David Ragan gunning for another Talladega triumph

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David Ragan is still getting props.

With the help of his Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland, Ragan was able to beat the odds and deliver the team’s first Sprint Cup victory in a green-white-checkered finish back in May at Talladega Superspeedway.

And with respect to Brian Vickers’ own unlikely triumph this summer at New Hampshire, Ragan and Gilliland’s 1-2 finish may wind up as the most surprising race outcome of the NASCAR season.

Front Row’s victory over the NASCAR powerhouses resonated among many fans as a classic underdog tale. And that’s why months after that wild Talladega night, Ragan continues to hear from those that witnessed it.

“I get it a lot,” Ragan said in a release from Ford while preparing for his return to the 2.66-mile oval this weekend in the Camping World RV Sales 500. “Obviously, a couple of weeks after the Talladega win that was what most everyone talked about, but even six months later I still get fans, friends and guys on the team who relive that day and that moment.

“That’s good because there are a lot of struggles in the world of Sprint Cup racing. Your winning percentage is not anywhere near 50, 40, 30 percent, so it is a tough sport and it’s fun to go back and relive that moment, and it’s neat that a lot of people were watching that evening and enjoyed the win as much as we did.”

Earlier this morning, Front Row announced that both Ragan and Gilliland would return to their camp in 2014 and help continue the team’s progress toward becoming a regular contender.

The Talladega win was certainly a milestone in that progress, and Ragan considers it an even bigger victory for himself than his first career win for the much bigger Roush Fenway Racing in the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

“Both wins were incredible days and big wins, and even the top teams that have won hundreds of races and championships over the year, they still are really, really pumped up when they win a Sprint Cup race,” he said. “But I think [Talladega] will always mean more because it was [Front Row’s] first win.

“This is a building organization with a lot of potential for the future and they’ve only been around for a few years, so to get that first win you’ve got to start with one before you get to two before you get to three, so that’s something that you’ll always remember.”

But while it’s clearly fun for Ragan to reflect on these past memories, he certainly wants another Talladega trophy this weekend. And he knows that in order to get back to Victory Lane at NASCAR’s biggest track, he’ll need to keep out of trouble.

“We know that if we play our cards right, if everyone executes their job with no mistakes, we’ll have a shot to win again,” he said. “But it’s easier said than done. Talladega is a very, very hard track to run 500 miles at with no mistakes.

“Even if you do that with no mistakes and you have a shot to win, it’s hard to do it, but it can be done and we’re looking forward to going back for sure.”

It’s been said that lightning never strikes twice. But Ragan and Front Row will do all they can to make it happen on Sunday.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)