FORT WORTH, Tex. (April 5, 2009) – Just when it had looked like the bad luck that has plagued David Ragan and the No. 6 UPS team so far this season had lifted, it struck again Sunday afternoon. Texas looked like a place Ragan could gain some ground in the point standings, but thanks to debris on the track, that opportunity was taken away. Ragan was strong all weekend and qualified fourth for the 334-lap event. Ragan hung in the top 10 the entire day, but on lap 283 he reported to the team there was debris on the grill and his water temperature had shot up. He tried to pull up behind someone to dislodge the debris, but to no avail. Ultimately the engine started overheating forcing Ragan down pit road under green. The team put water back in the engine and sent him back on the track. One lap later the engine expired, Ragan finished 37th while Jeff Gordon won the race.
The weekend kicked off on a high note with Ragan posting promising times in the first practice session. Qualifying followed suit and Ragan put the UPS Ford fourth on the charts when it came down to setting the field. The trend continued into both practice sessions on Saturday and everyone was excited for Sunday’s race.
From the drop of the green flag, Ragan had a fast No. 6 UPS Ford and held his track position in the top 10. The race started out with a green flag run and that’s the trend that would continue the entire event. Just 40 laps into the race Ragan reported to his team that the UPS Ford needed more forward bite up off turn four. Luckily for Ragan, green flag stops were right around the corner.
Ragan came in for service under green on lap 52 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. With service complete he returned to the track and once the field had completed green flag stops he was scored in eighth-place. The field continued under the green flag until the first caution of the day waved on lap 96 for debris on the track.
The UPS Ford was handling well, but Ragan needed help in the middle of the turns. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig called him down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. His crew put forth a stellar stop and moved Ragan from eighth to sixth for the restart. Next up was another long green flag run, giving Ragan plenty of time to feel out the handling on his Ford.
Ragan liked the change given to him on the previous stop and wanted to keep the car the way it was. On the next round of green flag stops Ragan cycled through to the lead to gain five bonus points, then came down pit road for four tires and fuel. Shortly after the field had gone through green flag stops the caution was displayed for a spin on the front stretch. With only one lap on the tires, Fennig left Ragan on the track.
Another long green flag run led to another green flag pit stop for Ragan and crew. Driver and crew did their part to maintain track position and keep the UPS Ford in the front. Two more pit stops, all for minor air pressure adjustments, ensued before the race went downhill for Ragan and the team.
On lap 283 Ragan reported to his team that his water temperature had shot up and there must be debris on the grill. Fennig took a look and told him to turn off his blower to try and remove the debris. When that method failed Ragan tried to pull up behind another competitor to take the air off the nose, but that strategy failed too. The engine started spitting water and Ragan was forced to come down pit road. Ragan’s crew gave him four tires, fuel and gave the engine a much needed shot of water. Unfortunately, the water came too late, and the damage from the debris had already been done. Ragan made one lap before reporting that the engine had expired. A promising top-five finish went up in smoke and Ragan was left with a disappointing 37th-place finish.
“I feel like we had a top-five car,” said Ragan. “Our UPS team did a great job on pit road today. It’s just, you know, something that was out of our control is what put us out. We got some trash on the grill and tried to get it off on the track before our last resort, which was pitting. We pitted and lost a lot of water and then ultimately blew up. Just by chance, something like a hotdog wrapper cost us a top-five finish. But we had good speed and a good car. It’s something to build on, but absolutely not the finish that we needed. Just a disappointing finish to a really good day.”
Subway Fresh Fit 500
1.0-mile Phoenix International Raceway
Saturday, April 18, 2009