Richmond Race Report: CSX Ford Shines in Top-20 Finish

David Ragan, No. 34 CSX “Play It Safe” Ford
Starting Position: 20
Finishing Position: 20

David Ragan lined up 20th for Saturday night’s race, with the hood of his CSX “Play It Safe” Ford freshly covered in signatures of fans who promised to be safe around railroad tracks — the main message of the team’s partnership with CSX.

Ragan initially slipped back several positions, telling crew chief Jay Guy that his No. 34 Ford was loose entering the turns but that it had good drive exiting. The team worked to improve the handling of the car over the first half of the 400-lap race, making chassis and air pressure adjustments over multiple pit stops.

After falling as far back as 31st, Ragan began climbing the leaderboard in the second half, thanks to a better-handling car, aggressive pit strategy and some fast work by his pit crew, which gained him several positions over the course of the race. He climbed as high as sixth for a Lap 333 restart before giving up his top-10 position to pit for fresh tires on another caution a few laps later.

Ragan had his CSX car in 20th with just five scheduled laps to go, looking to score his first top-20 finish of the season. But he would need to battle for that finish for more than just five additional laps, with the caution flag flying on Lap 395, forcing a green-white-checkered finish.

The green flag waved for the final time on Lap 404 with Ragan in 21st. He pushed his way up one more spot to cross the line in 20th on the lead lap — his best finish of the 2013 season.

Comments from CSX “Play It Safe” team driver David Ragan after the Richmond race:

“We had just a solid day. We started 20th and finished 20th. You would look at that and think it was a slow day. Actually at times we had a top-12, top-14 car, but when we were off-sequence on the leaders we were around 25th and 30th. But we did a good job on pit road and we never gave up. We worked hard all night, and maybe left a few spots on the table, but all in all it was a good night for us.”

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 37
Finishing Position: 27

David Gilliland and his Long John Silver’s team had their work cut out for them Saturday night, starting from the 37th position. But the No. 38 team showed it was up for the task, gaining six spots by the night’s first caution on Lap 41.

Despite the gain, Gilliland told crew chief Frank Kerr that his Ford Fusion was tight through the center of the turns and that he couldn’t get to the throttle as quickly as he wanted to. The pit crew went to work on every available opportunity and Gilliland kept climbing — up to 23rd by Lap 158.

Kerr made some aggressive calls to gain track position, keeping his driver out on track under yellow when others pitted. The team’s efforts had Gilliland in 28th when the final yellow flag flew on the night on Lap 395. After pitting for four tires and a wedge adjustment, Gilliland restarted in 27th, a position he held through the green-white-checkered finish.

Comments from Long John Silver’s team driver David Gilliland after the Richmond race:

“Our car was just tight all night. Frank and the guys did a good job working on it and making it better. It was an up and down night. We made some calls to stay out to gain track position, but then we didn’t have the tires to hold it over the long run. We’ll learn from it, for sure, and we’ll get ready to go restrictor-plate racing next week.”

 

Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 27
Finishing Position: 28

Josh Wise and the No. 35 team started Saturday night’s 300-miler in the 27th position. Things got interesting early, when on Lap 41 the No. 33 of Landon Cassill got underneath Wise and bumped him, sending the MDS Transport Ford into a slide. Wise made a great save, keeping the car from spinning or making any additional contact. The encounter led to the first caution on the night and set the team back to 31st.

Back on track, Wise and his crew turned their attention to the car’s handling. The driver told crew chief Derrick Finley that the No. 35 was tight getting through the turns. The team made adjustments at every opportunity — and with 11 cautions, there were many.

Approaching 50 laps to go, Wise was in 30th and looking to make some gains in the remaining laps. He was in 29th when the final caution came out, and he came to pit road for fresh tires, allowing him to pick up one more spot to finish in 28th. The result allowed the No. 35 team to gain two positions in the owner point ranks.

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

“It wasn’t quite the finish we wanted, but we’ll take it. When the 33 tagged us, that definitely could’ve ended worse than it did. It could’ve ended our entire night right there. But fortunately, we kept it under control and didn’t hit anything and were able to get back at it. Our car didn’t perform as well as I thought it would, but it was still a decent effort for this 35 team and we made some good gains in owner points.”