David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 33
Finishing Position: 20
David Gilliland earned his first top-20 finish of the season Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. It didn’t come easily, though. The three-quarter-mile track was tough on tires and challenging to keep up with as conditions changed from dusk to dark.
The No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford started the 400-lap race in 33rd after a rained-out qualifying session forced NASCAR to set the field by practice speeds. Gilliland would find that his Ford Fusion would be at its best early in a run, but would tighten up as the laps ticked by and the tires wore down.
The crew chief and pit crew were on their game, though, making quick changes to help their driver adapt to the challenges. After 200 laps, he had moved into the top 25, and shortly after Lap 300, had pushed into the top 20.
Like at any short track, it was easy to fall off the lead lap at Richmond Saturday night. But Gilliland stayed on that lead lap for all but one (Lap 367), getting the “Lucky Dog” pass almost immediately when a caution flag waved.
He held his ground in or around the top 20 for the remainder of the race, and crossed the line in 20th for Front Row Motorsports’ best finish of the season to date.
Comments from Long John Silver’s team driver David Gilliland after the Richmond race:
“The guys did a great job on the car this weekend. And it’s a hard race to prepare a car for because the conditions are so much different than what we practice in. And the tires were a big question mark, too. I think everybody was worried about tires coming in, and we saw why. I did my best to take care of them while trying to race as hard as I could at the same time. It was a fine line, but we walked it pretty well and came away with a good, lead-lap finish.”
David Ragan, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford
Starting Position: 37
Finishing Position: 30
The qualifying rainout put David Ragan in 37th on Saturday night’s starting grid. The driver had a good track record at Richmond International Raceway and hoped to return to the comfort zone of the three-quarter-mile oval.
But the evening would prove to be more challenging than previous visits. As the race got under way, the No. 34 team learned that Ragan would be battling handling and track conditions more than he would be battling his competitors. The Taco Bell Ford was tight-handling through the turns — an issue the team would fight all night.
With tire wear an issue for everyone, pit strategy was not much of an option to gain track position. Practically everyone pitted for tires under every caution. That didn’t leave many opportunities to regain ground lost from an ill-handling car. As a result, Ragan remained around the top-30 mark for the entire race and crossed the line in 30th. The finish was enough to gain a spot in both driver and owner points .
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan after the Richmond race:
“Richmond is one of my favorite tracks, but it really wasn’t my friend tonight. Our Taco Bell Ford was just really tight all night. And we did make some adjustments that helped, but it wasn’t enough to help move up the board like we wanted. But we’re on to Talladega next week. The team is excited, our fans are excited and maybe we can have another big day like we have had before.”
David Reutimann, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 30
Finishing Position: 29
Front Row Motorsports had its third entry in Saturday night’s race, with David Reutimann behind the wheel of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford. Reutimann started the evening in 30th, ready to take on the challenges of the tough short track.
Like his teammate, Reutimann wrestled with a tight-handling car — a condition that the team worked on and improved upon with each pit stop. But some long green-flag runs and a lack of options for pit strategy kept the No. 35 back in the field.
In the final 100 laps, Reutimann was running lap times similar to those of the leaders. But the speed wasn’t enough to climb as many positions as they’d have liked, with the No. 35 crossing the line in 29th.
Comments from MDS Transport team driver David Reutimann after the Richmond race:
“We had a tight car, but we did see some changes help it. The car was running its best toward the end of the race, but that wasn’t quite soon enough for us to go move up the board.”