TALLADEGA, AL – Front Row Motorsports lived up to its name Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, as FRM driver David Ragan, driving for an underfunded team, won the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and teammate David Gilliland finished second.
It marked another in a long line of upset winners at Talladega Superspeedway, a list that includes Brad Keselowski (who won here in 2009 in only his fifth Sprint Cup start), Bobby Hamilton, Phil Parsons, Ron Bouchard, Lennie Pond and Dick Brooks. But this one might have been the biggest surprise of them all, considering that Front Row’s various drivers had combined to make 403 Sprint Cup starts over the past nine years with no victories and only four top-10 finishes. Ragan, in fact, said it truly was a Davids vs. Goliath story.
“This is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win,” Ragan said. “A lot of these guys (on the team) have been to Victory Lane in all kinds of series. But to do it here at Talladega in 2013 … I couldn’t be more proud to play my role. It’s a huge, huge deal for us. I’ve got to thank David Gilliland. If it wasn’t for that final push from him, I don’t know what would have happened.”
Even though Gilliland finished second, he was nearly as excited as his teammate. “It’s been my dream since I came to Front Row to get (team owner) Bob Jenkins to Victory Lane,” Gilliland said. “This is about as much as I could help today. For an under-funded team to be able to come in here and finish 1-2 is just awesome. It’s a huge day for any team to get first and second, but for our little team, it’s a special day. I still want to get that first win, but we’ll take second for sure and get the first win for our team.”
The race ended with a green-white-checkered finish. Matt Kenseth led on the restart but was passed by Carl Edwards. Initially Edwards was worried about either Kenseth or Jimmie Johnson passing him on the final lap, until he spotted Ragan and Gilliland charging hard through the middle of the track.
“I was doing everything I could,” said Edwards, who finished third. “I blocked Matt and I thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got it.’ And then I saw Jimmie coming and I blocked him. I thought we were going to win it until I saw these guys coming and I thought, ‘Who is that?’ I blocked as much as I could, but I just couldn’t stay in front of them.
“As frustrated as I am about the loss, I’m really happy for those guys. I obviously wanted to win that race for a lot of reasons, but it truly couldn’t happen to two better guys and a hard-working team.
Johnson, who finished fifth and maintained the lead in the Sprint Cup standings by 41 points over Edwards, also was surprised to see Ragan and Gilliland make the late charge through traffic coming toward the trioval.
“I thought the race would be settled between me and (Edwards and Kenseth), but then those two guys came up on us so fast,” said Johnson, who finished fifth. “I could see Carl trying to block, and he finally said there’s no real way to block this speed that they’re bringing, and those two went blowing by. It’s really cool for that team.”
Michael Waltrip finished fourth in only his second Sprint Cup start of the season. Regan Smith was sixth followed by Martin Truex Jr. in seventh, Kenseth eighth, Scott Speed ninth and Aric Almirola 10th.