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.

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.