Monday, May 7, 2012

Front Row Report: Aaron's 499


The Sprint Cup Series headed to Talladega Superspeedway for the first of two stops of the season. The 2.6-mile speedway is known for its unpredictability where sometimes the fastest car does not win, and of course, there is always the threat of the “big one” that could end anybody’s day no matter how well they run there. Rain delayed the start of the race a little bit, but it would not be enough to ruin the day. For the Front Row Motorsports drivers, Sunday’s race was a chance for them to have a shot at the win. They might have come up short, but they both finished inside the top 13, earning their best finishes of the season so far.


David Ragan, No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford -- Start: 32nd, Finish: 7th

It is no secret that David Ragan excels at restrictor plate tracks, considering his first win in NASCAR came at Talladega. On Friday, he was 11th in the first practice session of the day and 25th in final practice, but the No. 34 team were confident they had a fast car that could get to the front. While Ragan never led a lap on Sunday, he still proved his team’s suspicions were true by bringing home a top-10 finish.

When the first caution of the day came out on Lap 16 for  engine of the No. 78 blowing up, Ragan had worked his way up inside the top 25. The restarted on Lap 21, and he continued to move forward. He was running 5th when green-flag pit stops began on Lap 57. He got shuffled back during those stops and ran just outside the top 25 for a majority of the race before slowly moving forward as the laps wound down. On three separate occasions, multi-car incidents unfolded in front of him. Each time, Ragan escaped the melee unscathed. When the caution flag flew with just 4 laps remaining, the race was set up for a green-white-checkered finish. Ragan was 5th for the restart, and as drivers began to pair up for the final two laps, it seemed as though Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was going to push Ragan. However, the two didn’t stay hooked up long, and it was Trevor Bayne who teamed up with Ragan, who earned a 7th-place finish. Ragan is 29th in the standings.

David Gilliland, No. 38 Taco Bell Ford -- Start: 26th, Finish: 13th

David Gilliland, just like his teammate, also excels at restrictor plate tracks. His No. 38 Ford was 31st on the board after the first practice session, but at the end of final practice, Gilliland was 6th on the board. Gilliland had an up and down day after starting at the rear of the field due to his team making adjustments after qualifying. In the end, he avoided trouble to earn a top-15 finish.

He pitted under the first caution of the day, but was caught speeding while exiting pit road. The penalty was he had to start at the tail-end of the longest line. At Talladega, that would not cause a problem since a driver can gain positions just as fast as he can lose them. Gilliland narrowly avoided the first multi-car crash of the day when he drove through the grass to avoid it. The evasive move caused no damage to the No. 38 Ford, and Gilliland restarted the race just inside the top-25 with 50 laps remaining. He continued to run just inside the top-25 until the last handful of laps, but for the final restart of the day, he was sitting 14th. Gilliland ultimately finished 13th and is 30th in the standings.

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