Fontana Race Report: Ragan Earns 2nd Straight Top-25

David Ragan, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
Starting Position: 42
Finishing Position: 24

David Ragan took the green flag in the 42nd position, but quickly made his way up to 32nd by Lap 28. After two practice days of battling an ill-handling car, the No. 34 team had a race-day set-up that seemed to better respond to the rough two-mile oval.

Ragan was up to 29th for a Lap 95 restart and looking to push further up the board when he had a setback. Grass on the car’s grille was causing the temperatures to rise and forced the team to pit to clean the front of the car, setting them down a lap.

With half the race still to go, they played it patient and took advantage of opportunities to improve the car during the race’s nine caution periods. The numerous cautions also provided the “wave-around” option, allowing Ragan to regain his lost lap under a yellow.

With 10 laps to go, Ragan was in the 23rd position and gunning for his first top-20 finish of the year. But the No. 34 Ford started to overheat, forcing the team to pit to clean the grille. Ragan returned to the track in 25th and gained one additional spot to take the checkered flag in 24th. The result is the No. 34 team’s second consecutive top-25 finish. Ragan also gained a bonus point for leading a lap.

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

“Looking back to how we started the weekend, to get a top-25 finish, that was a great day. The Front Row team worked hard and made the car better, the pit stops were good, and Jay (Guy) called a good race. It was good to get a lead-lap finish. We definitely had a faster car than what we had here on Friday and Saturday. We’ll keep working with what we learn with the Gen-6 car and we’ll also look forward to our off weekend, too.”

 

David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford
Starting Position: 34
Finishing Position: 29

David Gilliland lined up in 34th for the start of Sunday’s race, an event that would bring more drama than he envisioned. The Riverside, Calif., native looked to put on a solid show for the hometown crowd, but got a little more action than he bargained for.

The early laps of the race were spent mostly working on the handling of the car, which was loose getting into and coming out of the turns. Adjustments during multiple pit stops helped, but the driver said it needed more.

By Lap 121, he was up to 28th and looking to keep improving and climbing. But on Lap 126, he radioed to his team that he was out of gas and coasting onto pit road. A quick fill-up put him back on the track in 34th.

As the team continued to working on improving the car’s turning and forward drive, Gilliland passed multiple cars to reach the 31st position by Lap 175. He was then working to reach Mark Martin when Martin spun and came down the track across the No. 38’s nose. Gilliland had to bring the car to pit road with heavy right front damage.

The Long John Silver’s team quickly worked to patch their Ford Fusion back up and returned Gilliland to the track still in 31st with 20 laps to go. Despite the car’s battle wounds, Gilliland was able to gain two additional spots to cross the finish line in 29th.

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

“That was kind of a crazy day. Our car was pretty fast. Unfortunately, we went a lap down when we ran out of gas, but I was able to pass all the cars on our lap after that. And I was getting up to Mark (Martin) and then he did whatever he did. So, we had pretty good speed. Frank (Kerr) and the guys did a great job on the car all weekend and the pit crew did a great job making fast repairs after the 55 hit us. We just had some things that didn’t go our way that kept us from finishing higher. But we’re definitely learning a lot about these new cars and we’ll be better for it when we come back after the break.”

 

Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford
Starting Position: 30
Finishing Position: 40

Riverside, Calif., native Josh Wise started the Auto Club 400 in 30th position and in front of a hometown crowd. He was eager to have a good showing for family and friends in attendance but had a loose car to contend with in the early going.

Chassis adjustments on the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford’s first pit stop seemed to help the driver, but he asked for more help in tightening the car up further. While the team kept working on the car’s handling over the next two stops, they took advantage of the “wave-around rule” and then earned a “Lucky Dog” pass to stay on the lead lap each time.

Wise took a Lap 95 restart in 28th position, still early enough in the 200-lap event to gain some ground on the car’s handling and on the leaderboard. But a few short laps later, the No. 35 Ford starting dropping fluid and the engine soon overheated. The team took the car to the garage to find that a piece of debris had punctured the radiator. The engine issue led to an unexpectedly short day for Wise, who was credited with a 40th-place finish.

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

“That was kind of a bittersweet day. Our MDS Transport Ford was pretty fast and Steven Lane and the guys were making some good adjustments on it. I love racing here so I thought we really had a good race ahead of us. But we picked up a piece of debris that put a hole in the radiator and that ended our day early. I’m proud of this team, though, for what we’ve been able to do these first few weeks. We’ll take a break to celebrate Easter and then we’ll be back at it.”

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