David Ragan finds himself leading the field for the second time this season at the Brickyard 400,Ã‚Â and at this point in the season one might call it perfect timing.Ã‚Â He is sitting 13th in the points standings at the moment and is the only driver with a win in the 11-20 positions eligible for the wild card slot.Ã‚Â A win today would go a long way towards securing himself a chase slot and showing he field that he is not a one hit wonder.Ã‚Â Earning his first career win at Daytona earlier this year, Ragan has been on a roll with some great finishes this season.Ã‚Â After running well enough in practice to head out 6th last in the knockout system, Ragan’s speed of 182.994 mph (49.182 seconds) was fast enough to knock Jimmie Johnson (182.801 mph) off the pole and to hold off Kasey Khane (182.927 mph), who will be starting on the outside of the front row in second.
“Indy is a tough racetrack, you reallyÃ‚Â gotta hit your marks all the way around.Ã‚Â You run 190 – 200 mph to the corners, and you really have to be perfect.Ã‚Â I just tried not to do anything stupid.Ã‚Â Racecar really stuck to the ground the engine ran great.Ã‚Â It was a good lap, but I always think that I probably left a little extra on the table, but our UPS ford did what it needed to do and we’re proud to be on the front row.”
“It’ll be cool to lead the pack,” said Ragan.Ã‚Â “I knew we had a shot at the pole when we unloaded in qualifying trim on Friday. Ã‚Â Drew [Blickensderfer] made a few small adjustments, and I just tried to hit my marks and not do anything crazy.
“I knew we had a shot at a top-five or top-10 run for sure, so I just wanted to be a little conservative. I hit my marks, and everything did what it needed to do, and we wound up on top. It’s an honor to be here and to be the fastest guy at Indy.”
Kasey Kahne’s speed was only .018 of a second slower than Ragan, but that’s just enough to start from the second position in the world of racing.Ã‚Â To hear him tell it, if hadn’t slipped on that run a little in turn 4 we may have had a different car on the front row.
“I slipped, but I never had to come off the gas,” Kahne said. “I just drifted up through it. I don’t think it slowed me down much. If it slowed me down anything, it wasn’t enough to get the pole — and it was that close.
“I felt like I didn’t come to the green flag quite as fast as I should have, but the rest of the lap was really good. It was just really close. The 6 put down a great lap.”
Jimmie Johnson came out to qualify 17th on the grid and set down a time that held up through 27 other competitors until Ragan made his run.Ã‚Â Jimmie had some advice for those trying to come through the field to the front, like Denny Hamlin who blew and engine and has to start from the back of the field, and his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr who is starting 22nd.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Johnson. “Tires are important here, so it’s really difficult to get off-strategy from a tire standpoint. It might be worth a shot. That might be something they’re going to consider. What’s most difficult about it is, when you’re in dirty air that far back, you have to have a setup on the car, and as you work your way forward, you have to start backing out of that and staying on top of the adjustments. That’s the hardest thing.”
The garage chatter this weekend is all about Carl Edwards and where he is going to end up.Ã‚Â Conspiracy theorist abound at times like this, when the points leader is in need of a new contract, and no one seems to be talking.Ã‚Â Rumors have him locked into 2 possible scenarios: 1 – Staying with Roush and resigning or 2 – Moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, taking over the #20 car, and moving Joey Logano to a 4th car with a new sponsor.Ã‚Â Edwards is not talking, although his language did seem to change this weekend indicating, to me at least, that he has made a decision but he’s just not telling anyone just yet.Ã‚Â Why should he?Ã‚Â The press time he is getting from this is invaluable to his sponsors with his face and their logos splashed all over the TV screens.
Up until this weekend Edwards would say that he had not yet signed.Ã‚Â This weekend his wording changed just enough to make speculation run wild.
“I’d rather not say”
“I’m not purposely withholding anything, other than to just be able to get the business side of everything done. When I’m able to talk about next season, if it’s appropriate, I will talk about it, and I’ll tell you guys.”
“I have signed a contract, and that’s the contract I signed in 2008 to race for Jack Roush in ’09, ’10 and ’11 and try to win the championship, so that is my mission,” Edwards continued. “That’s the only contract that I have signed right now and that’s the one that I’m going honor, so that’s what I’m doing.”
This brought comments from Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin about what could happen if Carl were to become one of their teammates.
“If Carl came over to Gibbs, certainly it would be beneficial,” said Kyle Busch, “because he’s really good at what he does, he’s got great communication, he’s got good feedback, and he’s been one of the top three or four guys in the sport every year he’s been around, or every year that Roush has had good stuff and they’ve been competitive.”
Surprisingly the comments from Denny Hamlin were equally upbeat.
“I think it would be good for our team,” Hamlin said. “I think that the dynamic of the three drivers that we already have is good. Having a guy that has already contended for championships and wins on a weekly basis can’t be a bad thing.”
Even Jeff Gordon has waded into the debate with some rather strong ideas on what may happen to Edwards championship dreams if he doesn’t stay with Roush.
“Let’s say he’s going somewhere else; they’re done,” Gordon said. “I just don’t see them winning the championship knowing that they’re leaving.
“I might be wrong. But if he stays, it might have just been a blip and then get back on track. So I think that’s definitely playing a factor. I’m not saying that just for Carl. It would with anybody. Anybody that’s going through a contract renegotiation year, things are up in the air — it’s always going to be a distraction.”