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Brendan Gaughon Wins Wild, Rain Soaked Gardner Denver 200.
Company News Tuesday, June 24, 2014: CompAir SA (Pty) Ltd
The track at Road America wasn’t the only thing with a lot of twists and turns. The Gardner Denver 200 had its fair share of interesting twists as well.
While most of the United States bathed under beautiful sunny skies, rain clouds hovered over Road America throughout most of the race, which was actually delayed an hour until drivers could figure out how they should equip their cars. The track wasn’t wet enough to require rain tires, yet it wasn’t dry enough to use the speedier “slick” tires cars normally race with. Race teams also debated whether to add a rarely used accessory to their cars, windshield wipers.
Gardner Denver’s CEO Peter Wallace finally dropped the green flag about an hour after the scheduled start time.
Race announcers predicted this event would be known as the “race they ran in the rain”. Almost all of the drivers in the race had zero experience racing in the rain, which only added to the complexity of the event.
Sam Hornish Jr. led early in the race, but wet weather conditions descended on the track at about the half way point and all cars went to their rain tires. During the latter part of the race Alex Tagliani took and maintained a comfortable lead.
With 14 laps to go the skies began to clear and then the race teams had to decide if they were going to switch back to the slick tires or stay with the rain tires. Without enough water on the track, rain tires will blister and fall apart, but at the same time slick tires cannot effectively operate on a wet track.
The Gardner Denver 200 became a microcosm of doing business in today’s global economy. Strategies are made but can quickly become outdated when there are changes in the marketplace. Many of the drive teams interviewed were expecting a dry track and had to hustle to adjust to the wet conditions. In the end, the ones who were able to adapt quickly were the most successful.
It didn’t hurt that the driver who led the race for the longest time, Alex Tagliani, was one of the very few who had experience driving in the rain, and it showed.
Another driver made his way from last place to fifth place and looked poised to make a serious run at the leaders, but then struggled once the rains came.
With 9 laps to go and the sun casting shadows it became apparent that the track would not dry off enough for slick tires to be put on.
Late in the race the leader Tagliani had to refuel. This allowed the lead to change hands. In the end it was Brendan Gaughon who crossed the finish line first, eight-tenths of a second ahead of Tagliani, who made an almost miraculous recovery coming from back of the pack to 2nd place in just two laps. When he stopped for refueling slick tires were put on the car and he flew through the competition, falling less than a second shy of winning.
It was an improbable win for the former driving instructor at Road America. Gaughon ran off course while driving in the rain without a windshield wiper, he was bumped a few times, and even had to make a pit stop to remove grass from his grill that accumulated when he spun off the track. That caused his engine to overheat. That pit stop ironically may have been the thing that helped him win the race as he was able to refuel. Many of his rivals ran out of gas near the very end of the race.
CEO Peter Wallace was on hand to present the Gardner Denver 200 trophy to Brendan’s elated team. It was an especially sweet victory, his first after 98 tries in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.