RICHMOND, Vir. (May 2, 2009) – Richmond International Raceway is one of David Ragan’s favorite tracks and a place where he’s finished strong in the past. Unfortunately this time around worn tires and track position would cost him the top-10 finish he deserved. Ragan qualified his No. 6 UPS Freight Ford 22nd and survived all 15 cautions in the 400 lap race. Ultimately, a tight handling car and worn tires resulted in a 23rd-place finish for Ragan.
The No. 6 UPS Ford had a new look in Richmond, UPS Freight was the paint scheme and Ragan’s Ford went from brown to silver. The car was solid in both practice sessions and when it came time to qualify Ragan put the UPS Freight car 22nd on the starting grid.
The rains came Saturday morning, but luckily cleared out in time for the race to start. With a green track from all the rain NASCAR started the field under caution to ensure the track was dry. The field went full speed on lap seven and Ragan slowly began to advance through the field. The first caution came just two laps after the field went green and the UPS Ford was handling well at that point so Ragan remained on the track.
Next up for the field was a long green flag run, which led into green flag pit stops. Ragan reported to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the UPS Ford was a little tight in the middle and up off the corners of each turn. Fennig called Ragan down pit road for his green flag pit stop on lap 97 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan returned to the track and to everyone’s dismay immediately began to lose track position. Luckily help wasn’t to far away.
The next caution came on lap 115 with Ragan being scored back in the 19th position. Ragan told Fennig that the set of tires he had just put on the car bounced a lot and affected his handling. Luckily the field was under caution and Ragan could pit for four new tires, fuel and to have the air pressure adjustment from the previous stop reversed. Racing resumed on lap 122 with Ragan sitting 18th and over the next run the handling just didn’t seem to improve for Ragan.
The next caution came and Ragan once again requested Fennig’s help in getting the UPS Ford to cut better through the center of the turns. Fennig brought Ragan down pit road for four tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment. The change was a plus and Ragan slowly crept forward through the field. Three more stops under multiple cautions for similar adjustments seemed to help, but just didn’t solve the problem. Then on lap 269 while running 22nd Ragan was passed by the leader. The goal turned to getting the “lucky dog” and getting back onto the lead lap.
Four cautions later on lap 307 Ragan was finally in position to be the “lucky dog” and took full advantage of being back on the lead lap. Ragan pitted for four tires and fuel and was ready to track down the field. Ragan survived four cautions on the track with the help of his spotter and worked his way up into the top 10. Track position is key at Richmond, so with the multiple cautions in the closing laps the field stayed on the track as to not lose spots.
With 38 laps remaining in the race Ragan restarted 10th, but a long green flag run to the end and worn out tires left him with a 23rd-place finish. Kyle Busch went on to win the Crown Royal 400, sweeping the weekend after his win in the Nationwide Series race on Friday night. Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.
“For a while there at the end I thought we were going to sneak a top-10 out of it,” said Ragan. “I’m real proud of our UPS team. We made good adjustments on the car, but track position was just so important. If we had a good pit stop and we were on the right cycle as far as pitting, we were a top-10 car, but if we had a goof on pit road or if I made a mistake on a restart and we lost a few spots, we just couldn’t seem to go anywhere. It was typical short track racing. It’s all about track position and that’s ultimately what won the race for everyone and that’s what cost us a top-10 finish. I feel like we had a car with good enough speed. Maybe if it was a 500-lap race we could have got back to the front, but when those guys all pitted for tires behind us and we were right there on the tail end of guys with no tires, we just didn’t have the speed to stay with those guys with fresh tires.”
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