David Ragan, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford
Starting Position: 8
Finishing Position: 43
David Ragan started Sunday’s race exactly where you want to start at the short and narrow Martinsville Speedway — toward the front. The No. 34 Taco Bell team had qualified its Ford Fusion eighth for the event, the best qualifying effort for a Front Row Motorsports car in the team’s history.
But early in the race, the driver reported that something didn’t sound right in the car. About 100 laps in, his engine confirmed there was a problem, giving up some power. The No. 34 team diagnosed the problem in the garage as a broken valve spring and worked to repair the engine well enough to return Ragan to the track.
About 70 laps later, the team did get the car back on track. Unfortunately, the engine finally gave way after just one lap and Ragan was forced to return to the garage for good.
He finished 43rd but remains 25th in the point standings.
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan after the Martinsville race:
“That doesn’t happen very often, and we’re glad for that. But it’s unfortunate that it happened when we had a good car and were having a good weekend here in Martinsville. The guys put a lot of work into testing here a few weeks ago, we brought a great car and we qualified up front. It’s too bad it ended the way it did. But we’ll put it behind us and get as much as we can out of these last three races.”
David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 27
Finishing Position: 23
David Gilliland earned a top-25 finish in a caution-plagued race that featured plenty of short track-style bumping, spinning and wrecking.
The No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford was hardly unscathed, collecting its share of creases and crunches over 500 laps. But Gilliland and crew chief Frank Kerr ran a smart race, pitting under some of the race’s 17 cautions and staying out for track position under others.
Gilliland stayed just outside the top-25 mark for most of the first half of the race. But pit strategy played in the team’s favor in the second half, allowing Gilliland to spend some time in the top 20 and even the top 15. All the while, the team worked to improve a tight condition on their Ford Fusion.
The final caution of the day came on Lap 417 with Gilliland running 24th. The driver ducked down pit road for his last stop of the day and took the final restart in the 25th spot. The race stayed green for the final 76 laps, stringing out the field. But Gilliland was able to gain two more positions to cross the line in 23rd for his 16th top-25 finish of the season. He remains 27th in the point standings.
Comments from Long John Silver’s team driver David Gilliland after the Martinsville race:
“That wasn’t a bad result for us. Martinsville has never really been that good to me, so to finish the day with a top-25 isn’t too bad. There were times when we were running even better than that, but that long green-flag run at the end kept us from picking up more spots. But I’m proud of the team. We had a good car, good pits stops and avoided the worst of the wrecks that took a lot of other cars out.”
Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 31
Finishing Position: 34
Josh Wise took the green flag in the 31st position and learned early that he would be battling a tight condition for much of the day.
The 263-mile race featured 17 cautions for 111 yellow-flag laps, allowing plenty of opportunities to come to pit road for adjustments. Unfortunately, the half-mile track makes it easy to get lapped quickly. The MDS Transport team worked throughout the race to find the right balance between pitting to make improvements and staying out to maintain track position.
The team was able to improve the car’s ability to turn as the race wore on, picked up positions after initially falling back and avoided multiple on-track accidents to come home 34th.
Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise after the Martinsville race:
“Martinsville is such a tough track. The bottom groove was the only groove, and unfortunately we couldn’t get our MDS Transport Ford working well enough to work that line like we wanted to. But I’ve got a couple races there under my belt now, and I’m learning each time. We’ll be better for it next time we go back.”