This weekend’s return to Road America is not only a prime opportunity for Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR XFINITY Series teams to gain positioning for the Playoffs, but also a chance to retain its dominance at the 4.048-mile road course.
RCR has won three consecutive races at Road America, starting with Brendan Gaughan’s exciting triumph in 2014. Wisconsin-native Paul Menard took the No. 33 Chevrolet to Victory Lane the following year in 2015, and Michael McDowell topped Gaughan to give RCR its third-straight win in 2016.
In the past three races, RCR has led 51 of the 135 competitive laps; more than any other team.
So, what seems to be the key to RCR’s success?
“I think it’s been a combination of good drivers, great setups, and good horsepower from ECR Engines,” said Dr. Eric Warren, director of competition for RCR. “Road America has been great to us these past few years and we definitely feel we’re the team to beat this weekend.”
While Dr. Eric Warren feels RCR is the team to beat this weekend, Gaughan believes the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet is the car to beat.
“It’s stupid-fast,” Gaughan, the 2014 winner, said of Road America. “We all talk about Watkins Glen being the superspeedway of road courses – and it is because of the style of turns it has – but brute strength, Road America has it all. Going downhill to Turn 8 is, ‘holy cow.’ It’s short, but you’re losing 100 feet of elevation and your braking zone is coming up. It’s bad to the bone. I love it. I love that we race there.”
Recapping RCR’s wins
Gaughan’s win in 2014 was spectacular, to say the least. After accumulating some minor damage and running off course, Gaughan and crew chief Shane Wilson opted for a different pit strategy than most of their competitors. He finished the race with Goodyear Racing rain tires and held off the No. 22 car, which had switched back to regular race tires. Gaughan recorded his first career XFINITY Series win.
Menard’s win in 2015 was a special moment in his racing career. In front of most of his family, he stretched a long green-flag run and saved fuel to make it until the checkered flag. Menard, who grew up just a few miles down the road in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was ecstatic to win at his home track.
Last season, McDowell was tapped to drive the No. 2 Rheem Chevy at Road America with the Cup Series competing in Michigan. McDowell, having grown up a road course racer, dominated much of the race having led 24 of the 45 laps. He scored his first career NASCAR victory that afternoon by holding off a hard-charging Gaughan.
Trying to make it four in a row
Ben Kennedy, Scott Lagasse Jr, Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric and Gaughan will drive the five cars RCR is fielding this weekend. Only Gaughan has scored a win previously on a road course, while Hemric was the runner-up two races ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Catch the action this Sunday, August 27th at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.