Texas Race Report: Love’s and EZCORP Shine Under the Lights

David Ragan, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford
Starting Position: 25
Finishing Position: 26

David Ragan started Saturday’s night’s race in 25th, his fourth top-25 qualifying effort of the season. The entire field faced the challenges of a nighttime race for which they practiced in the daytime hours, plus the changing track conditions that would come over the course of the evening.

In the early laps, Ragan reported to crew chief Jay Guy that his No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford was loose – a condition the team would wind up fighting for much of the race. But the 334-lap event allowed for plenty of opportunities to make adjustments, with teams pitting at every available chance for new tires on the rough track.

The No. 34 team did just that, making frequent chassis and air pressure adjustments to tighten the car up, while also adjusting to the changing track conditions as the night wore on.

Despite the tough-handling conditions, Ragan kept the Love’s Travel Stops Ford around the top-25 mark for much of the race. He crossed the finish line in 26th, even while conserving fuel, and earned a bonus point for leading a lap.

Comments from Love’s Travel Stops team driver David Ragan after the Texas race:

“The guys made our Love’s Travel Stop Ford better as the race went on, but we were just loose for most of the night. We had to save fuel there at the end, otherwise I think we could’ve done more with the guys we were racing. But we made some improvements, we had good stops on pit road and we avoided trouble all night. With each race we run, we’re learning more about this Gen-6 car and I think we’ll be able to apply it as we go to similar tracks and then, later, return to some of these places a second time.”

 

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 EZPAWN/EZMONEY Ford
Starting Position: 27
Finishing Position: 32

David Gilliland started Saturday’s event at Texas Motor Speedway in 27th, carrying the colors of new sponsor EZCORP and its EZPAWN and EZMONEY brands. Like his teammate, he reported a loose-handling car in the early laps.

With tires wearing quickly and the car’s handling changing over the course of a run, the team tried various adjustments over its first three pit stops. By Lap 141, Gilliland was up to 23rd, but still looking for help getting through the turns.

With about 100 laps to go, Gilliland suffered a setback when NASCAR penalized the team for pitting outside their box, forcing the driver to return to his pit and be held for one lap.

The final portion of the race saw many teams go into fuel conservation mode, uncertain if they could make it to the checkered flag without stopping for a splash of gas. As the final laps approached with the 38 team running in 29th, they determined they could not make it to the end and called Gilliland to pit road for a fuel stop. He returned to the track to finish in 32nd, earning a bonus point for leading a lap earlier in the event.

Comments from EZPAWN/EZMONEY team driver David Gilliland after the Texas race:

“Our EZPAWN/EZMONEY Ford wasn’t bad this weekend. It seems like at this track, especially in the night race, you’ve got to chase the handling from start to finish. But Frank (Kerr) and the guys did a good job all night making it better and they did a good job on pit road. We had that penalty for just barely being over the line, which hurt us a little. We’ll take what we learned and go on to Kansas.”

 

 

Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 40
Finishing Position: 30

Josh Wise took the green flag in 40th position, and quickly asked crew chief Derrick Finley for help getting his No. 35 MDS Transport Ford to turn better. With four cautions in the first half of the race, the team had several opportunities to work on their car and by Lap 141 had Wise in 27th position.

At this point of the race, the driver was happy with his car, giving the team confidence to take the “wave-around” option during a mid-race caution to gain back a lost lap. By Lap 157, Wise was in 20th and on the lead lap, hoping for another caution to bring the car to pit road for its due routine stop. But the yellow didn’t fall and Wise had to pit under green, and just a few laps later, was forced to pit again when trash on the grille had his Ford Fusion’s temps running hot. The two green-flag stops put him back on track in 31st.

The final segment of the race saw Wise in fuel conservation mode, as he hung tough in 30th, trying to maintain his position without emptying his fuel tank. He successfully held his spot on the small amount of fuel remaining to cross the finish line in 30th.

Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise after the Texas race:

“Texas is such a fun racetrack, and the 35 team gave me a pretty decent car. Especially toward the middle part of the race, I really didn’t have any complaints. It was handling pretty well. We know who we’re competing against and who we’re trying to earn points against, and this wound up being a decent day in that regard, so we’ll take it.”

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