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.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.