If there’s any track on the NASCAR circuit that can produce the ultimate underdog story, it’s Talladega Superspeedway.
A track known for drivers picking up their first–and sometimes only–victory, Sunday’s marathon that was the Aaron’s 499 did not disappoint.
After sitting through a nearly four-hour rain delay, the diminished pack of cars restarted the final 60 laps of the 188-lap race with a potential for more rain on the horizon.
Looking to be a carbon copy to the season-opening Daytona 500 where the majority of the race was cars riding in a single-file line, the dynamic of the race changed when Michael McDowell’s Ford blew a tire, bringing out the caution flag.
The excitement was far from over, though.
With just six laps to go, the cars of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JJ Yeley made contact on the backstretch, triggering a crash which sent Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet airborne, landing on the front of Ryan Newman’s No.39.
In all, twelve cars were involved in the lap 184 crash which also included the cars of; Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip and others.
As darkness quickly decended upon Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR chose to attempt one green-white-checkered finish to conclude the nearly eight-hour Aaron’s 499.
Matt Kenseth, who was the dominant car of the race, restarted on the front row with Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson.
By the time the white flag was in the air, Carl Edwards–who was in the lead of the race when the red flag came out for rain four hours earlier–found himself in front of a hornet’s nest.
With a head of steam out of the second corner, the Front Row Motorsports pair of David Ragan and David Gilliland made quick work of Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing Ford, taking over the lead of the race entering turn three.
Doing everything in his power to hold the field off, Ragan darted to the high-side of the track then quickly swept low, holding off the field to win Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talledega Superspeedway.
“Man, I don’t know what to say. This is a true David versus Goliath moment here,” an emotional Ragan said in victory lane.
“I gotta thank my teammates– David Gilliland, Josh Wise– if it wasn’t for that push from David Gilliland….”
Ragan only led four laps on the day, however he led the only won that counts.
“It’s a huge, huge deal for us to be sitting here right now,” Ragan said after picking up his second career Sprint Cup win.
Sunday’s win was the first team victory for Ragan’s team, Front Row Motorsports. Although they’re a team that’s heavily aligned with the Ford camp, they’re not your perennial powerhouse team.
“What makes it special is just the time and the effort these guys put into these cars,” said team owner Bob Jenkins.
“There’s a lot of owners out there that get the best available driver they can get. The thing I think makes our team different from some of the rest is that more than anything, we’re friends.
“I know I got drivers that can win races, the guys at the shop that have the heart to win races. We just haven’t always had the luck.”
Sunday’s race was the first time in team history Front Row Motorsports had finished first and second in Sprint Cup Series race.
Josh Wise, driver of the No.35 for Front Row Motorsports, finished nineteenth after issues on the final restart took him out of contention.
Finishing fifth, Jimmie Johnson retains his points lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
Johnson now holds a forty-one point advantage over Sunday’s third-place finisher, Carl Edwards, heading into next Saturday’s Southern 500 at Darlington (SC) Raceway.
Aaron’s 499 Unofficial Results
- David Ragan
- David Gilliland
- Carl Edwards
- Michael Waltrip
- Jimmie Johnson
- Regan Smith
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Matt Kenseth
- Scott Speed
- Aric Almirola
- Jeff Gordon
- David Stremme
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Marcos Ambrose
- Brad Keselowski
- Dave Blaney
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Clint Bowyer
- Josh Wise
- Bobby Labonte
- Michael McDowell
- Landon Cassill
- Jamie McMurray
- Casey Mears
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Paul Menard
- Tony Stewart
- Jeff Burton
- Terry Labonte
- Kurt Busch
- JJ Yeley
- Ryan Newman
- Danica Patrick
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Greg Biffle
- Kyle Busch
- Travis Kvapil
- Joe Nemechek
- Kevin Harvick
- David Reuitmann
- Kasey Kahne
- Trevor Bayne