MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2009) – For the second weekend in a row, David Ragan found himself in his comfort zone at a short track, but this time the rains came on Friday and stuck around for awhile, which hindered on-track activities throughout the weekend. Qualifying was rained out Friday evening and the rains continued into Saturday, raining out Cup practice and the truck race. Despite starting 26th with the field being set on points, Ragan and crew managed to find a faint glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Ragan had a fast No. 6 UPS Ford, but a flat tire and sheet metal damage early in the race left the team a few laps down and trying to battle back. The UPS Ford was fast, but track position was not on his side.
With rain on the horizon Jimmy Fennig went to work trying to get the UPS Ford tuned in for the first practice session on Friday morning. The car was pretty good and everyone had their fingers crossed that they would be able to qualify. Mother Nature won out however, and the rains came, leaving NASCAR to set the field on the current point standings. Saturday morning brought more of the same. The jet dryers came out for the few brief moments of sun, but ultimately the rains stayed and both practices were cancelled, leaving everyone with minimal practice time and a green track for Sunday’s 500-lap event.
From his 26th starting position Ragan began to advance through the field and told his team “it’s a little tight rolling through the center, but the forward bite is good.” NASCAR threw a “competition caution” on lap 40 due to the lack of track time prior to the race. Ragan took advantage of the break in on-track action to pit for four tires, fuel and a left-rear wedge adjustment. His team had a great stop, but some competitors opted for two-tires which allowed them to gain positions on Ragan in the pits. Ragan restarted the race 27th on lap 48.
Ragan once again began to gain spots on track and was up to 23rd for the next caution on lap 69. Ragan told crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the changes on the last stop helped and were about 40 percent of what he needed. Fennig opted to leave Ragan on the track in an attempt to gain track position. The gamble paid off as Ragan jumped from 23rd to 15th for the restart on lap 76.
Ragan’s next stop for adjustments came on lap 93 under caution for the No. 7 spinning on the track. His crew gave him four tires, fuel and another half down on the left-rear wedge. The changes helped the handling on the UPS Ford, but bad luck was about to strike.
On lap 140, Ragan was on the outside of Robby Gordon when they simultaneously got flat tires; a problem that plagued multiple people throughout the race. Ragan held onto his Ford, but Gordon slid up into him knocking in the left-front fender and bringing out the caution flag. The caution was much needed for Ragan, but the damage was not. Ragan was forced to come down pit road when it was closed due to the flat tire, and the move cost him a lap on the track before he had to come back down pit road again to have the team fix the sheet metal. Ragan described the car as “toed out” and his steering wheel was off center.
Ragan was now running 36th, two laps down to the leaders. Ragan pitted a total of three more times throughout the race for similar adjustments, but the lost track position was just something the team couldn’t rebound from. Ragan had a fast car and did all he could to hang on for a 27th-place finish for the second weekend in a row, while Jimmie Johnson won the event.
“I feel like we had another good car today,” said Ragan. “We were able to pass at the beginning and we had a lot better racecar than we’ve had in the last couple of weeks. We were just not in a good position when Robby Gordon had his tire go down; we had a tire going down. It seemed like a lot of people today were having tire issues. We had a puncture in ours and had to bring our UPS Fusion into the pits. When you have to make and unscheduled pit stop, you get off sequence. It’s just really tough. I felt like once we got the car with four fresh tires, we could run in the top 10. We just need to get ourselves in better position. We had a good car all day, but it was a disappointing finish. We’ve got to get ourselves back up into the top 10 with our UPS race team.”
1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Tex.
Sunday, April 5, 2009