BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 22, 2009) – Short tracks are David Ragan’s favorite, and at .533-miles, Bristol Motor Speedway more than fits the description of a short track. Bristol is typically a caution-plagued 500-lap race, but this time long green flag runs didn’t allow the team to pit and make many adjustments to the UPS Ford. Ragan lacked forward bite throughout the race which left him struggling to make the front end turn. A two-tire stop early in the race helped gain track position, but shortly after, Ragan was shuffled back and couldn’t make up the lost track position. Kyle Busch dominated the race, leaving very few cars on the lead lap. Ultimately, Ragan ended the race 27th, three laps down to race winner Kyle Busch.
Ragan and crew headed to Bristol with a brand new UPS Ford and had high hopes of getting a good finish, but things didn’t go quite as planned. The team struggled through practice Friday trying to get the UPS Ford to turn for Ragan. Speed doesn’t come without handling and the crew had their work cut out for them. By Saturday the team had the UPS Ford tuned in and in the top 10 in the final two practice sessions, but qualifying was scheduled for Friday afternoon, before things improved on Saturday which resulted in a less than desirable qualifying effort for Ragan. Following the changes in the car’s set-up on Saturday, things were looking up for the race after the final practice session.
From his 41st-place starting position Ragan said “we’ll try to get these guys one at a time, we’ve done this before here, lets get a top-10 finish,” prior to the drop of the green flag. Ragan did as he said and had moved up ten spots by the first caution on lap 27. In a move to gain track position by crew chief Jimmy Fennig, Ragan pitted under caution for two tires and fuel. The move gained Ragan ten spots at a place where track position is key.
Ragan continued the trek towards the front and was running 18th on lap 59 when the third caution came out. The corners were still plaguing Ragan, so Fennig gave him four new tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment. Around lap 90 Ragan got stuck in the bottom groove around the track and couldn’t get up to the top like he needed. He lost multiple spots and settled back into 31st. The caution came out that same lap and Ragan was still loosing forward grip. Fennig reversed the changes he had just made and gave Ragan four more tires.
Everything Fennig threw at the car didn’t seem to help the handling. On lap 154 Ragan was passed by Kyle Busch and from there on the goal was to get back on the lead lap. Unfortunately Busch was very strong and would ultimately put Ragan and many others multiple laps down.
Three more pit stops for more wedge, air and track bar adjustments occurred over the second half of the race. One of the stops resulted in the cords showing through Ragan’s right-rear tire after a long green flag run. When all was said and done, Ragan finished 27th, three laps down to race winner Kyle Busch. Busch dominated the day, leaving only 16 of 43 cars on the lead lap with him at the conclusion of the race.
“It was just a really long day,” said Ragan. “That first run we picked up 10 or 15 spots and I felt like our UPS Ford was going to be good. But from there on, we just struggled getting off the corner all day. We made a lot of adjustments trying to get the rear-end hooked up. Our UPS pit crew did a good job on pit road and we picked up spots, but when you get a lap down and you’re always back in traffic and your car isn’t always perfect, it’s tough. It was just one of those days. This was the fastest 500-lap race that I’ve ever been a part of. We just weren’t good in the beginning, we got behind, and then we didn’t have time to get any better. I had wanted a good run going into Martinsville to get some points back, but going into next week, we’ve really got to get a top 10.
Goody’s Fast Relief 500
0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, March 29, 2009