Michigan Race Report: Ragan’s Fast Ford Earns Top-25

David Ragan, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford
Starting Position: 24
Finishing Position: 24

David Ragan and the No. 34 team earned their 12th top-25 finish of the season with a fast Taco Bell Ford and sound pit strategy in the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.

Ragan took the green flag in 24th and climbed into the top 20 by the second lap. His Ford Fusion was fast, with his only complaints that it was a little bit tight through the center of the turns and a little loose on exit.

But as the race wore on and the track conditions changed, the handling on the No. 34 Ford got a little worse instead of better. But nine yellow flags offered plenty of opportunities to work on the car as well as some opportunities to take pit-strategy gambles for track position. The team used both to its advantage all day and had Ragan in third for a Lap 162 restart.

Fresher tires on competitors pushed Ragan back to 19th by the time the caution flag flew again on Lap 173, but he was still positioned for a potential top-20 finish. Crew chief Jay Guy called his driver to pit road for four fresh tires for the final dozen laps. After a drawn-out pit stop when a flying lugnut got lodged in the jack, Ragan returned to the track in 26th for the restart.

He was able to claim two more positions over the final laps to finish the race in 24th. He also earned a bonus point for leading a lap during the race.

Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan after the Michigan race:

“We had a pretty good day here at Michigan. We started out pretty fast but couldn’t keep adjusting to the track as well as we needed to. The sun stayed out and the track changed a little bit. I thought we had a top-20 car but we missed it a little bit at the end. The cautions didn’t really fall our way. But our Front Row Motorsports team did a good job and it was a fun race. I wish we got a little bit more out of it, but we learned some things that maybe we can take to Atlanta or some other tracks we’re going to.”

 

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 23
Finishing Position: 37

The No. 38 Long John Silver’s team brought the same fast set-up to Michigan International Speedway that performed well at the track in June. Qualifying 23rd, David Gilliland liked the speed they brought back to the two-mile oval.

Despite slippery track conditions to start the Sunday afternoon race, Gilliland climbed up to 16th before peeling off for his first green-flag pit stop on Lap 39 of 200. He would stay around the top-20 mark for most of the race but frequently asked for help with front turn or rear drive.

Nine cautions allowed for plenty of pit strategy. Crew chief Frank Kerr opted to keep Gilliland out on track during some of the yellow-flag periods or change only two tires on others. The strategy had the team in 22nd on a Lap 158 restart with enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. But after climbing two positions on the restart, Gilliland radioed that something was wrong with the engine. A few laps later, a plume of white smoke confirmed the motor had blown and the team was done for the day.

Gilliland was credited with a 37th-place finish and earned a bonus point for leading a lap.

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

“We had a fast Long John Silver’s Ford all weekend. I’m really proud of Frank (Kerr) and the guys for the work they’ve done on this car and on our intermediate program in general. The handling wasn’t perfect all day, which kept me from making more passes, but we definitely could have come away with a top-20 finish today. It’s unfortunate that the engine blew, but it happens.”

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