Homestead Race Report: Front Row Caps Team’s Best Season

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

David Ragan and his No. 34 Taco Bell team came to Homestead looking for a solid day to cap off the season after three tough weeks leading into the Sprint Cup finale. Starting 29th, they needed to run issue-free mechanically, have a solid day on pit road and earn as many points as possible to maintain or improve their ranking.

Homestead-Miami Speedway proved a stubborn adversary. The No. 34 Ford Fusion fought a loose condition all 400 miles, a handling issue that would intensify throughout a run. Pit-road adjustments began to help in the second part of the race, with Ragan advancing from as far back as 39th to 30th around the half-way mark.

The flagman didn’t do the team any favors, with yellow flags waving at inopportune times or not waving when Ragan needed one. By the time the checkered flag flew after 267 laps, the team had netted one more position to finish in 29th. They also earned a bonus point for leading a lap.

Ragan finishes the 2013 season 28th in the driver point standings, with the No. 34 29th in owner points, in a year that saw numerous highlights for the No. 34 team. Most notably, Ragan earned Front Row Motorsports its first win in team history at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in May. The team upped its performance in almost every other statistical aspect as well.

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

“It was a hard-fought finish for us today. Better than the last few weeks, though. We had some DNFs as we were winding down the season, so it was good to finish this one off. I’m proud of our team, but we’ve got some things to work on for next year. We had a great 2013 season, but we can get better. We can improve our racecars,, and I’ve got to keep getting better as a racecar driver, too. Thanks to all of our sponsors this year. We had a lot fun, we won a race, but we still want to do better.”

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 31
Finishing Position: 27

David Gilliland took the green flag Sunday in 31st, looking to add another solid run to the No. 38 team’s impressive 2013 campaign. The Long John Silver’s crew was improving its average finish on mile-and-a-half tracks by an average of (four) positions over the previous season, and they looked for one more good run to finish it off.

The No. 38 Ford made it challenging, though. From the opening green flag to the checkers, Gilliland’s car was loose in and out of the corners — an issue that didn’t seem to respond to any type of adjustments on pit road.

But the team persevered. With 100 laps to go, Gilliland was running 30th and trying to find speed in the free-handling car. Finally, on the team’s final pit stop of the day on Lap 236, crew chief Frank Kerr ordered numerous adjustments. The car responded better than it had all day, giving Gilliland the ability to get around the track a bit better. After dropping back to 30th, Gilliland gained three more spots to finish 27th.

The driver, in his fourth year with Front Row Motorsports, finished the year 26th in the championship standings, the best-ever finish for a Front Row driver and the best career finish for Gilliland. The No. 38 team ended the year 27th in owner points.

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

“I’m really proud of this team and the year that we had. Today wasn’t the best day, but we accomplished so much this season. Frank Kerr did such a great job. He brought a lot to this team and really gave us a shot in the arm, especially on intermediate tracks. And these guys never game up. There were plenty of weekends where we started a weekend, or even a race, not happy with our car. And they just kept at it, working really hard to make it better. I’m excited to come back next year and work off what we accomplished this year.”

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