Two Davids beat NASCAR’s Goliaths at Talladega

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A long, seven-hour odyssey for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway ended with David Ragan (pictured) and David Gilliland pulling off a shocking 1-2 finish in overtime for the small Front Row Motorsports operation.

Prior to today, Ragan was perhaps best known for losing the 2011 Daytona 500 after being black-flagged for changing lanes before reaching the start/finish line on a restart during green-white-checkered mode. But on the final lap of today’s G-W-C climax, Ragan got a push from teammate Gilliland to take the lead from Carl Edwards in Turn 3 and held on for his second career Cup win.

“I don’t know what to say — this is a true David vs. Goliath moment here,” Ragan said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “We got [sponsor] FarmRich on our Ford this weekend and this was their first chance at a NASCAR race. They’re not all this easy.

“But man, this is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win. It feels like I’ve never been here before.”

Runner-up Gilliland was equally thrilled, saying that it had been his dream to get Front Row Motorsports and team owner/restaurant entrepreneur Bob Jenkins to Victory Lane in the Cup Series.

“That’s about as much as I could help today,” he said to Fox. “I’m very proud of our whole team…An underfunded team coming in here and being able to finish 1-2 is awesome. Very proud of David Ragan — I know he would’ve done the same for me.

“We were pushing and I was locked on to his bumper, and I wasn’t gonna let go.”

The stunning result was set up by an equally stunning crash with six laps remaining that put the race into G-W-C mode. Traveling in a major pack on the backstretch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley made contact in the outside lanes that sent the latter into Marcos Ambrose and then Kurt Busch, who flipped over and onto the oncoming Ryan Newman. Multiple other drivers were collected in the incident, including notables such as Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick.

With darkness continuing to descend upon Talladega (which does not have a lighting system), NASCAR opted to run one G-W-C attempt instead of its usual three attempts, which is how Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at the track ended as well. And like with that particular race, the darkness played a factor in today’s finish because of rain; the wet stuff put the race under the caution flag at Lap 124 and then the red flag at 3:18 p.m. ET.

The subsequent delay for weather and track drying lasted for roughly three and a half hours before cars were re-fired and sent out to finish the race.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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