Thursday, May 24, 2018
Sports

Ragan wins NASCAR Sprint Cup at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Rain and wrecks pushed NASCAR to the edge of darkness Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, where three of the biggest names in the sport led the field to the final flag.

NASCAR had one last try to get the rain-delayed race finished at the 2.66-mile speedway, where there are no lights, and Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson led the pack for the two-lap overtime sprint.

None of them ever saw David Ragan coming.

Heck, Ragan barely even saw teammate David Gilliland hook his rear bumper. But Gilliland locked up with Ragan for a last-gasp push and the Front Row Motorsports drivers sliced their way to the front as Ragan got the tiny organization's first victory.

"This is a true David versus Goliath moment here," Ragan said.

It was the second Sprint Cup victory for Ragan — he also won at Daytona, the series' other restrictor-plate track, in July 2011. Gilliland was second for a 1-2 team finish in the Aaron's 499.

"I had a great teammate. David Gilliland gave us a great push. I owe him a lot," said Ragan, who was fifth when the final lap started. "I'll definitely buy him lunch this week or something."

It was a popular victory by team owner Bob Jenkins, a restaurant franchise owner from Tennessee who mostly funds the team out of his own pocket.

The victory came a day after Regan Smith won the Nationwide series race and Ragan was flooded with misfired congratulatory messages on Twitter.

Now Ragan has his own win.

Gilliland wanted the win but was content with second.

"What a great day for Front Row Motorsports, an underfunded team coming in here and being able to finish 1-2 is awesome," Gilliland said. "I'm very proud of David Ragan. I know he would have done the same for me."

The race took seven hours to complete after rain stopped it for 3 hours, 36 minutes. With darkness closing in, contact between Ricky Stenhouse and J.J. Yeley triggered a frightening crash that sent Kurt Busch's car airborne and atop Ryan Newman's car.

Newman was okay but could not hold back his frustration.

"They can build safer race cars, they can build safer walls. But they can't get their heads out of their (expletive) far enough to keep them on the racetrack, and that's pretty disappointing," Newman told Fox Sports. "You got what you wanted. Running in the dark, running in the rain."

The finish wasn't without other controversy — 15th-place finisher Brad Keselowski said on Twitter that Ragan jumped to the outside of his car on the restart.

Kenseth led 142 of 192 laps and led before the final restart, but he was passed by Edwards on the first lap of overtime, then fell well back, winding up eighth.

Edwards, of Roush Fenway Racing — Kenseth and Ragan are both former teammates — wound up third for a sweep of the top three spots for Ford.

Tampa's Aric Almirola was 10th and moved into the top 10 in points, taking seventh spot. David Reutimann of Zephyrhills was 41st after an early wreck.

Denny Hamlin returned from a compression fracture in a vertebra by turning 23 laps before getting out of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to let Brian Vickers take over. Vickers was involved in a wreck and finished 34th.

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