David Ragan gets first-career Sprint Cup win
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David Ragan came close to a win in the Daytona 500 back in February before he took himself out of contention with a miscue on a late-race restart. He made up for his mistake on the return trip to Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night by winning the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It was his first-career Cup win.
“This is fun,” Ragan said of celebrating in victory lane. “We delivered a win for UPS. How about that?”
Ragan was pushed to the checkered flag by Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, who finished second.
The Ragan-Kenseth pairing was one of the few pairings from the start of the race that remained intact until the checkered flag.
“We stuck to our plan,” Kenseth said after the race.
Most drivers had a drafting partner picked out for the race before the event even started. Many of the pairings, though, were split up by three multi-car wrecks late in the race, two of them on the final lap.
One duo that came to fruition late was the pairing of Joey Logan and Kasey Kahne. Each driver worked with teammates most of the race -- Logano with Kyle Busch and Kahne with Brian Vickers. But both Busch and Vickers were involved in accidents. Logano and Kahne found themselves close together and without partners on the final restart, so the two joined up to draft to the end.
Logano said after the race that it was decided that his car would be the front one in the two-car draft and Kahne would push. According to Logano, Kahne’s rear bumper had significant enough damage that they’d wreck if Logano tried to push Kahne.
The pairing worked out, as Logano finished third -- his best-ever Sprint Cup finish at Daytona -- and Kahne was fourth.
Even though he spun late in the race, Busch was able to recover to finish in the fifth position.
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers started near the front of the field with a teammate to work with close by. Mark Martin started on the pole, with Jeff Gordon behind him in third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the race from the sixth position, with Jimmie Johnson starting right behind him in the eighth spot.
The four HMS cars remained at or near the front in the early going, with Martin leading the first 15 laps of the race. All four ended up in the back for much of the rest of the race, though, as Johnson made an extra pit stop during an early caution to repair some damage from some slight on-track contact and Earnhardt Jr. fell to the back to continue working with him.
A little later, Martin and Gordon found themselves running in the back after they were among the few who pitted during the second caution that came out on lap 23.
The Hendrick group ran just outside the top-20 most of the rest of the race until making their way near the top-10 in the closing laps. As a result of the rash of late-race accidents, three of the four fell outside the top-10, with Gordon the only HMS representative in the top-10 with a sixth-place finish.
After the Hendrick cars fell back through the field, the four-car team of Richard Childress Racing spent a significant amount of time up front, at times claiming the top-four spots in the running order with Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Jeff Burton.
The RCR pairing of Harvick and Menard was another one of the few that remained together until the end of the race. In the end, Harvick finished seventh and Menard eighth. Harvick and Menard restarted closer to the front of the final restart of the race, but Harvick said that his difficulty in hooking up with his partner on the final restart caused them to fall back in the final laps.
“It took me a little longer to get up in front of Paul,” Harvick said.