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David Ragan wins the Talladega 500 in a stunning 'David-versus-Goliath' finish

David Ragan wins the Talladega 500 in a stunning 'David-versus-Goliath' finish

Another 'Big One' at Talladega Sunday: Here Kurt Busch (78) lands atop Ryan Newman's car (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




   By Mike Mulhern


   Score one for the 'little guys' in this lavishly expensive and extravagant sport.

   And, yes, good guys sometimes do finish first.
   David Ragan pulled the upset the season Sunday evening in what he correctly described as "a true David-versus-Goliath" moment, hooking up with teammate David Gilliland for the green-white-checkered overtime finish to beat Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in a wild, rain-darkened finish to the Talladega 500/Aarons 499.
    Rain played havoc midway through the race, which started at noon CT and didn't finish until seven hours later. The wet forced NASCAR to red-flag the event for three hours, 36 minutes.
    The race finally resumed just after 6 pm CT, with 60 laps -- 160 miles -- to go, facing sunset at 7:30 p.m., and thick clouds turned the track very dark much earlier.
    Twice the race was marred by devastating multi-car crashes. The first one, 90 miles in, took out 16 cars, including top challengers Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers (subbing for Denny Hamlin), Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.
   But it was the second one, with just minutes left in the race, that was even more frightening, a 10- car melee just behind the leaders, with Kurt Busch flipping and rolling and landing atop Ryan Newman's car. None of the drivers was seriously injured, but Newman, who has had more than his share of terrifying crashes here, was livid at the crash and lashed out hard at NASCAR officials.
     "They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls," Newman began, after emerging from the infield care center. "But they can't get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the race track, and that's pretty disappointing.
    "I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y'all can figure out who 'they' is.
     "That's no way to end a race. That's just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment: I mean you got what you wanted, but (it was) poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain....."

   Yes! David Ragan (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Newman may well be getting a huge fine from NASCAR for his criticism; he was hit with a $50,000 'secret' fine two years ago for criticism of the style of racing drivers must do here, in huge packs. And NASCAR has been hitting drivers and teams with numerous fines and penalties this spring.    
    Newman clearly didn't worry about that threat. Here's the video: HERE
    The race was filled with drivers blocking and pushing and shoving, and Kahne and Kyle Busch argued over just was to blame in their bumps, which wiped out many top contenders.
    Kahne blamed Busch for the bump; Busch said he was trying to go around Kahne on the outside and got squeezed high. Here are the videos: HERE and HERE

    "I felt Kyle pushing me, and next thing I know I was spinning," Kahne said.  "You just can't push with these cars.  We learned that at Daytona; he was pushing me and spun me in the wall -- and then happened again.
     "I think we both probably understand what happened, and we will figure it out from there."

    Ragan hit the major leagues driving for Jack Roush, winning Daytona, when UPS was sponsor. When UPS dropped the deal, Ragan moved to Bob Jenkins' team, still in the Ford camp.
    But Jenkins runs a very small operation, and top 10s aren't part of the financial equation.
   So this win is big for the whole team. Here are the winning, and losing, moves: HERE

   "In this sport you have to make your own place at the table," Jenkins said. "And that's what we're trying to do."

   It was extremely dark for the final laps of the Talladega 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Ragan -- who afterwards joked about being confused by some perhaps with Saturday Nationwide winner Regan Smith -- is one of the nicest guys in this sport. In the final moments Sunday he was also one of the most furious.

   For the final restart, green-white-checkered, two laps of an overtime shootout, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, former teammates, were on the front row, with Jimmie Johnson and Smith right behind. The winner figured to be one of those four.

   But Ragan and teammate David Gilliland had other plans. And after the race Kenseth, Edwards, Johnson and Smith were all licking their wounds.

      "I'm kind of a low-key guy, but, man, I don't know," Ragan said in victory lane, almost stunned himself by the win, his second on the tour.
      "If it wasn't for that final push from David Gilliland....I owe him a lot.
      "This is special to get Front Row Motorsports (owned by one of the sport's small owners, Bob Jenkins) their first win.
      "The draft is a big equalizer, and anything can happen.  Our Ford was fast; we made the right pit calls all day, and we were just in the right place at the right time.
    "We're a small team.  We build our own chassis, our own bodies.  This is big.
    "We were going to be happy with 18th or 20th on the first big rain storm. 
     "On my restart I got a great start. But Matt had been the class of the field, and Matt (then a teammate) pushed me to a win at Daytona a year or two ago, so I decided to stay with Matt.
    "Coming off  turn two he was blocking everybody, and I had a great run."

   Kenseth was almost stunned at losing a race he dominated: "It was a good run....a really disappointing finish.  

    "First, congratulations to David and David.  That was cool to see the underdogs go up there and grab one; so I'm happy for them guys.

    "Man, I don’t know...Carl  just got a rocket restart and cleared me down the backstretch.   I thought we still had a shot.  I tried to get right on Carl, and he blocked -- which you should -- and we got real wide getting up there in turn one, because he got me pretty far to the top.

    "And I just didn't watch the runs from them guys way in the back.  They got a huge run up the middle.

     "I saw David Ragan at the last minute, but he was going too fast -- if I pulled in front of him I was just going to get wrecked. So I had to bite the bullet and try to find a hole...there wasn't one.

    "So it was a disappointing ending to the day. But, man, we had a great car again."


   A wild day at the track (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Gilliland, a hardworking journeyman racer, like Ragan, provided the key push, which caught Kenseth and Edwards by such surprise.
   "My crew chief, Frank Kerr, said 'You've got to have the restart of your life,' and we had a good one," Gilliland said.
    "It was dark, sprinkling a little bit, but we got a good restart. Michael Waltrip got behind me and was giving me a great shove. Got hooked up with Ragan and stayed glued to his bumper.
    "A huge day for any team to get first and second, but for Front Row Motorsports and our little team, and what we do it with, we're really proud of that.
    "Bob Jenkins does this deal probably 80 or 90 percent out of his own pocket."

    Edwards started from the pole, went to the back early, then led a Ford charge back to the front late.
   And the final restart with two to go, Kenseth and Edwards were on the front row, with Jimmie Johnson and Regan Smith right behind them.
    However those four couldn't break away and got mixed up in the jockeying around, and when Ragan and Gilliland charged up toward the front, the first four misjudged things and left an opening.
    "The last 60 laps ended up being 60 of the most educational laps I've had at a plate race," Edwards said.  "I learned a ton.
    "I had a blast, and on the whiteflag lap I thought we were going to win it, until I saw these guys coming.
    "I thought 'Who is that?'
     "And they were coming. 
     "I blocked as much as I could. 
     "David (a former teammate at Roush's) did everything but spin me out down the back straightaway, was all over the back bumper. And I could feel from the way he was pushing, and moving, that if I turned to stay across his hood, I knew I was going to be on the highlight reel for the wrong reasons. 
    "These guys got by... but we had a onetwothree finish for Ford, which is huge. And I know it's huge for these guys and Front Row Motorsports.
    "As frustrated as I am about the loss, I'm really happy for these guys -- it couldn't happen to two better guys and a hardworking team.
    "David just got us. He just did it. 
     "Of course he raced me clean: It's Talladega....and as long as I'm not upside down in the fence, I think it was pretty clean. 
    "I don't know how you define 'clean' here, but he did his job.  He raced me as hard as he could have raced me without wrecking me. 
    "I don't think either one of us could have tried any harder without being wrecked. And he got me.  So he earned the win."

   In something of a postscript, Brad Keselowski, who restarted just ahead of Ragan at the GWC, argued Ragan lined up wrong, to gain an advantage.
    Ragan disagreed, and explained his side: "We were lined up eighth, with one to go, and NASCAR adjusted the lineup for the restart...and I knew we were probably higher in the order than we should have been.
    'Obviously Brad wanted to start on the outside like I did. He just didn't want to listen to NASCAR (on the 'adjustment'). Brad was just trying to snooker us.
     "And he restarted ninth and I started 10th.
   "He might not admit it, but NASCAR will straighten him out. He knows he lined up in the right spot, and I lined up in the right spot."



   Good guys in white: David Ragan at the finish line, first (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)









great to see front row go 1-2.David and David did

great to see front row go 1-2.David and David did a excellent job right when it counted.

On a side note jeff gordon needs a new crew chief.Its just not working and its sad to see such a telent suffer race after race

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Feel Good Story

Awesome win for David Ragan. Great to see a classy guy on an underfunded team come in 1st. A great finish to an 8-hour race. Glad to see Front Row finish 1-2.
I have mixed feelings about Newman\'s comments. He\'s right in that it\'s the same ole pack racing and that until somebody gets seriously injured or killed that it\'s not going to change. As far as the raining and darkness comments, those would not have been made if he had been in victory lane instead of the care center. The leader begs for it to be called for rain or darkness, but the other drivers behind him are chomping at the bit waiting for the restart. Austin Dillon was crying on Saturday while he had the lead saying that the track was too wet to continue. Had he been in second, the track would have been just fine.
NASCAR needs to find a way to let these cars run unrestricted, and spend some of their own money to test cars to see what can work. How much to cut the horsepower for superspeedway engines to make this happen? A super spoiler to create drag? Do some testing and find out. NASCAR only wants easy, and fixing the racing at these tracks isn\'t going to be easy. NASCAR pops a plate on the intake and says \"that fixes it\". No, it doesn\'t. Get your hands dirty and figure out a way to allow these cars to run unrestricted and so that they can gain some separation from each other so that 10-20 cars aren\'t taken out every time there\'s a wreck. It will make these races \"safer\", and greatly lessen the mega-crashes that occur now during every superspeedway race.

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