Las Vegas Race Report: Teams Test Their Luck with Gen-6

David Ragan, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
Starting Position: 29
Finishing Position: 31

The Front Row Motorsports teams looked forward to Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 – the first race in the Gen-6 cars at a mile-and-a-half track – to see how the new cars would handle the intermediate courses. For David Ragan and the No. 34 Ford team, the car and the quirky, bumpy track put them through a lot of learning scenarios throughout the weekend.

With Friday’s qualifying session rained out and the field set by the order dictated by the NASCAR rulebook, Ragan lined up 29th for Sunday’s race. He told Jay Guy in the early laps the same thing many other drivers were telling their crew chiefs. The car was “loose” coming out of the turns – a handling issue that would persist throughout the race.

Long green-flag runs made it difficult to gain track position, so even though the team improved the car’s handling over the course of the race, it was difficult to climb the leaderboard. After being as far back as 38th just before the half-way mark, Ragan was able to use an improved-handling car to finish in 31st.

Comments from Front Row Motorsports team driver David Ragan after the Las Vegas race:

“We were really inconsistent for the first three-quarters of the race, but got better at the end. We were loose off all day. It was as warm as it’s been all week and maybe we didn’t adjust enough to be ready for that. But we kept fighting and, it wasn’t pretty, but we made it better by the end.”

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 31
Finishing Position: 28

David Gilliland lined up 31st for the start of Sunday’s race, hopeful the team found some extra speed for his Long John Silver’s Ford after making myriad changes to the car on Saturday. And speed they found. After slipping back to 37th on the green-flag start, Gilliland pushed his way back up to 30th by Lap 15.

A call to stay out on track under the race’s first caution period put the No. 38 in 21st on Lap 70, and Gilliland hung around the top 20 until it was time to come to pit road for fuel. The off-sequence pit cycle put the team around the top-20 mark multiple times throughout the afternoon, but the team couldn’t get the caution flags to fall at the right times to keep them there.

The Long John Silver’s crew worked hard at making the car perform better throughout the 267-lap race, which allowed Gilliland to race competitively among the cars fighting for the top-25.

A late yellow flag brought cars down pit road for fresh tires for a final push with 26 laps to go. After restarting in 29th, Gilliland was able to gain one more position to finish 28th.

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

“I’m really proud of this ’38’ team. Frank Kerr and the guys brought a really good car to the track this weekend. Probably the best car I’ve had at a mile-and-a-half track. We just lacked a little drive-off throughout the race, which kept us from being as competitive as we could’ve been. But we learned a ton and we’re going to be that much better for it at the next intermediate track.”

 

Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 43
Finishing Position: 35

The rules for rained-out qualifying put Josh Wise in the 43rd spot to start Sunday’s race. But his MDS Transport Ford had good speed in the opening laps as he gained seven positions in the first 38 laps.

But like his teammates, Wise fought a loose condition in his Ford Fusion and even had to save the car from spinning out at one point – a maneuver that affected the car’s handling for the rest of the race.

But the No. 35 team persevered, making chassis and air-pressure adjustments to improve the ride for Wise. The driver held his ground in the late laps and the team made solid gains in its first intermediate-track race, coming home with a 35th-place finish.

Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise after the Las Vegas race:

“We were pretty loose there and had to save it at one point, and then something on the car wasn’t quite right after that. But this was our first race on a mile-and-a-half with these new cars and we learned a lot. With each race, we’ll get better and better. Front Row Motorsports is building good cars and we’ll keep working and improving them as we apply what we learn each time we go out there.”