Gilliland and Ragan Race into Daytona 500, McClure Comes Up Short

David Gilliland, No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford
Starting Position: 16 (Duel No. 1)
Finishing Position: 8

David Gilliland earned a top-20 starting place in the Daytona 500 after powering his way to a ninth-place finish in his Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

The No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford started the first of the twin qualifying races in 16th, and quickly surged into the top 10, where Gilliland settled in single-file.

He was running in the 11th spot when he ducked down to pit road on Lap 37 for his only stop of the race, where crew chief Frank Kerr called for two tires and fuel. With many other cars taking fuel only, Gilliland had some ground to make up as he rejoined the field apart from the lead pack.

But the 23 remaining laps gave him plenty of time to climb back up. Working in a group of four cars, Gilliland and his drafting partners slowly closed the gap to rejoin the lead group with just a few laps to go. After taking the white flag in 14th, Gilliland gained five more positions on the final lap to cross the finish line in ninth. The team was awarded an eighth-place finish when Kevin Harvick had his finish disqualified after failing post-race inspection.

Gilliland will start 17th in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Comments from Love’s Travel Stops team driver David Gilliland after the Budweiser Duel:

“We did really well tonight. Our Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion ran really well. The Roush Yates horsepower was really, really good. It ran cool all night, everything you need to have a successful night at a speedway track, and the guys did a good job.

“The nerves down here at Daytona, you can’t compare them to anything else, so I’m glad that we’re in the Daytona 500. That’s something I missed one time and that was a feeling I’ll never forget and hopefully never want to feel again. I’m real happy and real proud of the guys and I can’t wait until Sunday.”

 

David Ragan, No. 34 CSX “Play It Safe” Ford
Starting Position: 20 (Duel No. 2)
Finishing Position: 17

David Ragan was less than a lap away from finishing his qualifying Duel in an uneventful fashion and making the Daytona 500 with room to spare. But a last-lap multi-car wreck made things more dramatic than anyone wanted.

After starting 20th in the No. 34 CSX Ford, Ragan climbed into the top 10 by Lap 9 and logged laps as the field strung out single-file for much of the first half of the race.

The team made its only pit stop on Lap 36, taking two tires and fuel. With 15 laps to go, Ragan was in 14th and locked into a Daytona 500 starting spot if he maintained his position. But on the last lap, Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas and triggered a multi-car wreck that took out the No. 34 Ford and sent Ragan careening into the inside wall.

Ragan climbed from the car and was taken to the infield care center where he was evaluated and released. The team was credited with a 17th-place finish and still earned a place in Sunday’s main event, securing the 43rd starting spot.

Comments from CSX “Play It Safe” team driver David Ragan after the Budweiser Duel:

“It’s unfortunate to tear up a lot of race cars coming out of Turn 4 in a qualifying race. Our CSX Ford was fast and our mindset that last lap was we were just kind of cruising 10th or 12th, and the bottom lane got rolling. It looked like everybody was separated pretty good, so I just stayed in line. I felt like the bottom would be a safe place and it appears the 48 ran out of gas and just caused a chain-reaction.

“When guys start turning left and turning right and slowing down it just kind of creates a trap. The 15, I think, got spun in front of us, so there was nowhere to go for our 34 Ford. But we’ve got a fast race car and I’m looking forward to Sunday.”

 

Eric McClure, No. 35 Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Ford
Starting Position: 18 (Duel No. 2)
Finishing Position: 23

Eric McClure and the No. 35 Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap team came up short in their bid to race into the Daytona 500 line-up Thursday night.

McClure started Duel No. 2 in the 18th spot, and needed to finish in the top-15 to make Sunday’s main event. He was in 19th and within reach of the top 15 when he pitted mid-race for a fuel-only stop. But right after rejoining the field, the car blew a front tire and forced him to return to pit road with damage to repair.

The repair time cost him a couple laps on track, a deficit that he could not recover from in the remaining laps. He finished the race in 23rd and did not qualify for Sunday’s race.

Comments from Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap team driver Eric McClure after the Budweiser Duel:

“Obviously, I’m disappointed. We knew after the first Duel that we basically had to finish in the top 15. So we knew we had our work cut out for us. If it was a longer race, we might have had the chance to make up the lost ground after the blown tire, but we were pretty much sunk after that. I’m grateful to the guys at Front Row Motorsports for all the work they put into the car. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”