David Ragan, No. 34 CSX “Play It Safe” Ford
All-Star Starting Position: 14
All-Star Finishing Position: 19
For the first time, Front Row Motorsports put a driver into the All-Star Race based on a team win, with David Ragan earning a starting spot after winning two weeks ago at Talladega. Ragan lined up 14th for the Saturday night exhibition event, which featured four 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash.
From the get-go, Ragan said his CSX Ford felt tight through the turns and did not grip the track as well as he’d have liked. Concerns about the car were put on hold after eight laps, though, when a rain shower moved in and forced a 41-minute red-flag period.
When the field returned to green-flag racing, Ragan was 19th. Throughout the first four segments, the team made numerous adjustments to help the car turn better in the center and get more overall grip. The efforts helped, but not enough to make a significant charge through the field.
When the green flag waved on the 10-lap final segment, Ragan was in 20th. He was able to climb one additional spot to finish the race in 19th.
Comments from CSX team driver David Ragan after the All-Star race:
“It was a good effort by our CSX team. We never really had the grip we needed all night, though. But I’m proud of this team for making the All-Star Race based on our Talladega win. The guys did a good job on pit road and we learned some things that will definitely help us out next week. And thanks to CSX. It was great having them aboard for such a big event.”
David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Showdown Starting Position: 14
Showdown Finishing Position: 13
David Gilliland started Saturday night’s Sprint Showdown in 14th, hoping to race his way into one of the top-two spots in order to transfer to the All-Star Race immediately afterward.
The Showdown consisted of two 20-lap segments with an optional pit stop in between. During Segment 1, Gilliland said his Long John Silver’s Ford was tight through the turns. So during the half-way caution period, the team brought their driver down to pit road to make a two-tire change, along with air pressure and chassis adjustments to try to free up the car.
As the second 20-lap segment got under way, the driver reported the two-tire change had made his car tighter. After making a charge in the top 10, Gilliland dropped back as far as 16th with 11 laps to go. A late surge in the final six laps allowed him to pick up three more spots to cross the finish line in 13th.
Comments from Long John Silver’s team driver David Gilliland after the Showdown:
“It would’ve been great to race our way into the All-Star Race, but we were just a bit too tight to be as competitive as we wanted to be. We made a two-tire stop at the half-way point to get some track position, and I think it just affected the car’s handling too much. But it was helpful to be out there tonight in similar conditions that we’ll see next week for the 600. It gives us an idea of what we’ll need to concentrate on.”