The Big One at Talladega

Kyle Busch bumped Kasey Kahne's rear bumper and triggered a 16-car crash on Lap 43 at Talladega Superspeedway (photo courtesy: Jared Wickerham, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Front Row Motorsports lived up to its name, as FRM driver David Ragan, driving for an underfunded team, won at Talladega Superspeedway and teammate David Gilliland finished second.

It marked another in a long line of upset winners at Talladega Superspeedway, a list that includes reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, Bobby Hamilton, Phil Parsons, Ron Bouchard, Lennie Pond and Dick Brooks. But this one might have been the biggest surprise of them all, considering that Front Row’s various drivers had combined to make 403 Sprint Cup Series starts over the past nine years with no victories and only four top-10 finishes. Ragan, in fact, said it truly was a Davids vs. Goliath story.

“This is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win,” Ragan said. “A lot of these guys (on the team) have been to Victory Lane in all kinds of series. But to do it here at Talladega in 2013 … I couldn’t be more proud to play my role. It’s a huge, huge deal for us. I’ve got to thank David Gilliland. If it wasn’t for that final push from him, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Even though Gilliland finished second, he was nearly as excited as his teammate. “It’s been my dream since I came to Front Row to get (team owner) Bob Jenkins to Victory Lane,” Gilliland said. “This is about as much as I could help today. For an under-funded team to be able to come in here and finish 1-2 is just awesome. It’s a huge day for any team to get first and second, but for our little team, it’s a special day. I still want to get that first win, but we’ll take second for sure and get the first win for our team.”

The race ended with a green-white-checkered finish. Matt Kenseth led on the restart but was passed by the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion driven by Carl Edwards. Initially Edwards was worried about either Kenseth or Jimmie Johnson passing him on the final lap, until he spotted Ragan and Gilliland charging hard through the middle of the track.

“I was doing everything I could,” said Edwards, who finished third. “I blocked Matt and I thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got it.’ And then I saw Jimmie coming and I blocked him. I thought we were going to win it until I saw these guys coming and I thought, ‘Who is that?’ I blocked as much as I could, but I just couldn’t stay in front of them.

“As frustrated as I am about the loss, I’m really happy for those guys. I obviously wanted to win that race for a lot of reasons, but it truly couldn’t happen to two better guys and a hard-working team.

Johnson, who finished fifth, was surprised to see Ragan and Gilliland make the late charge through traffic coming toward the trioval.

“I thought the race would be settled between me and (Edwards and Kenseth), but then those two guys came up on us so fast,” said Johnson. “I could see Carl trying to block, and he finally said there’s no real way to block this speed that they’re bringing, and those two went blowing by. It’s really cool for that team.”

Johnson maintained the lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings by 41 points over Edwards. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.

NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., posted a 17th place finish and moved up one position in the standings to third.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Darlington Raceway on Saturday, May 11 (6 p.m. EDT, FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 11 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.

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