Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - David Ragan proved that just about anybody
can win at Talladega Superspeedway.
If a driver can avoid being caught up in the big wrecks and be in the thick of
things during the final lap around this 2.66-mile superspeedway, then he or
she has a shot of crossing the finish line in first place.
That was indeed the case on Sunday at Talladega.
Ragan avoided the first major accident, involving 16 cars, in the early going
and then the second big one, claiming 12 cars, in the closing laps. The last
caution set up a two-lap overtime finish, as darkness approached due to a rain
delay of 3 hours, 36 minutes earlier in the day.
Heading into the last lap, Ragan ran in the sixth position, while his Front
Row Motorsports teammate, David Gilliland, was right behind him in seventh.
Gilliland pushed Ragan on the backstretch before Ragan dipped below Carl
Edwards and passed him for the lead in turn 3. Gilliland moved into second.
Ragan went on to beat Gilliland to the finish line by 0.2 seconds, while
Edwards crossed the line in a close third.
"I knew once I came out of turn 4 I had enough steam that I could have made my
car wide enough that I was going to make it back around to the start-finish
line," Ragan said. "It's a huge, huge deal for us to be sitting here right
now, and it makes it even more special to get a one-two finish. Can you
Edwards, who was attempting to win at Talladega for the first time, said he
had no idea Ragan and Gilliland were charging through the field the way they
did on the final lap. Edwards had passed Matt Kenseth for the lead right after
the restart for the green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth had been dominant
throughout the race, leading 142 of 192 laps.
"I had a blast, and on the white-flag lap I thought we were going to win it
until I saw those guys (Ragan and Gilliland) coming, and I thought, 'Who is
that?' and they were coming," Edwards said. "I blocked as much as I could.
David did everything but spin me out down the back straightaway. He was all
over the back bumper. I could feel from the way he was pushing and moving that
if I turned to stay across his hood and they went one way and I went the other
that I knew I was going to be on the highlight reel for the wrong reasons."
Edwards was thankful the last lap in this race wasn't a repeat of what
happened in the 2009 spring event at Talladega, where he crashed spectacularly
into the catch fence along the front stretch while battling Brad Keselowski for
Ragan claimed his second career Sprint Cup Series victory. His first win came
in July 2011 at Daytona, the sister track to Talladega, when he drove for
Roush Fenway Racing. His Talladega victory also earned him a spot in the May
18 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte.
"That's a big deal for our team and for our sponsors," he said. "We try to
sell Front Row Motorsports, and it's tough to sell a team when we run 15th or
20th or 25th, and we're not battling for a championship. It's tough to do
that, and it means a lot to be in our all-star event in our sport, which I
think is the best all-star event in any of the major league sports."
Ragan delivered Front Row Motorsports its first win in NASCAR's premier
series, which gives the underfunded three-car team a huge boost in securing
more sponsorship opportunities. Josh Wise, a Nationwide Series regular, also
drives for the team.
"It will help our program; there's no doubt about that," team owner Bob
Jenkins said. "My philosophy from the beginning is, in this sport, you have to
make your own place at the table. Nobody is going to give it to you. I've
always felt like if we can go out and perform and put out a good product, then
sponsorship will come, respect will come and hopefully wins will come. That's
kind of been our attitude all along."
Jenkins' team entered Sprint Cup competition in 2005, and ran a limited
schedule with many lesser-known drivers during its first four years in the
series. Gilliland joined the team in 2010, while Ragan came on board two years
Prior to Ragan's win at Talladega, the best finish for a Front Row Motorsports
driver in a Cup race was Gilliland's third-place run in the 2011 Daytona 500.
Ragan gave the team its second top-five finish last October, placing fourth at
"We've worked really hard at Front Row on our speedway program, because it's a
great equalizer racing at Daytona and Talladega," said Jay Guy, who serves as
the crew chief for Ragan's No. 34 Ford. "This is our chance to shine, so we
always put a little extra effort into these races. Did I think when I woke up
(Sunday) morning that we were going to be sitting here? No. I thought we had a
good shot at being in the top 10 solidly. Last year, we finished seventh and
fourth, but that's last year. You can't live off of what you did yesterday.
"I thought our pit crew has taken a big step forward, and our team has gotten
stronger as a whole. I thought we had a chance, but to be up here, I'd be
lying if I said yeah."
Before Talladega, Ragan had finished no better than 20th and Gilliland 23rd
"Some day we want to be an organization that can go and compete for wins on a
weekly basis, but we're not there yet," Gilliland said. "So to be able to come
to these type of tracks, we definitely put a lot of preparation into and a lot
of emphasis on our speedway program, and (Sunday), we had two very fast race
cars, and we were able to come home 1-2."
Currently 26th in the point standings, Ragan's odds of making this year's
Chase for the Sprint Cup championship are about the same as his chances were
of winning at Talladega, which were quite slim. But, hey, Daytona's second race
of the season is two months away. If Ragan can win another race and hold a
top-20 position in points when the regular season concludes on Sept. 7 at
Richmond, then he has a very good shot of earning one of the two wild card
positions for the Chase.
Front Row Motorsports would certainly savor that accomplishment.
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