Monday, March 5, 2012

Front Row Report: Subway Fresh Fit 500

After a long and eventful weekend in Daytona, the Sprint Cup Series teams traveled across the country to race at Phoenix International Raceway. The Front Row Motorsports drivers came to Phoenix looking to improve from their disappointing finishes in the Daytona 500. Phoenix is a track that the Front Row Motorsports drivers knew they would not be strong at, but they fought hard to earn finishes inside the top thirty. David Ragan avoided trouble to earn a top-25 finish. A run-in with Brendan Gaughan stopped the momentum that David Gilliland had gained late in the race.

David Ragan, No. 34 Barrett-Jackson Ford -- Start: 34th, Finish: 25th

For David Ragan, there really was nowhere to go but up following his last-place finish in the Daytona 500. Ragan qualified 34th in the No. 34 Barrett-Jackson Ford, and once the race started on Sunday, continued to run around that position. Like most other drivers, he was dealing with a car that was too tight in the turns in the early going. 

Crew chief Jay Guy and the No. 34 pit crew made adjustments every chance they could, and eventually, the car's handling began to improve. Ragan was 30th by the halfway point of the race but was no longer on the lead lap. A couple times he was in the Lucky Dog position to get his lap back, but the caution never fell when he needed it. As the laps wound down, Ragan began to gain positions. He crossed the finish line three laps down in the 25th position.

David Gilliland, No. 38 Santorum for President Ford -- Start: 36th, Finish: 28th

David Gilliland had to start Sunday's race in a backup car that had only been on the track in qualifying. He crashed his primary late in final practice and had no time before qualifying to get the backup car dialed in for the race. He qualified 36th in the No. 38 Santorum for President Ford. 

Gilliland, just like his teammate, reported his car was tight in the beginning of the race. During the first few pit stops, crew chief Pat Tryson called for chassis adjustments to improve the handling. The changes began to work, and Gilliland began to move up through the field. His momentum was cut short on Lap 119 of the 312-lap race when Brendan Gaughan, in the No. 33, slid up into Gilliland. The No. 34 brushed the wall. Gilliland remained on the track until the caution came out again. The team quickly assessed the damage, made repairs, and sent him back out. The team continued to make repairs when they could, and a long green flag run gave Gilliland the opportunity to remain inside the top 30 and finish 28th.

Race winner: Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota

In the closing laps, it looked as though Kevin Harvick was going to take the lead from Denny Hamlin. Harvick got right up on Hamlin's bumper at one point, but couldn't quite make the pass. The final lap changed everything. Fuel mileage had been on every team's mind, and in the end, Harvick fell victim to it. Harvick ran out of fuel and coasted to a 2nd-place finish while Hamlin easily sailed to the victory.


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