Wisconsin native and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Paul Menard took advantage of the off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series to head to his home state for Saturday’s Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville Xfinity Series race in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The extracurricular racing resulted in a win.
“I’ve been really fortunate to win at the three coolest tracks — Indy, Milwaukee and now Road America,” Menard said.
Ryan Blaney finished second and Brian Scott was third.
“It was good racing. He (Menard) got out front by pitting a little bit earlier,” Blaney said. “If we hadn’t run about six caution laps, he would’ve run out of fuel.”
Menard last pitted on lap 24 of the 45-lap race but was able to stretch his fuel mileage the remaining distance, aided at least in part by a lengthy caution with 10 laps to go. The yellow flag was displayed longer than usual as several cars had issues of different kinds throughout the caution, including Regan Smith, whose car died. Also extending the yellow flag was Blake Koch, who ran out of gas while running around the track at caution speed as the race leader. Koch was on the same fuel strategy as
“I was just really frustrated with how the officiating went at the end of the race,” Scott said. “We ran about four too many laps under caution.”
Michael Self moved up to the lead for the restart after Koch ran out of fuel, but as soon as the race returned to green, Menard moved into the lead and Darrell Wallace Jr. into second. Self dropped back to 11th by the finish. Blaney then got by Wallace for second and Scott also got by Wallace to take third. Wallace dropped back to fifth by the checkered flag, as Chase Elliott took fourth.
Elliott dominated the first half of the race. He and JR Motorsports teammate Ben Rhodes started on the front row after rain and fog forced the cancellation of qualifying. Elliott took the lead at the start and ran up front until pitting for the first time under green on lap 12. He stalled his car on pit road, but he had such a sizeable lead before the pit road hiccup that he returned to the lead after the entire field cycled through stops.
Throughout the first half of the race, Elliott pulled away from the race field, at times gaining a second per lap on his closest competitors. At one point, he was up by 13 seconds, nearly a quarter of a mile on the four-mile race track. He stayed out during the second caution of the race at halfway but lost the lead to Scott on lap 27.
After losing the lead to Scott, Elliott’s race went downhill. He quickly lost second to Blaney and ran off course multiple times throughout the race before recovering for a top-five finish.
“Absolutely terrible job on my part. That was the worst race, way beyond too many mistakes,” Elliott said. “I had such a good car, and let them (the No. 9 JR Motorsports team) down.”
After staying out during the second caution while several others, including Menard, pitted on lap 24, Scott gave up the top spot to pit on lap 30. Brendan Gaughan led briefly before pitting, himself, on lap 32, handing the lead over to Menard. Menard then ran up front before falling back a few positions, slowing to conserve fuel and handing the lead over to Koch just before the final yellow flag.
Boris Said finished sixth, Justin Marks was seventh, Smith eighth, Chris Buescher ninth and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-10.