Concord, N.C. (May 25, 2009) – Rain plagued the entire Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, forcing NASCAR to run the longest race of the year on Monday, Memorial Day, instead of the scheduled start on Sunday. Effort was made on Sunday, but just as drivers walked to their cars, the skies opened up. With a noon start on Monday, and fingers crossed to hold off the rain, the field took the green flag. Ragan started 34th and battled with the handling on his UPS Ford for the first half of the race. The field was red flagged a total of three times for track drying and once at 3:00 p.m. EST for a moment of silence in honor of Memorial Day. The moment of silence came in time to have Ragan declared the “lucky dog” and put back on the lead lap. The race was eventually called under rainy skies following lap 227 after attempts to dry the track failed. Ragan was scored 24th while David Reutimann claimed his first victory.
David Ragan and crew felt well prepared heading into the longest race of the season after learning a few things the previous week in the Sprint Showdown at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Things didn’t go quite as planned when it came time to qualify, and Ragan was left starting 34th. With two practice sessions the team figured they had time to work on the handling, but Mother Nature once again had another thing in mind. Second practice went off without a hitch, but shortly into final practice the rains came. With the Nationwide Series practice scheduled to start, NASCAR scrapped final practice and everyone was left short on practice time.
Mother Nature caused NASCAR to call the Nationwide Series race before the official end Saturday night and when it came time to race on Sunday she once again decided to show up. The rains came just as the drivers walked out to their cars to race. They never let up, forcing the teams to roll the cars back to the garage and the race to be run on Memorial Day Monday.
The threatening skies continued on Monday, but the race began at its scheduled starting time of noon. Right from the start, Ragan began to make up ground and was up to 25th just seven laps in, when the caution came for rain. It was a brief caution and the field quickly resumed green flag racing. Ragan reported to his team he was lacking overall grip. He felt it out until the competition caution on lap 40 when the field had the opportunity to come down pit road. Ragan took four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment.
Ragan restarted 18th and felt out the handling until his next opportunity to pit came under caution on lap 72. The previous change had helped and Ragan requested more of the same. The crew did just that but then the skies opened up and the field was red flagged on pit road. Ragan waited for over an hour outside his car until the track was dry and they could resume racing.
Once the field went back to green, Ragan reported to his crew that the car had returned to how it was initially and he needed more grip. Next up were green flag stops, Ragan pitted on lap 130 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. The UPS Ford became extremely loose and Ragan went a lap down to the leaders, but some good luck was around the corner. NASCAR threw a caution followed by a red flag for a moment of silence in honor of Memorial Day. The caution fell as Ragan was the first car a lap down and earned him the “lucky dog” award.
Now back on the lead lap Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment before green flag racing resumed. Unfortunately the rains returned first and Ragan was called back down pit road. Luckily this trip down pit road only lasted about 30 minutes before they were back on the track. Ragan reported that the UPS Ford had started off good after the last set of changes, but had eventually gotten tight.
Ragan made one more stop for four tires, fuel, air and wedge adjustments just before the rain returned. The field was brought down pit road again and the drivers once again got out of the cars waiting to see what NASCAR would decide. NASCAR attempted to dry the track for two hours, but without any luck. In the end Mother Nature won out and the race ended with just 227 of 400 laps completed; Ragan ultimately ended 24th.
“Our UPS Ford is decent at times,” said Ragan. “I think we’ve just been chasing the track more than anything. It seems like once we get it close to being dialed in another rain shower comes and we kind of have to start over again. I would have liked to at least get another 50 or 100 laps in. I think we’ve got a better car than where we finished and I’m sure all the fans out there wanted to see it go the whole way.”
Autism Speaks 400
1.0-mile Dover International Speedway
Sunday, May 31, 2009