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Ragan wins first Nationwide race

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Talladega
Saturday, April 25, 2009

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David Ragan
For David Ragan, his first victory in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series took a long time coming — 196 races combined.

When it came, there was a bittersweet aspect to the win.

In a wild scramble at the finish, Ragan beat polesitter Ryan Newman to the stripe to win Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, but the victory came at the expense of teammate Matt Kenseth, who barrel-rolled and slid on the roof of his No. 16 Ford after contact from Ragan’s No. 6 sent him out of control on Lap 105.

In a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race three laps past its scheduled distance of 117 laps, Newman led Dale Earnhardt Jr. with one lap remaining. Contact between those two cars as they came off Turn 4 gave Ragan his opportunity, and a push from third-place finisher Joey Logano sealed the win.

“I was kind of content with a top five,” said Ragan, who restarted fourth for the final two laps. “No one seemed to be able to really run on the outside and really push hard. I’ve got to give credit to Joey Logano. He helped me out—an old Legends Car buddy.

“I just kind of saw beating and banging there with first and second and said, ‘What the heck? Let’s jump to the outside and see what we can make of it.’ ”

Ragan and Newman rubbed fenders right before the finish line, and Ragan’s No. 6 Ford crossed the stripe .030 seconds ahead of Newman’s No. 33 Chevrolet.

“I knew Junior was coming,” Newman said of the final half-mile. “I blocked, and he got me sideways. I really didn’t expect the 6 to come that fast, but I guess he had someone pushing him.”

Tony Raines ran fourth to post his best Nationwide finish since 2005. Earnhardt came home fifth, followed by Jason Leffler, Jason Keller, rookie Scott Lagasse Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

Busch was involved in the Lap 115 wreck that caused the final caution and forced the race to overtime. Contact from Busch’s No. 18 Toyota turned Justin Allgaier’s Dodge into the Chevrolet of Bobby Gerhart.

The crash that dulled some of the luster of Ragan’s win came 10 laps earlier, as Kenseth moved up the track on the backstretch to block Busch and then returned to the inside line in front of Ragan, who bumped Kenseth and started his teammate rolling and sliding toward Turn 3. Kenseth’s car burst into flames but righted itself, and Kenseth escaped unharmed.

“Kyle had a run, and I tried to block the top, but I couldn’t get up there in time,” Kenseth said. “I pulled to the bottom, and I saw David there, but I was well clear, and David hit me as I was turning back down—to bump-draft me. You just can’t hit somebody when they’re turning. The cars aren’t stable enough for that.”

Ragan shared his view of the accident in victory lane.

“It looked like Matt was going up the hill,” Ragan said. “They had a good run, and I thought that I had a good run on the bottom. He came back down about the time that I was there at his left-rear quarter. Certainly I feel bad for the No. 16 team and for (owner) Jack Roush. It cost them a good finish. We’ll chat a little bit, and I’m sure that we’ll move on.”

The race ran caution-free for the first 54 laps—a record for a green-flag run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Talladega—until Logano bumped Michael Waltrip’s Toyota and sent it spinning into the Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer. Hard contact with the inside backstretch wall knocked Waltrip out of the race.

“Same guy—every damn time,” Bowyer radioed, reprising a refrain he had started during the March race at Bristol, where he called Waltrip “the worst driver in all of NASCAR” after an incident there. “How’d I wreck? What happened?” Bowyer continued, mimicking Waltrip.

Replays of the crash, however, showed clearly that Logano had turned Waltrip, who had some choice words for Bowyer after being told of his rival’s remarks.

“If he wants to continue to be an idiot, we can play that game,” Waltrip said after a visit to the infield care center.

Logano backed up Waltrip’s version of events and apologized profusely after the race.

Notes: Busch retained the series lead by 62 points over 13th-place finisher Carl Edwards. … The eighth-place finish was a career-best for Lagasse. … There were 34 lead changes, two short of the track record for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. … Newman’s finish lifted the No. 33 KHI Chevrolet to the top of the owner standings.

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