NASCAR: Ragan wins first race
TALLADEGA, Ala. ó David Ragan earned his first NASCAR victory by passing Ryan Newman right before the finish line in the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Ragan won for the first time in 196 starts ó 85 in Nationwide ó spanning all three of NASCAR’s top series.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Ragan said. “I didn’t know if it would come this weekend or not. A lot of fun. A lot of emotions. We’ve got 500 miles to do it again tomorrow.”
Newman started from the pole and led the field on a final restart for a two-lap sprint to the finish. He had his hands full with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who followed him bumper-to-bumper as he looked for a chance to pass.
But Newman and Earnhardt made contact when Earnhardt tried to dart around him on the final lap. Ragan used some momentum off a push from Joey Logano and squeezed by Newman for the win.
Earnhardt, who was shuffled back to fifth, waited for Ragan on pit road to congratulate him on the win.
Newman finished second, Logano was third. Tony Raines and Earnhardt rounded out the top five.
“It’s cool to get David that win,” Logano said. “He’s been trying for a while now.”
For car owner Jack Roush, it was his second consecutive Nationwide Series win. Greg Biffle’s victory in Phoenix last weekend was Roush’s 100th in the Nationwide Series.
Newman said if Earnhardt had stayed lower on the track, Ragan would have never had the opening he needed for the win.
“I know he’s been close a few times. And he won it in fashion,” Newman said. “It wasn’t given to him. He won it by 6 feet at Talladega. He did it with a little bit of help, and it wasn’t even his teammate.”
Ragan knew he was fortunate to have Logano’s help and to get drenched in soda by his crew in Victory Lane. He just couldn’t believe his dry spell had lasted from his trucks and Nationwide debuts in 2004. His first two Cup starts were in 2006.
“I’ve been thinking about it since race 1 and it’s probably gotten me in trouble before,” Ragan said. “I’ve been disappointed at times, but a lot of people have come up and said don’t force this thing.”
The race was marred late by cautions that made the overtime finish necessary.