Long Pond, Penn. (June 7, 2009) – The Pocono 500 proved to be a challenge for David Ragan and his No. 6 UPS team. The rains came on Friday washing out all on-track activity, including qualifying, leaving NASCAR to set the field based on points. Track position is an advantage at Pocono, and not qualifying put Ragan starting 31st. NASCAR also implemented a new procedure on the green flag restarts to help keep lead lap cars together as they implemented their double-file restart. One aspect of the new procedure is being a “waved” car. Just past halfway, Ragan found himself in position for the “wave.” As the field took the green flag, Ragan completed that current lap then came down pit road. The move put him back on the lead lap, but on the 2.5-mile track he was far from the field. Ragan turned lap times consistent with the leaders after multiple changes to tighten up his UPS Ford. He was able to run until the end while others had to pit for fuel in the closing laps and the No. 6 Ford crossed the finish line 26th.
Mother Nature has been relentless on the NASCAR schedule this season. It seems like where NASCAR goes the rains will follow, and Pocono was no exception. Friday turned out to be a complete wash at the race track. Teams didn’t get in practice or qualifying, leaving the field to be set by points for the third time this season. Sitting 31st in points put Ragan towards the back of the pack for the start of the race, so everyone was disappointed about not getting to qualify. With heads up high they tackled both practice sessions on Saturday looking to get all they could out of the UPS Ford.
From the drop of the green flag, Ragan started making up ground on the track. He was up to 27th when the caution came out just 13 laps into the race. Ragan reported to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that he was lacking overall grip and needed the front end to turn. In an attempt to pick up some valuable track position, Fennig opted for a two-tire stop with fuel, air pressure and a track bar adjustment. The strategy put Ragan all the way up to 12th for the restart, but the good fortune would be short-lived.
As the field embarked on a long green flag run, the UPS Ford continued to get looser and looser for Ragan, and with help a long ways off, Ragan held on the best he could. Green flag stops started on lap 43 with Ragan coming down pit road for service on lap 46. Fennig called for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a left-rear wedge adjustment.
The changes seemed to help the handling, but the UPS Ford continued to be loose. The green flag runs continued and Ragan pitted three more times for similar adjustments in an attempt to fix the handling situation, all while going one lap down to the leaders.
Ragan was running 29th on lap 158, one lap down to the leaders, when the fourth caution of the day came out. Ragan reported to his crew that the UPS Ford was the best it’s been all day, but still was lacking forward bite up off the corner. Ragan wasn’t the first car a lap down so he wasn’t eligible for the “lucky dog” award, but with NASCAR’s new system in place he could be a “waved” car and get back onto the lead lap. The field took the green flag on lap 166, and Ragan took the green flag as well, but made his way around the track before he came down pit road for service. He was now on the lead lap, but with Pocono being a 2.5-mile race track he was no where near the field on the track.
Ragan was turning out lap times consistent with those in the top 10, but just didn’t have the track position to compete with the field due to the long green flag runs that made up the 500-mile race. Multiple competitors pitted in the closing laps due to a shortage of fuel, but Ragan was able to stay on track and run until the end. Ragan ultimately finished 26th while Tony Stewart won the Pocono 500.
“I thought that the double-file restarts worked out well,” said Ragan. “Strategy-wise, the first chance that we had to stay out and be the waved car and try to short-pit and get back out, it just didn’t work because the cautions fell outside of our pit window, so that’s just an unlucky break for UPS team. We kept trying to make our UPS Ford fast today; we just didn’t get it driving well enough and fast enough. The first 100 laps we just struggled with being too loose. But, the last run of the day, we were trying to conserve a little bit of fuel, which was a good call. If we had had a little bit more fuel, we could have raced a little bit harder at the end.”
2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, June 14, 2009