Plan pays for Ragan
It hasn’t always been that way in his NASCAR career.
And especially not at Daytona International Speedway.
But in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400, Ragan and his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, agreed to work together the entire race and it paid off handsomely—with a one-two finish. It was Ragan’s first victory in 163 Sprint Cup starts.
“We made a pact with our teammate Matt Kenseth that we were gonna work together through thick or thin. I was a little worried about that, too,” Ragan said.
“Sometimes, falling to the back (of the field) and to the front you get jammed up through the race, so I didn’t know if that was the right decision or not. But the bottom line is our car was fast, and that’s what wins these races.”
Ragan had a similar scenario in place during February’s Daytona 500, when he spent much of the race working with another Ford driver, Trevor Bayne.
However, on a late-race restart Ragan was penalized for changing lanes prior to reaching the start/finish line and fell out of contention. Bayne ended up winning the 500 in a shocker.
“We got one back at Daytona. It would have been tough to lose another one,” Ragan said. “I thought about that under that last caution. I said, ‘Man, if we don’t win this thing, I’m not gonna want to talk to anyone afterwards.’
“We were able to win. That does ease the pain from February. It’s still nice to think about that Daytona 500 ring, but (this) is awesome.”
The victory couldn’t have come at a better time for
Ragan or for his team. His sponsor, UPS, is not signed beyond this season and Ragan’s footing with the team has been on shaky ground, depending on whether the sponsor returned or another could be found.
“David has arrived at the upper echelon. He’s a winner now and he’s given a win to UPS and, hopefully, they’ll consider that as they think about the value of the program,” said Ragan’s team owner, Jack Roush.
“It certainly means a lot to us, but to finally have David in the win column is a really big thing.”
As was the case in the 500 and the spring race at Talladega, Ala., two-car drafting dominated the racing most of the night.
With 10 of the scheduled 160 lap remaining, Ryan Newman was getting pushed by Denny Hamlin and was leading the way.
Jeff Gordon spun in the middle of a pack of cars with three to go, which brought out a caution and sent the race into the first of two, two-lap overtimes. Ragan and Kenseth quickly moved into the lead on the first restart before a 15-car wreck erupted.
The duo held off a fast-approaching Joey Logano and Kyle Bucsh on the second restart before another 15-car unfolded. By the time the wrecking ended, Ragan had taken the checkered flag.
“When I came off (Turn) 4, I looked to see where Joey was and I could see he had good speed. Me and David were on the same radio and I told him I was going to stay on the yellow line and keep pushing him,” said Kenseth, a native of Cambridge.
“I told him, ‘I’m not gonna leave you and try to pass you,’ because I knew that one of us weren’t going to win. So, that was a plan, to work as a team all night, and it just so happened he was in the front at the end.
“You’d like to be the one coming back to the checkered, but we made a plan and we stuck to it, and it worked well.”
Logano finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Kyle Busch was fifth.