Daytona Beach, Fla. (July 4, 2009) – This year Fourth of July was celebrated with fireworks on and off the race track. Daytona always provides side-by-side action-packed racing and this year’s Coke Zero 400 was no exception. Eight cautions, one involving David Ragan in the UPS Ford, kept fans on the edge of their seats. On-track activity was washed out Thursday and Friday afternoon, once again canceling qualifying and forcing officials to set the field by owner points, starting Ragan 31st. The UPS Ford was fast on the speed charts in practice and the entire team knew they could come from behind. Ragan barely avoided a mid-race debacle which involved around 12 cars, to ultimately get spun around from contact with the No. 2 car with 30 laps to go. Ragan rebounded back, adjusting on the car in his final two pit stops. The final caution came as the field closed in on the checkered flag. Multiple cars became tangled up and Ragan remarkably squeezed by unscathed for a 13th-place finish.
Daytona has also been a track where Ragan has been able to run up front and get good results. Knowing that, Ragan and crew were excited to be heading to Daytona despite the July heat in Florida. Thursday’s two practice sessions saw Ragan at the top of the speed charts in one and then about mid-pack in the second. Unfortunately, the rains came out Friday afternoon just in time for qualifying. NASCAR was forced to cancel qualifying and set the starting lineup based on owner points for the fourth time this season.
Originally starting 31st,Ragan gained a few spots right at the start as three competitors had to start at the back of the field for changes to their primary cars. From the drop of the green flag Ragan did what he does best at restrictor plate races and began to work his way forward through the field. By the first caution on lap 13 he was up to 16th and reported to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the UPS Ford was a little tight handling out of turns two and four. Fennig brought Ragan down pit road under caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan’s crew gained him five spots on pit road and from there Ragan chipped in and continued to gain more spots on the track.
Ragan was up to sixth when the second caution was displayed. His UPS Ford was getting tight again so he pitted for four tires and fuel along with air pressure and wedge adjustments. Ragan quickly discovered those changes did not improve his handling and lost positions on the track while trying to find drafting help. His next opportunity for help from his team came on lap 57. Ragan was running 20th and his Ford was over-rotating the center of the turns. Fennig reversed the previous adjustments and sent Ragan on his way.
Ragan continued to shuffle around until a massive wreck unfolded before him on lap 77. Ragan barely avoided the melee in front of him, but emerged from the smoke unscathed. Under the caution Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan restarted 11th on lap 83 and hovered around the top 10 over the next run.
The previous changes were about 70 percent of what Ragan needed so under caution they pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. All seemed well until on lap 122 Ragan made contact with the No. 2 of Kurt Busch while jockeying for position and went spinning down the back stretch. The spin brought out the caution and Ragan pitted three times for repairs and a new set of tires. Luckily for Ragan and crew the damage the UPS Ford received was minimal and he was able to stay on the lead lap.
The incident disrupted the handling of Ragan’s UPS Ford. The car was tight and he needed the front end to turn. The caution came out on lap 146 and Ragan was able to pit for four tires, fuel, air pressure adjustment, track bar adjustment and to have the sheet metal pulled out on the right-side. Ragan restarted 22nd with ten laps remaining in the race. The field got dicey at the end and on the closing lap a multi-car incident unfolded as Tony Stewart made contact with Kyle Busch collecting the majority of the field in their wake. Stewart went on to win the Coke Zero 400 while Ragan avoided the accident on his way to cross the finish line 13th.
“Our UPS Ford was fast and we were able to overcome some adversity,” said Ragan. “That’s just restrictor-plate racing at Daytona. Kurt Busch and I touched there and we spun on the back straightaway and knocked around our fenders a little bit and lost some spots. But our UPS pit crew was quick and we were able to get most of those spots back. Our finish doesn’t show just how well our car was tonight and how well we could have run. If you make a small mistake or bad decision on which lane to take, it can cost you. That caused us to lose a few spots and it just took us a while to get back up through the field. It’s a 13th-place finish and we should get some points off of that, but it’s not quite as good as we could have been.”
1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway
Saturday, July 11, 2009