT KENTUCKY – VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300
Unofficial Results

1. 62- Brendan Gaughan, led 22 laps
2. 2-Brian Scott
3. 3-Ty Dillon, led 155 laps
4. 9-Chase Elliott, led 20 laps
5. 7-Regan Smith
6. 33-Cale Conley
7. 60-Chris Buescher
8. 22-Michael McDowell
9. 20-Justin Boston
10. 80-Ross Chastain
11. 16-Ryan Reed
12. 42-Dylan Kwasniewski
13. 11-Elliott Sadler
14. 99-James Buescher
15. 6-Trevor Bayne
ONE LAP DOWN
16. 4-Jeffrey Earnhardt
TWO LAPS DOWN
17. 39-Ryan Sieg
18. 5-Austin Theriault
19. 43-Dakoda Armstrong
20. 31-Chase Pistone
THREE LAPS DOWN
21. 51-Jeremy Clements
22. 93-Kevin Swindell
23. 28-J.J. Yeley
24. 19-Mike Bliss
25. 44-Blake Koch
26. 40-Matt DiBenedetto
27. 55-Jamie Dick
FOUR LAPS DOWN
28. 52-Joey Gase

29. 01-Landon Cassill, Lap 191, Vibration
30. 54-Sam Hornish Jr., Lap 186, Accident
31. 14-Eric McClure, Lap 170, Accident
32. 23-Cody Ware, Lap 159, Engine
33. 70-Derrike Cope, Lap 45, Rear Gear
34. 17-Tanner Berryhill, Lap 36, Vibration
35. 72-Harrison Rhodes, Lap 33, Suspension
36. 89-Morgan Shepherd, Lap 17, Vibration
37. 87-Josh Reaume, Lap 9, Rear Gear
38. 74-Mike Harmon, Lap 9, Transmission
39. 46-Ryan Ellis, Lap 6, Vibration
40. 10-Jeff Green, Lap 3, Vibration

NHRA: Top 10 storylines of the 2019 season

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The 2019 NHRA season wound up being one where there was almost as much news and highlights made off the drag strip as on it.

That was the case in two of the top four storylines for the recently completed season, with the top story occurring even before the first pass down a drag strip in competition took place.

We’ve also included a poll for you to vote and see if you agree with our picks or not.

Here’s how our top 10 looks:

1. A Force-ful departure: Just two weeks before the 2019 season was due to open, Funny Car driver Courtney Force, daughter of 16-time champion John Force, stunned the drag racing world by announcing she was taking a hiatus from the sport – although she insisted she was not retiring. The wife of IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, Force turned over her high dollar Advance Auto Parts sponsorship to sister and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, who had previously been sponsored by Monster Energy. Courtney Force became the second high-profile female drag racer to step away from the sport in just over a year, joining fellow Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, who went on hiatus after the 2017 season. This past October, DeJoria announced she would return to full-time NHRA competition in 2020. But as for Courtney, she remains on hiatus for at least the time being.

2. Torrence’s Texas two-step: Proud Texas native Steve Torrence won his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in 2019, winning nine races (including eight in a nine-race stretch). While Torrence enjoyed an outstanding season in 2018, winning 11 races and becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win all six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, he won just one playoff race in 2019. But he still managed to earn just enough points to hold off his closest rival, Doug Kalitta, by a mere three points for the second championship. Also of note: Steve’s father Billy finished a career-best fifth in the final standings, even though he competed in just 16 of the season’s 24 national events.

3. What happened to ‘The Sarge’? Tony Schumacher is the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history, with eight championships and 84 national event wins. But he was essentially AWOL in 2019, failing to compete in even one race. The reason: sponsorship. Or more precisely, lack thereof. The U.S. Army, which had sponsored Schumacher for nearly 20 years – which prompted him to adopt the colorful nickname of “The Sarge” — pulled its funding after the 2018 season, leaving Schumacher without a fully-funded ride for 2019. Rather than try to race piecemeal from race to race with limited sponsorship, the son of team owner Don Schumacher decided to watch the season from the sidelines. How Schumacher could not attract a new big dollar sponsor, given his domination and success in the Top Fuel class, is almost unfathomable. Unfortunately, it’s looking like Schumacher – who turns 50 on Christmas Day – may remain sidelined in 2020.

John Force

4. A Force to be reckoned with once again: Even though he fell short of adding to his record 16 NHRA Funny Car championships, the 2019 season was definitely one of resurgence for John Force, the sport’s winningest and most popular driver ever. Force, who turned 70 years old in May, isn’t letting age slow him down, earning two wins during the season – including a milestone 150th Funny Car victory of his career – and finished fourth in the standings (up from ninth in 2018, seventh in 2017, and his best finish since he ended up fourth in 2016).

Robert Hight

5. At the Hight of his success: Robert Hight isn’t flashy or verbose as his boss, John Force. But when he’s not working as president of John Force Racing, the soft-spoken Hight has become one of the premier drivers in Funny Car history. In 2019, he earned his third Funny Car championship – his second in the last three seasons and third since 2009. Along the way, he captured six wins (including a milestone 50th win), was runner-up three other times, reached the semifinals five times and led all drivers as the No. 1 qualifier for eight races (a full one-third of the season). This was perhaps the most dominant championship of all for Hight, including leading the Funny Car standings for 23 of the 24-race season.

Erica Enders

6. Erica’s baaaaccckkkk: Erica Enders is back on top of her game, and on top of the Pro Stock category, earning her third championship in the last six seasons (and first since 2015). Admittedly, her championship came in the first year of a shortened Pro Stock schedule, having been cut from a full 24 races to just 18. Still, the Texas native won two races, finished runner-up three other times and reached the semifinals four other times. Also of note, Enders’ Elite Motorsports teammate, five-time Pro Stoc champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., came oh, so close to winning his sixth title, finishing just 21 points behind Enders in the final standings.

Doug Kalitta

7. What does he have to do to win first championship? Doug Kalitta came the closest he ever has to earning the first Top Fuel championship of his 20-year drag racing career, finishing just three points behind Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel rankings. It was almost heartbreaking as Kalitta seemingly did everything he needed to do to win the championship, including winning the season-ending race in Pomona, California, one of three wins he earned (as well as two runner-up finishes and six semifinal showings). Kalitta began the season with a win at Pomona, as well. But Torrence came into the season-ending event at Pomona with just enough of a lead (and reached the semifinals) to hold off Kalitta’s challenge. How close was Kalitta from winning the championship? If he had advanced one more round in any of the six playoff races, he would have bested Torrence. Unfortunately, in a sense, Kalitta – nephew of legendary NHRA team owner and racer Connie Kalitta – has become the Mark Martin of NHRA Top Fuel: always a bridesmaid but never a bride when it comes to winning a championship. But there’s still hope, Kalitta fans: he’s going to give it another try in 2020. Maybe that will be his year – finally.

Andrew Hines

8. He’s one heck of an easy rider: Andrew Hines made it look easy in 2019 – although it was far from it – when he earned his sixth career NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship (and first since 2015). Son of past PSM champion Byron Hines, Andrew Hines enjoyed one of the most dominating seasons ever of his career — not to mention one of the most dominating seasons in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category — winning eight of the 16 PSM events contested, along with earning two runner-up and three semifinal finishes. Hines held off 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie by 26 points and 2018 champ Matt Smith by 46 points.

JR Todd

9. What a difference a year makes: JR Todd had an exceptional season in 2018, with six wins, two runner-up finishes and six semifinal showings. Not surprisingly, the Indiana native went on to win the Funny Car championship that season for Kalitta Motorsports. But one year later, Todd was seemingly an afterthought when it came to challenging for the Funny Car crown once again. For as good as he was in 2018, Todd struggled through much of the 2019 season with just one win, three runner-up and two other semifinal finishes, ultimately finishing seventh in the standings, a distant 246 points behind series champ Robert Hight, who was second to Todd in 2018.

Austin Prock

10. Strong start for sport’s top rookie: When your father is renowned crew chief Jimmy Prock, it’s clear that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Such is the case of Austin Prock, who finished his first season in Top Fuel by earning NHRA’s rookie of the year honors. The younger Prock finished eighth in the Top Fuel season standings, including one win and five semifinal finishes driving for John Force Racing. Ironically, he finished one spot higher than three-time Top Fuel champ Antron Brown, who had a rough season, finishing ninth in the standings, with no wins, two runner-up showings and reached the semifinals just five times.

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