David Ragan’s Redemption at Daytona

Kevin Harvick Takes Over Championship Points Lead

With a seventh-place finish at Daytona, Kevin Harvick took over the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship point standings with nine races left to determine Chase field (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, Getty Images Sport)

David Ragan found redemption at historic Daytona International Speedway Saturday night picking up his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish in the 53rd annual Coke Zero 400.

Ragan’s No. 6 UPS Ford was in a familiar position on the final restart.  He was in the same spot earlier this year in the Daytona 500, but changed lanes before crossing the start/finish line and was black-flagged.  This time, Roush Fenway Racing teammate and 2007 Ford 400 winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Matt Kenseth,  was lined up behind Ragan, keeping him out front for the last eight laps and helping him become the seventh driver whose first-ever win has come during the Coke Zero 400. After Daytona, there are 10 races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

“There’s not a better place to do it than Daytona. It couldn’t be any better,” said Ragan. “We’ve been so close so many times and finally we’re here. Daytona means a lot. It is a special race and we’re very fortunate to get our first win here.”

Kenseth held on to second and Joey Logano finished third. After capturing his 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole this week, veteran fan-favorite Mark Martin had a strong run, but was involved in an incident during the first green-white-checkered attempt and finished 33rd.

Defending Ford 400 winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Carl Edwards, entered the race as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship points leader, but spun exiting Turn 4 on Lap 23 and sustained damage to the No. 99 Subway Ford, enabling Kevin Harvick to take over the points lead. Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

The two biggest wrecks in the Coke Zero 400 came after the race was supposed to be over.

After a five-car accident highlighted by four-time Sprint Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon’s spin brought out the caution with two laps remaining and forced a green-white-checkered finish, a 15-car wreck brought out the caution on the next green-flag lap, and then a pair of wrecks – involving a total of 15 cars.

The first “big one” took place as Logano hit Martin, triggering a melee that heavily damaged the cars of Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch, among others.

“I must have been four inches not ahead of him and I was trying to get in front of him so we could go,” Martin said. “It was still OK. I felt him touch me and I was trying to save it but then – I don’t know.

“I haven’t seen it. You know cars were hitting everybody. From there, I probably could have saved it. I thought I could save it but cars were just going everywhere.”

Logano indicated he didn’t lift.

“I was shooting on the center, and Mark was trying to come down in front of me,” Logano said. “It could have gone either way. I could have backed off a little bit and let him in.

“In the race, I was wide open, I didn't care. And he was coming down across me. We were going to try to team up there if we were able to do that, but I was going to go in there guns blazing and see what the heck happened on the other side and try to find a partner once I got over there.”

Logano actually got out unscathed and finished third while Martin was able to limp to the end of the race in 33rd. Clint Bowyer and Truex couldn’t continue.

On the final lap, an accident near the rear of the field took out Marcos Ambrose, Landon Cassill and Tony Stewart while the one in the middle of the pack started when Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together and collected Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Miami resdient Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson.

“[McMurray] just came down on the side of the car and drove me into the apron and I saved it and he came down and hit me again and I spun out,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I couldn’t save it the second time. You can only run over a guy so many times.”

Newman and Hamlin were in position to win the race by being second and fourth on the final green-white-checkered restart. But they were stuck alone in the middle lane and went backward quickly as much of the field split them on the inside and outside.

“When those guys got a run on the outside, we disconnected and fell back,” Hamlin said. “Then, they were wrecking in front of us coming to the checkered flag, and I went spinning in the grass to avoid them.”

Starting with this weekend’s race in Daytona, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will follow the NASCAR Race to The Chase, making stops in Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta, before going to Richmond and culminating at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. After Race 26, the Top 10 drivers plus two wild cards not in the Top 10 who score the highest number of victories will contend for NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship “playoff” system—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Richmond’s September 10th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event marks the 26th race of the season. Once the checkered flag flies Saturday night, the field will be set for the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Kentucky on Saturday, July 9 (6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT). Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Top 10 Finish at Daytona for Miami's Montoya

JPM Climbs Aboard His Chevy

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya finished ninth at Daytona to sit 14th in the points standings in his Chase for a Sprint Cup Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20.

The No. 42 team headed back to the high banks of Daytona for the third superspeedway race of the season. Montoya started in the back of the field and paired up with teammate Jamie McMurray as soon as the green flag dropped. The duo spent the majority of the race in the back of the field to avoid any on-track melee.

With 50 laps remaining, the two made their move to the front and Montoya would be credited with leading a lap. Multiple yellow flags flew in the closing laps, resulting in two green/white/checkered attempts. Despite getting tangled up in an incident on the final lap, the No. 42 took the checkered in ninth.

"Had a lot of fun last night," said Montoya. "The car looked like the autobot after that crash at the end."

While at Daytona preparing for the Coke Zero 400, Montoya took his racing skills to a new track last Thursday, while driving awareness for the “Help Win the Race for Life” campaign at the Florida Hospital for Children's Walt Disney Pavilion. He raced remote controlled cars against kids as part of an announcement about newer blood-banking and transplantation techniques which will help save lives.

Next up for Montoya and NASCAR’s best is Kentucky on Saturday, July 9 (6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT)—Race 18 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20). Kentucky Speedway was the site of Montoya’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session for Chip Ganassi Racing back in 2006. During his first time behind the wheel of a cup car, his biggest challenge was finding grip and adjusting to a loose race car. Now, in his fifth full-time season in the NSCS, he is focused on winning the first Sprint Cup event at the track.

“To be honest with you, my first time around Kentucky Speedway didn’t go as well as I had hoped," said Montoya. "It was a test session and the first time I ever drove a Cup car for Chip Ganassi and I hit the wall pretty hard."

"A lot has changed in those five years so hopefully there won’t be anymore contact with the wall this time around. We need a good run in order to have a chance to make the Chase this year. Every weekend counts and we’re starting to run out of time in the points battle."

When the green flag flies in Saturday night’s race at Kentucky, Montoya will become the first Colombian-born stock car driver to start a NASCAR event at the track. Montoya's No. 42 will look different to those familiar with the bright red car. Speaking of autobots...The No.42 Target car appears in the new Michael Bay film "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon." In the film, Montoya's No. 42 transforms into an “Autobot Wrecker” and comes with a fully loaded arsenal of weapons. The wrecker named Leadfoot, is an “Autobot” engineer, who is responsible for orchestrating the technological side of the war against the evil “Decepticons.” "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon" was released in theaters worldwide on Wednesday, June 29th.

With his ninth-place finish, Montoya moves up two positions in the point standings to 14th. The No. 42 team is now only 30 points out of the 10th and final position in the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway are on sale now. For ticket information, click HERE or call (866) 409-RACE.

Follow Montoya on Twitter:

@JPMontoya

Follow Homestead-Miami Speedway:

@HomesteadMiami

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