CONCORD, N.C. (May 16, 2009) – The Sprint Showdown is a 40-lap non-point event with the only goal being to finish in the top-two to make it into the main event, the All-Star race. Saturday night racing is always exciting, but with nothing to lose and everything to gain, racing is taken to a whole new level. Qualifying was rained out which for this race set the field on the qualifying draw. Based on this, Ragan “qualified” seventh, but the first two competitors had to fall to the back for changes, so Ragan actually started fifth. Ragan was decent throughout the race, but winning is everything. On their one pit stop Ragan pitted for aggressive changes and fresh tires. The combo helped gain track position, but not enough to move on to the main event. Ragan finished eighth, while Sam Hornish Jr. and Ragan’s teammate, Jamie McMurray, advanced to the All-Star race.
A little over an hour was all the practice the teams had to get ready for the Sprint Showdown. Ragan and crew tried everything during practice, but just didn’t nail the handling on the No. 6 UPS Ford. Next up was qualifying, but Mother Nature once again had something else in mind. The rains came down and forced NASCAR to start the field based off the qualifying order. The rain didn’t hurt Ragan who was slated to go out seventh in qualifying.
Ragan’s seventh-place starting position quickly turned into a fifth-place starting effort after two cars ahead of him had to go to the tail end of the field for changes. Right from the start the UPS Ford was neutral in it’s handling, but quickly things started to change. Just 12 laps into segment one Ragan reported to his team that the car was starting to slide the nose. Ragan rode it out for the first 20-lap segment and was running seventh with 20 more laps to go. A seventh-place finish wasn’t going to accomplish anything, so Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
Ragan restarted seventh, got hung out, found himself drop back to 18th and battled his way back in the end for an eight-place finish. The changes crew chief Jimmy Fennig called for helped, but weren’t enough to finish in the top two and advance to the All-Star race.
“Well, a third-place finish doesn’t mean anything here, so it’s either first or second,” said Ragan. “We knew it was going to be tough to pass those guys and get to that first or second spot where we were at. I think we could have stayed out and maintained fourth or fifth, but that didn’t mean anything, so we figured we should come down and put four tires on. We were here to win and at the least try to learn something for next week. We made a real aggressive adjustment and got an idea on what we need as far as next week. It was a plus what we did on pit road, but just not enough. If it was another 20-lap run, maybe we could have done something, but short laps, track position and it was tough to pass. The bottom line is we’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but our UPS team learned something for next week.”
1.5-mile Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Sunday, May 24, 2009