Loudon Race Report: Magic Mile Hosts Rough Racing

David Ragan, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford
Starting Position: 19
Finishing Position: 29

The No. 34 Taco Bell team put forth another solid qualifying effort at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, putting David Ragan in the 19th position on the starting grid.

The car started off as loose-handling into the turns and tight across the center, pushing Ragan back to 27th by the first caution of the day on Lap 31. As the driver brought his car to the pits for adjustments, heavy traffic on pit road caused him to stop at a sharp angle and over the pit-box line, forcing him to back up before the crew could service the car.

The stop put Ragan back on track in 30th, creating an uphill climb on an oval where it can be difficult to pass. But the team found more speed in their Taco Bell Ford as the race went on, making adjustments to the driver’s liking and allowing him to log fast laps. The field would string out quickly on green-flag runs, though, and, with the help of another too-lengthy pit stop, Ragan found himself off the lead lap about half-way through the race.

Still in 30th, the team used the second half of the race to try to work the yellow flags to their advantage. Despite still having a fast Ford Fusion, their strategies under caution didn’t bring as many gains as they’d hoped. Ragan was able to gain one more position in the remaining laps to finish the race in 29th.

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

“That was kind of a long day for us. Our car wasn’t that great, but we made some improvements throughout the day. So we gained some, but we also gave some back on pit road. We had some back luck with some strategy, too, taking some wave-arounds when we shouldn’t have and not taking one when it turned out we should’ve. We’ve got eight more to go and we’ll work to rebound and make the most of them.”

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 24
Finishing Position: 39

A strong qualifying run had David Gilliland carrying some confidence to the starting grid of Sunday’s race. At a track where the eight-year Sprint Cup veteran hadn’t traditionally run well in previous seasons, Gilliland came to Loudon this weekend looking to build off his career-best 18th-place finish earned in July. Qualifying 24th was a good start.

The No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford was still around the top-25 mark on Lap 53 when the team’s day took a huge turn for the worse. The No. 47 of Bobby Labonte blew a tire and wrecked, collecting Gilliland in the process. The accident caused significant damage to the hood and nose of the No. 38 and forced the team to pit multiple times under the ensuing caution. Despite making multiple stops, Gilliland was only one lap down when the race returned to green-flag racing, and a return to the lead lap was still within sight despite being back in 41st.

But some long green-flag runs and a tight-handling car kept the team’s comeback in check. And with about 50 laps to go and Gilliland running in 37th, the team’s day officially came to an end when the car began leaking oil as a result of the early-race damage. The driver was forced to pull his car off the track, unable to return. He was credited with a 39th-place finish.

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

“This track is challenging enough as it is. Getting big-time damage in a wreck sure doesn’t help. We had a lot of damage to the front end of the car and we found out later in the race it broke the oil cooler, which wound up ending our day. Definitely not what we were expecting coming back the second time this year. We had a great race our first trip out here and we were looking forward to another good day.”

 

Josh Wise, No. 35 The Pete Store Ford
Starting Position: 43
Finishing Position:32

Josh Wise started Sunday’s Sylvania 300 with his work cut out for him. The No. 35 Pete Store team had to start from the rear after a qualifying accident necessitated preparing a back-up car. The 300-lap event became an even bigger challenge just 30 laps in when the No. 51 of Michael McDowell turned the No. 35 and sent Wise spinning, bringing out the first caution of the day.

Some quick work on pit road sent Wise back out on track for the restart in 35th, but he would still have a tough handling car to deal with for the rest of the afternoon, with the driver reporting something feeling a bit off in the right rear of the car after being spun.

Long green-flag runs strung the field out through parts of the race, making it difficult to gain much ground on the one-mile oval. But the team persevered, making improvements to the car and advancing positions when they could. After starting from the rear of the field, Wise was able to cross the finish line in 32nd.

Comments from The Pete Store team driver Josh Wise after the Loudon race:

“We knew we had no easy task ahead of us after going to the back-up and not being able to get many practice laps in in that back-up. But it certainly didn’t help to get spun early in the race either. I really like this track, so that was disappointing that we had such a big hill to climb. But I’ll give credit to the guys for continuing to work hard throughout the race to make it better and get us the best finish we could under the circumstances.”

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