Driving for Font Row Motorsports, David Ragan crossed the finish line in first place in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. Ragan was closely followed by teammate David Gilliland in what is widely being described as a “surprising” finish and a “David and Goliath” type battle and victory. Carl Edwards took third place followed by Michael Waltrip and Jimmy Johnson in fourth and fifth places.
Talladega has been the scene of a number of devastating crashes over the years, and Sunday’s race included two crashes which may have changed the outcome of the race, but thankfully didn’t cause any major injuries. The first crash took place 44 laps into the race and involved 16 cars. Kyle Busch’s car tapped the back of Kasey Kahne’s sending him into the wall and resulting in a chain reaction which Busch later accepted responsibility for triggering. The second crash came following a three-hour delay caused by heavy rain and a restart with only six laps to go, raising questions by some as to why NASCAR didn’t just call the race and avoid the last restart, with others supporting NASCAR’s decision. Danica Patrick, Terry Labonte, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and JJ Yeley were among the drivers involved in the second crash.
The latest NASCAR Sprint Cup standings has Jimmie Johnson (383 points) in the lead, followed by Carl Edwards (342 points), Dale Earnhardt Jr (324 points), Clint Bowyer (316 points), Brad Keselowski (314 points), Kasey Kahne (299 points), Aric Almirola (293 points), Paul Menard (290 points), Kyle Busch (285 points) and Greg Biffle (280 points).
Born on December 24, 1985, in Unadilla, Georgia, David Ragan started racing at the age of 12 in the Bandolero Series. He has been racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2007 when he replaced Mark Martin in the #6 for Roush Fenway Racing. His first career NASCAR Sprint Cup series victory came on July 2, 2011 in the Coke Zero 400 held at the Daytona International Speedway. Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 victory was his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win.
Kicking off the season in style, the Daytona 500 carries the largest purse of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and is widely considered to be the season’s most prestigious race. Covering a distance of 500 miles, it is one of the four restrictor plate races on the Sprint Cup Series calendar and is a test of driver skill and endurance. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag on Sunday, notching up his second Daytona 500 victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in at second place, followed by Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman in third, fourth and fifth places respectively. After earning pole position for the race, Danica Patrick crossed the finish line in eighth place.
Restrictor plates are used at superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona) to slow cars down and have been the subject of much controversy as some drivers have expressed concern that the use of restrictor plates results in the field bunching up and thereby increasing the risk level of racing as top drivers try to pull away from the crowd. Fortunately, there were no major incidents at this year’s Daytona 500, maybe because drivers are well aware of the increased risk and remained huddled together for the first 180 laps. When Johnson pulled to the front, he clearly intended to stay there, and it was a close race between Johnson and Earnhardt. While Earnhardt made every effort to claim his second first place, with a little more than a mile to go, Earnhardt and third place winner Martin went low on the track. Johnson maneuvered his way to the front and took first place, closely followed by Earnhardt and veteran NASCAR driver Martin.
As the first woman to win pole position at the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick led three times in the race, finishing eighth and making NASCAR history, yet again, as the highest finish for a female driver at this exciting annual event. In a post-race interview Patrick noted that it was a “solid day” and was clearly pleased to have stayed in the top 10 through the race.
The 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona offered plenty of racing action over the past weekend, with Juan Pablo Montoyo of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team taking the checkered flag in the 51st edition of this popular annual event. It was Montoya’s third overall win in Daytona, and a fifth for teammate and lead driver, Scott Pruett, putting him on a par with Hurley Haywood’s record for wins in the two-day endurance race. Together with Charlie Kimball and Memo Rojas, Montoya and Pruett proved to be a winning combination crossing the finish line close to 22 seconds ahead of defending champion AJ Allmendinger of Michael Shank Racing.
Run on a 3.56-mile course combining an infield road course with parts of the NASCAR tri-oval, the 24 Hours of Daytona started in 1962 as a three-hour sports car race called the Daytona Continental, with points counting towards the International Championship for GT Manufacturers. The event became the Daytona 2000 in 1964 and the 24 Hours of Daytona between 1966 and 1971 before changing to the 6 hours of Daytona in 1972 because of the fuel crisis of the time as a result of the OPEC oil embargo. The race never took place in 1974, but resumed as the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1975, with the name later changing to include the names of various sponsors, including Pepsi and SunBank. Rolex has been the sponsor since 2002
The off-season timing of the Rolex 24 affords many top drivers the opportunity to participate, and it is generally a star-studded event. With teams consisting of between three and five drivers, world-class participants from other types of racing often sign up for the race. NASCAR drivers have included Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon, while Indianapolis 500 winners to participate include Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice, Juan Pablo Montoyo, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead was the final race of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, with Jeff Gordon taking first place, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle in the top five. Crossing the line in 15th position, Brad Keselowski’s points tally made him the winner of the Sprint Cup Championship, bringing Penske Racing its first Sprint Cup championship and beating Hendrick Motorsports five-time champion Jimmie Johnson who took third place, with Clint Bowyer taking second spot.
Following last week’s altercation between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, resulting in Gordon receiving a $100,000 fine and losing 25 points for intentionally wrecking Bowyer, there was much speculation as to whether Sunday’s race would provide an opportunity for the settling of scores between the two drivers. But both drivers were totally professional and the race was incident free. Despite last week’s incident, Bowyer managed to finish in second place in the final points standings with Gordon finishing tenth.
Born in February 1984, Bradley Aaron Keselowski won his first championship in the 2010 Nationwide Series – a first both for the driver and Penske Racing. By winning the Sprint Cup Series Championship, Keselowski became the second of only two drivers to win both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Championships, the other drivers being Bobby Labonte.
Starting his NASCAR career with the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series season, Keselowski made his debut at Martinsville Speedway, with his best finish of the season being 16th at Mansfield. Keselowski driver opened the 2005 season in seventh place at the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 and after running every race of the season, finished 21st in points. The 2006 season presented some challenges for Keselowski as the team he was driving for lost its sponsorship and had to suspend operations. He filled in for other drivers during the season and in subsequent years Keselowski drove for various teams, filling in when the opportunity arose. In 2009 he achieved his first Sprint Cup victory at Talladega’s Aaron’s 49.
Keselowski joined Penske Racing in 2010, running the #12 Dodge Charger in the Sprint Cup Series, as well as the #22 Discount Tire car in the Nationwide Series. 2012 has proven to be Keselowski’s best Sprint Cup season, and with the Sprint Cup championship under his belt, fans can no doubt expect to see great things from this talented young driver in the future.
With only two more races to go – AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix and Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead – the competitive spirit in the Chase for the Sprint Cup is reaching fever pitch. Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway saw Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski fight to the finish, with Johnson taking the checkered flag and Keselowski hot on his heels. His first place finish in the AAA Texas 500 has Johnson in the lead for the Sprint Cup Championship with 2339 points. Kyle Busch took third place, with Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart taking fourth and fifth.
Although Johnson led for 168 laps in the 334 lap race, it was in the final restart of three in the race that Johnson made the move that put him in first place. Johnson and Keselowski were side-by-side on the restart in the second-last lap when Johnson pushed his #48 Chevrolet hard on the outside, clearing Keselowski on the backstretch and staying in the lead for the final one-and-a-half laps. This was the second week in a row that Johnson won from the pole and his win put him into the lead in the standings by 7 points.
Keselowski had fallen from first to ninth place in his #2 Dodge after being delayed in a pit stop when blocked by Danica Patrick’s car. He took only left-side tires when all other drivers took four tires and he restarted in the lead with 19 laps of the race to go and gained the ground he had lost. A second restart with eight laps to go saw the position between the two rivals unchanged, but the third restart left Keselowski in second place as Johnson streaked ahead.
The second restart was as a result of contact between Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle, all of whom continued to finish the race in 14th, 25th and 10th place respectively.
The current top ten in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings are as follows:
1. Jimmie Johnson – 2339 point
2. Brad Keselowski – 2332 points
3. Clint Bowyer – 2303 points
4. Kasey Kahne – 2281 points
5. Matt Kenseth – 2267 points
6. Jeff Gordon – 2267 points
7. Denny Hamlin – 2266 points
8. Tony Stewart – 2259 points
9. Martin Truex Jr – 2259 points
10. Greg Biffle – 2256 points