After a three-hour and 46-minute red flag for rain and a green-white-checker finish in the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, David Ragan got Front Row Motorsports its first win. Teammate David Gilliland finished second to give the underfunded teeam a one-two finish.
“This is a true David vs. Goliath moment,” Ragan said in victory lane.
Carl Edwards finished third, Michael Waltrip was fourth in just his second race of the year, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five.
Edwards started on the pole, but lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr. on the first lap. Matt Kenseth took the lead on lap six and dominated the rest of the race. By the time a yellow flag came out for rain on lap 122 and the race went under the red flag a few laps later, Kenseth had led 101 laps. For most of those laps, Johnson ran second.
After the red flag, Bobby Labonte restarted with the lead after staying out during the yellow flag that followed the red. With 53 laps to go, Kenseth got back to the front. Kenseth was followed by Edwards for several laps until Johnson moved back into second with 29 to go.
The field cycled through green-flag pit stops with 22 laps remaining, and after the completion of the cycle, Johnson was up front with Kenseth in second.
A multi-car wreck with five laps to go that started with contact between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley set off a chain reaction that collected the cars of David Stremme, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Jamie McMurray and Labonte. Busch’s car got airborne and landed on top of Newman’s car.
“I was trying to win the race,” Yeley said. “I had a run and tried to go to the outside.”
The caution from the wreck resulted in a green-white-checker finish to the race. Kenseth and Edwards moved into the top-two spots just before the yellow flag, so they restarted first and second. Edwards got out to the lead on the restart, while Kenseth got shuffled back.
On the final lap, the two Front Row Motorsports teammates, Ragan and Gilliland, drafted to the front to take the win and runner-up honors.
“I’ve got to thank my teammates, David Gilliland and Josh Wise,” Ragan said. “Without Gilliland, I wouldn’t be here.”
Kenseth wound up finishing eighth. Regan Smith and Martin Truex Jr. were sixth and seventh.
“It was a good run, but a really disappointing finish,” Kenseth said.
Another driver with an underfunded team, Scott Speed, posted a top-10, finishing ninth, and Aric Almirola was 10th.
The wreck with five to go in the scheduled 188-lap distance was the second wreck of the day that collected several cars. The first one came on lap 43 with contact between Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne. Other drivers who fell victim in that wreck included Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Travis Kvapil, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Busch said. “I know I got in the back of the 5 (Kahne).”
Another car caught up in that wreck was the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, being driven then by Brian Vickers. Denny Hamlin made his return to the seat to start the race in the No. 11. During the first caution of the race on lap 23, Hamlin got out of the car and Vickers climbed in. Hamlin expects to run the full race at Darlington (S.C.) Speedway Saturday night.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR