David Ragan, No. 34 SaferCar.gov Ford
Starting Position: 7
Finishing Position: 6
David Ragan and David Gilliland almost pulled off a repeat performance Sunday of their 1-2 finish at Talladega Superspeedway in May. The teams had to settle for top-10 finishes after a dramatic wreck brought out the caution on the last lap right as “the Davids” were making their move.
Ragan and his No. 34 SaferCar.gov team started the race in seventh after a rainy qualifying day forced NASCAR to set the field according to practice speeds. He ran in the front half of the field for the first 15 laps of the 188-lap race before dropping toward the back.
With only three cautions in the race — and one of them coming on the final lap — Ragan spent much of the race testing out what his SaferCar.gov Ford Fusion was capable of so he knew what he could do in the final laps at “go” time.
After leading Lap 163, Ragan dipped down to pit road for his final pit stop of the day, returning to the track in 20th with a little more than 20 laps to go. With his teammate Gilliland close behind, Ragan worked his way up into the top-15, staying in the high line, which seemed to have the advantage.
With 10 laps to go, Ragan was up to seventh and waiting for the final lap to make his move. But on the white-flag lap, with the field coming down the backstretch, a wild wreck involving Austin Dillon and Casey Mears brought out a last-lap caution, essentially freezing the field. Ragan had gained one position to finish sixth for his second top-10 finish of the season.
The finish, along with a bonus point for leading a lap, allowed him to move up a position in the point standings to 25th.
Comments from SaferCar.gov team driver David Ragan after the Talladega race:
“It was a crazy last lap. We set out what we wanted to do with our SaferCar.gov Ford. We had a chance to win the race, took the white flag in seventh or eighth and kind of had a good plan. But the caution came out. So, we got a top-10 finish and that’s a good thing for our Front Row Motorsports team. Everybody go check SaferCar.gov to see how safe your car is. Mine was pretty good today.”
David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 24
Finishing Position: 7
Friday’s practice speeds put David Gilliland in the 24th position to start Sunday’s 500-mile event. After the green flag flew on the 43-car field, the driver let his Long John Silver’s Ford get settled toward the back of the field and out of the middle where trouble often arises on superspeedways.
Gilliland and his team used the first 100 or so laps to get their car handling as well as possible, making a few chassis adjustments on their first few stops. With about 50 laps to go, he and teammate David Ragan had learned enough and now it was time to make some moves.
Using whichever line carried the momentum at the time, Gilliland advanced into the top 25 and then the top 20. A final pit stop with 24 laps to go had him ready to make his final push. Back on track in the 21st position with 21 laps to go, Gilliland was lined up with Ragan and gaining momentum in the top line. By Lap 179, the No. 38 was up to eighth, behind Ragan in seventh.
The pair held those positions as the top line continued to dominate the bottom and eventually drew the field out mostly single file. On the final lap of the race, as the two Front Row teammates were about to make a move on the backstretch, Austin Dillon’s airborne car drew a yellow flag. Gilliland crossed the finish line under caution in seventh.
The finish was his second top-10 finish of the season and propelled him two spots up in the championship standings to 27th.
Comments from Long John Silver’s team driver David Gilliland after the Talladega race:
“Our Long John Silver’s team did a great job all weekend. David (Ragan) and I worked together for a good part of the race and definitely toward the end there. We were in position and we had a plan where we could make a move together, but then the caution came out on the last lap. Thankfully, we weren’t a part of it and we were able to get a top-10 finish and a clean car to take home. I’m just really proud of my team. They’ve been working so hard and days like this show that it pays off. I think we definitely could’ve had a chance a win. We were definitely in the mix for the last 50, 60 laps of the race, we weren’t hanging back anymore. But it just wasn’t meant to be this time. Next time.”
Josh Wise, No. 35 A&W All American Food Ford
Starting Position: 14
Finishing Position: 30
Josh Wise and the No. 35 A&W All American Food team brought confidence and a fast Ford Fusion to the starting grid Sunday. The team had been second fastest in final practice and lined up 14th for the race based on speeds from the first practice.
Like his teammates, Wise played the strategy of hanging out in the back of the pack to avoid trouble, test out some lines around the track and save fuel. But with only two cautions between the start of the race and the final lap, the field got stretched out significantly. At about the half-way mark, Wise was in 34th and not with a big enough group of cars to make a run back up to the main pack.
Typically in restrictor plate races, yellow flags help bunch the field back up. But the flags didn’t wave when the No. 35 team needed them to, and they weren’t ever able to make a sizable push back up the leaderboard.
Wise did gain several positions in the second half of the race and successfully dodged the wrecking Austin Dillon on the last lap to cross the finish line in 30th.
Comments from A&W All American Food team driver Josh Wise after the Talladega race:
“We had a great A&W Ford. Everybody at Front Row Motorsports did a great job at putting three fast cars on the track this weekend. Unfortunately, we just fell back too early in the race and were never able to regain the ground with all the green-flag racing. We are bringing back a pretty clean car, which we couldn’t say from some other plate races this year, and we learned some things, so that will only help us next time.”