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: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

NHRA
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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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