CLICK: Full race results and Nationwide Series championship standings.
Richard Childress Racing's Brendan Gaughan lead the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 early on Saturday evening but then he faded away for much of the race, until the perfect opportunity presented itself with a final restart with six laps to go that enabled him to get the jump around the outside of his team mate Ty Dillon and JR Motorsports' Chase Elliott, who up to that point had thought they had been the ones battling for victory at Kentucky Speedway.
"I love restarts, and when that caution came out and we were fourth, I got really excited because I knew we were on the outside and thought we had a good group, and we did," said Gaughan after his second Nationwide win of the year and of his career, having initially pushed Dillon to the front before then taking control of the race itself and powering away to claim victory by almost nine tenths of a second.
"You have to choose a teammate, so I chose Ty and pushed him down the back straightaway," Gaughan explained. "He had a launch into turn three, but it was just too much. When they got side-by-side and I've been doing this a long time and an area opened up just enough, I couldn't believe we were able to take off like that."
Dillon had led the field to the green flag after beating Sam Hornish Jr. to his second pole position of the year by 0.078s with a lap of 30.736s (175.690mph) on the 1.5-mile tri-oval speedway, but it was Gaughan starting from third place on the grid who passed Dillon for the lead on lap nine following a restart for an early caution triggered by a spin for Harrison Rhodes in turn 3.
Another caution - this time for Matt DiBenedetto in turn 4 - allowed the field to pit under yellow which put Dillon back in control for the restart ahead of Brian Scott, Sam Hornish Jr., Cale Conley, Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott, with Gaughan slipping back to 11th as the first car to take four tyres this time around. Dillon soon pulled away from the field while Hornish secured second place, and the gap was eventually closed up again by the third caution of the night - this time for debris in turn 1 - on lap 68.
Dillon won the race off pit road with ease and resumed the race in front of Hornish, Scott, Elliott, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne, while Gaughan was circulating in eighth place behind McDowell and working his way forward place-by-place. Another caution on lap 114 (for Ryan Sieg spinning in turn 3) allowed the field to pit under yellow with Dillon once again able to maintain his lead this time over Scott, Elliott, Smith, McDowell and Gaughan in sixth after Hornish dropped out of the top ten as the Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew tackled handling issues that had left the #54 "wrecking loose" during the most recent stint.
Dillon's lead had appeared impregnable all evening and by now he'd led for 155 laps, but with 30 remaining in the 200-lap race his three second lead over Scott was wiped out by a new caution for fluid from Cody Ware's blown engine. Chase Elliott had just managed to get by him at the restart when another caution quickly followed, this time for Eric McClure hitting the wall hard in turn after contact with Chase Pistone. Elliott led the field to the next restart on lap 182 and was just able to fend off Dillon before another caution materialised, this time for Hornish having a big hit with the wall in turn 2 after contact from Regan Smith.
There would be one final caution when Landon Cassill blew a tyre with ten laps to go forcing a yellow for debris in turn 3, and then finally it was time for the final six-lap shoot-out to decide who would clinch the race win: when the green came out it looked as though it was down to a straight slugfest between Elliott and Dillon, but then Gaughan seized his moment and used his slingshot momentum to blast around the outside of them both.
"I spun the tyres a bit there at the end and it really cost us," sighed Dillon of his lost opportunity. "I'm sick for my guys. Our Bass Pros Chevy was top-notch. It's a good thing for confidence to lead all those laps, but this hurts for sure.
"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 them off.
"Elliott was able to get a nose ahead of us there before that last caution came out, and that gave our teammate with four tyres a chance to get up there and take the win," Dillon added. "It was really good, hard racing there at the end."
Neither Dillon nor Elliott could find anything in reserve to give chase to Gauaghan who was nearly a second ahead when the chequered flag came out a few minutes later. That gave Brian Scott a chance to pass both men for second place, after dropping back in pit road with a call to sacrifice track position for a full set of new tyres.
"I thought it was the right call to take four tyres at the end," he explained after helping to deliver a 1-2-3 sweep for RCR. "I restarted sixth and got a good restart and got up to fourth and I thought we were going to win this race. But, unfortunately, we didn't get any long runs and our Shore Lodge Camaro was a little too tight."
In the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, the close finish at Kentucky between the top three in the standings means that there is no change in relative positions between Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and Ty Dillon, with Elliott stretching his lead over the others by two to 20 points. Brian Scott moves up one position to fourth after Elliott Sadler's somewhat disappointing 13th place finish, while despite his win at Kentucky this weekend Gaughan himself remains in eighth place in the championship, almost 200 points off the series leader.
See full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.