David Ragan, driver of the No.34 Farm Rich Ford, survived two “big ones” and over a three and a half hour rain delay to capture the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of his career and first at Talladega Superspeedway. Tonight’s Aaron’s 499 victory marks the first win for Front Row Motorsports, and marks the first NSCS triumph for any active Ford driver at Talladega.
In a Victory Lane interview, Ragan commented on how he won the race. He said, “We were gonna be happy with 18th or 20th on the first big rain storm. We had three cars that didn’t have any scratches on them. We think about winning the race, certainly, but we also think about our race cars and getting ready for Daytona in July. Our car drove good. We put four tires on there the second-to-last lap stop because we were gonna do fuel only there at the end, and then on my restart I got a great start. I was pushing the 43 and I wanted to stay with that 43, but the 20 had been the class of the field all day. Matt Kenseth kind of pushed me to a win at Daytona a year or two ago, so I decided to stay with Matt and then coming off of turn two he was blocking everybody and I had a great run. The 38 pushed me like there was no tomorrow and, again, I can’t say enough about our Front Row Motorsports team. David Galliland and Josh Wise, two great friends, and, again, thank the Lord for everything that he’s given us today.”
When asked what it is like to win for this team, Ragan responded, “I can only imagine what it felt like back in 1988 when Mark Martin got that first win for Jack Roush or when Geoff Bodine won that first race for Hendrick Motorsports. I’m sure it was just as special. A lot of these guys have been to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series and late model racing, short tracks, ARCA—all kind of series—but to do it here at Talladega in 2013, like I said, it’s a true David vs. Goliath story. I couldn’t be more proud to play my own role.”
Ragan’s teammate, driver of the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion, David Gilliland, finished second in today’s race. Gilliland’s second place finish marks his third top-10 finish in 12 races at Talladega Superspeedway, and his first top-10 finish in 2013. When asked where this ranks, he responded, “It’s big. Kentucky is probably still my favorite and then Sonoma was obviously good. I had Jeff Gordon behind me on a green-white-checker I think, so that was a great accomplishment, but this is right up there with them. I still want that first win, but the Sprint Cup Series is very tough. Everybody out there racing at this level is awesome and a great race car driver and it’s tough. We’re up against it every week. There are weeks we don’t have enough tires to put on our car, so we’ve got to put scuffs on and everything else, and then we’re racing against guys that have stickers, so we’re just continuing to build and for Front Row Motorsports, a one-two finish, and to be there to help make that possible is very special to me.”
Driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion, Carl Edwards, was one of many drivers that was disappointed that the rain stopped in Talladega long enough to restart the race. Edwards was in the lead on lap 124 when the third caution for rain came out that ended up in a 3 hour 36 minute 35 second rain delay. Edward would have won the race had the NASCAR Air-Titan not had been able to dry the track in time for a restart. Edwards scored a third place finish and had a positive outlook on his hard fought battle to the end. Responding to the comment that it’s like he lost twice today, Edwards said, “What a great feeling (laughing). I was watching the radar. I guess I’ve been trying to have a little bit different perspective and I’m fortunate right now because we have the win at Phoenix, we’re running well, we’re up there in the points, so I’ve been trying to approach racing lately as everything is a net positive. I’m getting to do what I love to do, working with people I’m fortunate to work with and at the end of the day I had a pretty good time and we had a shot to win this thing a couple of times, which a lot of you have seen my terrible days at these places, so that’s saying a lot how we ran today, so that’s why I’m happy. I’m sure I’ll even be better tomorrow, but right now I’m still a little frustrated about no winning, but it’s nice to be frustrated about third at Talladega for me.”
Another driver fortunate not to get caught up in the two “big ones” in the Aaron’s 499 today was driver of the No. 11 Fed Ex Express Toyota, Denny Hamlin. Today served as Hamlin’s first start since his disabling crash in Fontana, California. Hamlin was released by NASCAR to drive in today’s race, but his team decided to air on the side of caution and have him exit the car on the first caution of the day. The first caution came out on lap 124 due to fluid on the track and Brian Vickers took over for Hamlin. When Hamlin was asked how the driver exchange went for him and Vickers, Hamlin responded, “The exchange went great. Really, that was about as smooth as it’s went for us. Obviously we’ve had a few repetitions at it. That was about the quickest that I was able to get out so everything went well. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over for the next driver. Everything really went seamless and painless. Unfortunately, under Vickers’ operation the No. 11 car got caught up in the first “big one” and ended up in 34th position for the Aaron’s 499.
Several drivers were angry after the race. Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski, immediately took to Twitter after the race complaining that David Ragan had restarted illegally after the final caution. In the media center following the race, Ragan responded to Keselowski’s allegations saying, “I listened to NASCAR and did what they said. Brad was just trying to snooker us.”
No. 39 HAAS Automation Chevrolet SS driver, Ryan Newman, complained about NASCAR restarting the race with slight precipitation and
darkness looming. Upon leaving the infield care center, Ryan said “They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls. But they can’t get their heads out of their (expletive) far enough to keep them on the race track, and that’s pretty disappointing. I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is. That’s no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgement…I mean; you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running the dark and running in the rain. That’s it, thank you.”
Needless to say the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway lived up to its expectations of chaos and calamity.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington next Saturday for the annual Mother’s Day weekend Bojangle’s Southern 500.