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We waited through rain, wrecks, and a nail-biting green-white-checker finish to witness an incredible victory by the underdog, David Ragan. No one was talking about Ragan until the last lap when he emerged at the front of the field with drafting help from his teammate, David Gilliland. Both the David’s shot to the lead and blocked everyone else to make sure that Front Row Motorsports got to victory lane. They were successful and FRM got to celebrate their first Sprint Cup victory. Many will agree that the race was worth the wait and the ending didn’t disappoint. It may have taken awhile, but this Talladega races was truly a remarkable one.
Ragan didn’t appear at the front of the field until the last lap, but he was one of the few drivers to lead a lap throughout the day. Martin Truex Jr. jumped to the lead early in the race when he passed pole-sitter Carl Edwards on lap 1. Matt Kenseth made his way to the lead on lap 6 and he would camp out in that position for much of the race. The first caution of the race came out on lap 23 for Trevor Bayne who blew an engine.
The inevitable big wreck struck early in the race when on lap 43, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne tangled and Kahne went straight into the wall. Busch only made slight contact with Kahne, but that little contact created the “big one.” When drivers saw the carnage ahead, they attempted to miss it, but most of them didn’t. Other drivers involved in the wreck included Brian Vickers, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, David Stremme, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, and David Reutimann. This wreck left many of the major contenders in the garage, but some of the drivers involved were able to return to the track to rack up some points.
A major rain storm was unleashed on the Talladega Superspeedway with 66 laps to go and the third caution came out for rain. At first, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. looked to be in the lead, but it turned out that Carl Edwards was actually the leader when the caution came out. What does that matter? Well, if the race were to end there, we would want the correct winner in victory lane.
This yellow-flag period soon turned into a red flag one and a major delay was underway. NASCAR did the best job that they could in making sure the race continued and they were successful after a three and a half hour red flag period. Fans rejoiced once the cars were back on the track after the delay and now, everyone was amped up for a dramatic finish.
Just a few laps following the restart, Matt Kenseth reclaimed the lead that he had held for much of the race prior to the delay and he would continue to hold it for many of the closing laps.
After the fourth caution of the day for Michael McDowell, the leaders were once again bunched up and the effects of a pack at Talladega soon followed. You probably guessed it, the second “big one” of the day unfolded with six laps to go. The wreck began when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. squeezed to the outside of J.J Yeley on the backstretch and Yeley was shoved down the track. Yeley spun right in the middle of the track and he turned Kurt Busch who then flipped over in the air and landed on Ryan Newman’s car. Busch’s car then came to a rest and he was okay. Many other cars piled into the wreck and major race contenders were now left with torn-up race cars.
Other drivers involved in the wreck included Clint Bowyer, Terry Labonte, Danica Patrick, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte, David Stremme, and Marcos Ambrose. All of these drivers were checked and released from the infield care center.
Due to the darkness setting in on Talladega, NASCAR limited the race to only one attempt at a green-white-checker finish and this finish was a classic Talladega one. Kenseth held the lead when the field took the green, but he was soon passed by Carl Edwards. Edwards held off the rest of the field for another lap before the field went down the backstretch for one final time.
David Ragan got a tremendous draft from David Gilliland and they both snuck through the middle of the pack to the lead. Once they were in turn 3, Ragan was now in-command of the top-spot. Gilliland continued to give his assistance to his teammate and they both blocked their competitors through the tri-oval to assure their team a victory. Ragan was ahead of Gilliland by a few car lengths and that allowed Ragan to win his second career Sprint Cup race. Gilliland ended up second, making it a one-two Front Row Motorsports finish. A true underdog team was on top after this race and they more than deserved this victory.
FRM has never been super competitive as an organization, but they always seem to be in the mix at restrictor-plate tracks. They were in the right place at the right time on the final lap and that allowed them to celebrate their first victory as an organization in victory lane. This win is a major accomplishment for their whole team and a proud day for NASCAR since we rarely see an underdog team like FRM in victory lane.
Talladega definitely didn’t disappoint today and the ending was worth sitting around for a three hour delay. The true unpredictable Talladega showed up today and the saying “anyone can win at Talladega” was especially true. This race delivered big time and NASCAR did a great job of getting the full-race in. It’s on to Darlington next weekend where the Gen 6 cars meet the lady in black and the cars will definitely become good friends with the wall before the night is out. Talladega was great, but Darlington could top the amazing race we witnessed today.