Strong Run Ended Early for Ragan CONCORD, NC -- What started as a strong weekend for the No. 50 Roush Racing Ford F-150 crew ended prematurely, but not before showing that the third Roush Craftsman Truck Series team will be one to contend ...
Strong Run Ended Early for Ragan
CONCORD, NC -- What started as a strong weekend for the No. 50 Roush Racing Ford F-150 crew ended prematurely, but not before showing that the third Roush Craftsman Truck Series team will be one to contend with.
David Ragan came to Martinsville with the memory and experience of Roush Racing: Driver X still fresh in his head. Having recently competed in his on-track test that would ultimately propel him to a job driving for Roush Racing, Ragan entered the weekend with expectations of expanding on his successes at the famed short track.
Ragan and his No. 50 crew were strong in practice, advancing slots on the time sheet throughout practice. Ragan was able to back up his impressive showing in qualifying, turning in the 5th fastest time. In just his second start with Roush Racing, Ragan scored his best starting position of his brief Craftsman Truck series career.
Knowing that track position meant everything, timing when to make pit stops would be crucial to the success of the No. 50 team. The team anticipated the caution flag flying early and often, and were correct in their judgment.
The caution flag flew twice in the first 50 laps, setting the tone for what would be a long day at Martinsville Speedway. Ragan radioed to the crew that the truck was a little snug in the corners, but he felt good about the overall handling. When the third caution fell at lap 63, Ragan's Roush Racing crew jumped on the wall, ready to pit their Ford F-150 for new tires and a slight chassis adjustment. When most of the leaders came down pit road, Ragan stayed on track along with two other trucks. A communication issue between the driver and crew prevented the team from being on the same page, but new Crew Chief Matt Puccia took advantage of the situation and quickly changed his strategy- one that could give the No. 50 favorable track position for the remainder of the race.
"We knew everyone who stopped early would have to come back to pit road again, so we decided to turn our race into a one-stop strategy, which has been successful here in the past," said Puccia. "This race has been won pitting once in years past, so we decided to make a negative into a positive. We felt that we'd be able to run at the front most of the day that way."
Ragan restarted the race at lap 73 in the third position, and consistently ran lap times better than the trucks that pitted under the caution period. The caution would fly another four times over the next 30 laps, emphasizing the importance of track position. Little passing could be completed between cautions, so the No. 50 team stayed towards the front, and looked to be contenders for a solid finish.
At lap 101, Ragan brought the No. 50 to the attention of his crew for his four tires and fuel. What began as a flawless stop was interrupted by a miscue when the catch can was left in the fuel overflow, resulting in a stop-and-go penalty from NASCAR. Knowing they would have to come back to pit road, Puccia made the call for a slight chassis adjustment to help the No. 50 Ford get through the corners better.
Ragan restarted the race in the 25th position. He would pick off positions when he could, but benefited from other teams pitting to work his way back to the front. The caution would come out another seven times in 80 laps, as Ragan worked his way back into the top-10. At lap 184 he showed seventh on the leader board, and the one-stop strategy looked to be playing out perfectly.
Ragan made contact with the No. 29 of Kraig Kinser at lap 187, resulting in the No. 50 Ford spinning through turn four. Knowing he had flat-spotted his tires, Ragan pitted for four fresh tires. He restarted the race in the 27th position, but did not manage to complete a full lap before calling over the radio that something was wrong with the truck's engine.
"It was one of those strange deals, when we spun out some of the suspension parts made contact and it knocked the oil pump belt off," said Ragan. "It's a shame, really. We had such a good run going and I knew we had a top-five F-150. We're going to look at these trucks when we get back to the shop and make sure we correct the problem. I hate it that the results won't show how good we ran, but we really had a solid truck today. I can't say enough for the crew guys and how hard they worked to give me a great shot. I'm looking forward to Gateway. We can go there knowing that we had a strong showing and we'll head into it with a positive attitude for a similar run, just with a better result."