Outwit, outplay, outlast.Ã‚Â That’s the slogan from Television’s popular show Survivor, and it is exactly what David Ragan did to win his redemption in Daytona on a wild a crazy Saturday Night at the Coke Zero 400.Ã‚Â Twice before David Ragan has been burned here because of penalties.Ã‚Â At the Daytona 500 he had a shot but he changed lanes before crossing the start finish line and was moved to the tail end of the lead lap near the end of the race and never recovered his positions.Ã‚Â This time however he had help from a teammate, Matt Kenseth, and he was lined up where he needed to be as the second Green, White, Checkered finish began.
”I was on Matt Kenseth’s radio that last restart and his spotter mentioned it, and I said ‘You don’t have to tell me, so don’t even say it,’ ” Ragan said. ”That kind of lightened the mood. Everyone was so tense there at the end.”
“It’s a good feeling to come back here — we got one back at Daytona,” said the 25 year old Ragan.Ã‚Â “It would have been tough to lose another one. I thought about that, actually, under that last caution. I said, ‘Man, if we don’t win this thing, I’m not going to talk to anyone afterward.’ ”
“We were able to win, and that does ease the pain from February. … This is a great race. It does ease the pain, and so we’ll think about this one a lot more than we’ll think about the Daytona 500.”
”It was a tough one in February and coming back here, we knew that we’d have a shot to win,” he said. ”We got one back at Daytona.”
The win should also help Ragan in his contract talks about securing his ride for next season.Ã‚Â Roush Fenway teammates are all looking to either re-sign or test the field as they become free agents for next years season.Ã‚Â David Ragan seemed to be the one that they were looking to cut as sponsors shopped their money around, but after the race,Ã‚Â Ron Rogowski, UPS vice president of sponsorship and events, releases a statement saying, ”David has a great future ahead of him and we look forward to many more trips to Victory Lane with him.”Ã‚Â These may have been the best words Ragan heard all night.
So how did his teammate Matt Kenseth feel about pushing to the end and finishing second?
”I told him, ‘I’m not going to leave you and try to pass you,’ ” said Kenseth, ”because I knew that one of us weren’t going to win. So that was a plan to work as a team all night and it just so happened he was in front at the end. Both of us were kind of unselfish all night and worked together really well.”
It was also nice to see Kasey Khane up front and finishing in 4th as he pushed Joey Logano across in third.Ã‚Â With all the news surrounding the Red Bull team in the past few weeks it must have been a nice feeling for Kasey to get his best finish of the year.Ã‚Â Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.
Jeff Gordon was looking good throughout the race until a late race incident looked as if it were going to put him out of the race, but a spectacular save kept him on the lead lap and still in decent position to grab a top 10 finish.
“I’d have to go back and look at it,” Gordon said when asked where that rated in career saves. “When you’re on the banking on these types of race tracks, depending on the momentum and how the slide goes — I felt it coming and I got in the gas to try to keep me out of the wall — and then I locked the brakes down knowing I wanted to just slide down and not back up in the wall.
“But then I felt it start to catch and lose momentum and it started to straighten out. The banking pretty much did most of the work — maybe a little side force in the car, too. We were just lucky we didn’t get hit, I straightened it up and away we went. That was pretty cool and pretty lucky all at the same time.”
“I hate that that happened — whoever got into Kasey Kahne — but in those closing laps, what, there were three to go?” Gordon said. “You know that stuff’s going to happen. So I didn’t like being in the middle at that point, but you just have to stay wide open and go for it.
“You know in the closing laps here with the two-car draft it’s going to get wild and crazy.”
Mark Martin had every reason to feel disgruntled after being caught up in the 17 car wreck at the end of the race.
“Just a lot of wild racing there at the end,” Martin said, after stopping briefly to do a couple TV interviews. “Jeff Gordon did an awesome job of working with me and I thought we were doing really, really good and he just got run into.”
“It’s just so many cars wide and you can’t be courteous,” Martin said. “You can be courteous the first three-fourths of the race but you just can’t be courteous at the end. So when you get four- or five-wide somebody’s going to make a move that squeezes somebody else — not intentional, but it’s just what we do.
“It was just the late stages of the race. It would have been OK but somebody had to get wise and get on the outside of me and that made it four- or five-wide, you know? I was up pretty close to the wall and that made it too many cars wide for trying to do what we were trying to do.
“Somebody got pushed up into Jeff and I and we didn’t have room to move up because somebody had squeezed up on the outside of us. I got off of Jeff — I never touched Jeff. I got off of him because I could see that a wreck was about to happen. But they wrecked.”
Even Dale Earnhardt Jr, who has been decidedly quiet until recently, showed his passion after the race as he was all fired up about the 2 car draft style of racing.
”I am really ticked off. It was a foolish … race. I don’t know what to tell you,” he fumed. ”I don’t like this kind of racing and you know it.”
”I’d rather have control of my own destiny and be able to go out there and race and just do my own work and worry about my own self,” Earnhardt said on Thursday. ”Been growing up all these years racin’ for No. 1, lookin’ out for No. 1, doing my job. This is what I need to do, I need to do this to get up through the pack. This is how my car drives. Now you are doing it so different. Your thought process and everything you think about during the race is nothing near that.
”It is just different and weird.”
”I’m driving my car, do what I’m told,” Earnhardt said. ”They decided to do something different. I can’t run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn race car. I’m just doing what I’m told out there. I don’t know how that affected us, if it did at all. It probably didn’t.”
And it is not just Jr who is outspoken about his distaste for this style of racing.Ã‚Â Teammate Jimmie Johnson also had a few things to say about it.
”It’s so hard to see how many hours these (crew) guys put into these cars, to have it torn up in the blink of an eye like that,” Johnson said. ”But it is what it is and we’ll just go on to the next one.”
Regardless of the speculation about Jimmie Johnson hanging Jr out, Dale Jr did not seem ticked off at his drafting partner.Ã‚Â Jimmie’s twitter account was lit up like a Christmas tree with angry Jr Nation fans blaming him for pitting and leaving Jr behind.Ã‚Â Johnson fired back as he posted on his page immediately after the race that he ”didn’t leave Jr hanging” and crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus make the decisions.
”You people are crazy,” he wrote on Twitter. ”When my crew tells me to pit, I pit. Steve and Chad sort out the details.”