Gilliland and Ragan Score Top-20s at Pocono

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 30
Finishing Position: 17

David Gilliland earned his best finish of the 2014 season Sunday at Pocono Raceway, driving a strong Long John Silver’s Ford to a top-20 result.

The No. 38 team started the 160-lap event in 30th, feeling it made good progress on its Ford Fusion over the course of the race weekend. Early cautions on Laps 10 and 17 gave the team early chances to make its first pit stop, and crew chief Frank Kerr made the call to bring Gilliland to pit road on the second yellow. With some cars staying out on track, the strategy put Gilliland on a different pit sequence than others in the field.

The move worked in his favor, allowing the No. 38 to climb the leaderboard multiple times as the cars cycled through pit stops, even taking the lead on Lap 78 for a bonus point before peeling off for a scheduled trip to pit road.

Gilliland’s pit sequence put him in a good position when Denny Hamlin set off a 13-car accident on Lap 118, shortly after the No. 38 had completed a pit stop and was in the back half of the field. With the huge pile-up in front of him, Gilliland was able to avoid the mess and claim a spot in the top-20 for the ensuing restart.

Despite the different nature of each of the “Tricky Triangle’s” three corners, Gilliland had the same request of his crew for much of the race — to help tighten up his entry into the corners and free up the car through the centers. The Long John Silver’s crew made progress with each stop and by the final 40 laps had the No. 38 handling as best as it had all afternoon.

The improved handling allowed Gilliland to stake a claim on the 17th position for the final 30 laps of the race, a position he held on to as he crossed the finish line. The lead-lap, top-20 finish was his best result of the season and Front Row Motorsports’ best-ever finish at Pocono.

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

“I’m very happy and very proud of the guys. Our Long John Silver’s Ford Fusion was pretty good all weekend from the time we unloaded. We knew that we had a good enough car to take advantage of some situations out there on the race track and be able to race hard for Lucky Dogs and those kind of things. We were able to do that and caught a couple breaks and had a good, solid day.”

 

David Ragan, No. 34 A&W Root Beer Float/CSX Ford
Starting Position: 39
Finishing Position: 19

The “Tricky Triangle” played some tricks on plenty of Sprint Cup drivers during the GoBowling.com 400, but David Ragan and the No. 34 team ran a strong and smart race Sunday to earn their second top-20 finish of the season.

Ragan started 39th in his A&W Restaurants Root Beer Float Day/CSX Ford. A Lap 10 caution gave the team the chance at an early pit stop and the opportunity to be on a different pit sequence than the leaders, so crew chief Jay Guy brought his driver to pit road. Like their teammates on the No. 38 team, the strategy worked in their favor. The varying pit cycles put Ragan in the top 15 multiple times throughout the 160-lap race, climbing as high as sixth on Lap 79.

A good-handling car and smart pit strategy were also aided by a little luck. Ragan had just pitted and was running in 27th when a huge pile-up on Lap 117 collected 13 cars in the front half of the field. Besides escaping damage, Ragan also gained numerous positions, jumping into the top-20 for the Lap 127 restart.

He never left the top-20 the rest of the race. Despite battling a tight-turning car on restarts, Ragan was able to hang on to the 19th position until the checkered flag flew.

His top-20 finish was his second at Pocono this season and his second-best finish on the year.

Comments from A&W team driver David Ragan after the Pocono race:

“It was a solid top-20 day. I felt like our car was a little better at times, but we just didn’t quite have the track position. It seemed like we were fighting every single restart, but I’m proud of our A&W team. Front Row Motorsports had two cars in the top-20, so that’s a solid day for us.”