Michael McDowell wins NASCAR Xfinity road race
Elkhart Lake, Wis. — Michael McDowell pointed his No. 2 Chevy against a concrete barrier at the finish line, burning his tires in a smoky celebration.
Finally, a late lead didn’t disappear for McDowell at Road America.
McDowell edged teammate Brendan Gaughan by 0.534 seconds in overtime on an overcast, sometimes misty Saturday afternoon at the sprawling road course for his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.
Brennan Poole was third, while pole-sitter Alex Tagliani finished seventh in the 194-mile race.
After five career top-five starts at Road America, McDowell has the ending that he sorely wanted.
“Today was a great day to check it off” the list, said McDowell, a regular on NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup circuit.
McDowell finished second in 2012. He dominated most of the race the previous year before losing the lead on the second of three attempts at a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
McDowell started watching video of that race on Friday night before deciding to turn it off.
“I shut it off with five to go,” he said. “I’m glad I did.”
Gaughan nearly played spoiler.
The Richard Childress Racing teammates went bumper-to-bumper midway through the last lap.
“When I came out of Turn 5, Brendan was right there with me,” McDowell said. “I said, ‘Uh oh.’”
It was the start of a four-turn stretch of the 14-turn track in which Gaughan said he thought he had the best shot to overtake McDowell.
McDowell held on through the critical eighth turn, and cut off Gaughan’s passing lanes from there. Gaughan couldn’t catch up, even with fresher tires.
“Michael and I have always raced with respect, so I’m not going to do anything stupid,” Gaughan said. “Got right to his rear bumper, but just couldn’t pull it through (Turns 9 and 10) to get to him.”