TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 26, 2009) – Restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway is known for huge wrecks and wild finishes, and today’s race was no exception. Coming off two top-five finishes in 2007 at Talladega and his first ever Nationwide Series win on Saturday, Ragan was looking to get a solid finish in his No. 6 UPS Ford to complete the weekend. Ragan qualified 10th and in typical restrictor plate racing style spent the entire race shuffling forward and backwards. Ragan was as high as first at one point and led for two laps, but when the checkered flag fell he found himself in the wrong drafting line and a potential top-10 finish turned into a very respectable 12th-place finish.
With an excellent track record at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, Ragan and crew had high expectations that this week their luck would change, and they were right. Ragan’s car handled well in practice and when it came time to qualify he placed the No. 6 UPS Ford 10th on the starting grid.
Ragan competed in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday and claimed his first ever victory. Coming off the win and starting 10th at a track where Ragan has run well at in the past led to high expectations for Sunday’s 188-lap event. Ragan took the green flag from his 10th starting position and joined the field in jockeying around for position. Just seven laps into the race Ragan took over the lead when the caution came out for a 14-car pile up behind him.
Crew chief Jimmy Fennig called Ragan down pit road for two tires and fuel. A lugnut fell off the right-rear during the stop, costing the team valuable time on pit road. Luckily the damage wasn’t too costly and Ragan only lost one spot. Ragan restarted second and once again settled in to drafting and picking the best lines on the track.
Just 29 laps after the restart, the second caution was displayed for debris on the track. Ragan was sitting eighth, but reported to Fennig that the nose of his UPS Ford was sliding a little. Fennig brought Ragan down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
Ragan restarted 10th and once again settled into the shuffling around that was occurring on the track. A total of five more pit stops made up the rest of the race for Ragan. One stop for two tires and the rest for four tires; during all the stops the No. 6 UPS Ford needed no further adjustments.
A late race caution set Ragan up sixth for the green-white-checkered finish. A power move at the end by the leaders, left Ragan’s drafting line behind, resulting in a 12th-place finish. Brad Keselowski went on to win his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, while teammate Carl Edwards No. 99 slid along the frontstretch fence in a wreck coming to the checkered flag while racing for the lead.
“I feel like we had a top-five to top-10 race car,” said Ragan. “The situations just didn’t work out for us at the end. Everyone was getting pretty aggressive at the end, but I feel like we just got in the wrong line there on the white-flag lap and some of the other guys teamed up on us a little bit. In the whole spectrum of things, yes, a 12th-place finish is a decent day but not where we could have been. We’ve just got to keep working to get ourselves back into the top five. It was good to be running at the end but we just have to keep whittling away one race at a time and get ourselves back up into the top 12 in points.”
Crown Royal 400
0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway
Saturday, May 2, 2009