Ragan makes up for Daytona 500 gaffe

Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (C) drives between the crash of drivers David Ragan (6) and...

Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (C) drives between the crash of drivers David Ragan (6) and Trevor Bayne (21) on the final lap during the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Gatorade Duel race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida February 17, 2011. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:45 AM ET

TORONTO - It took 132 days of explaining, apologizing and agonizing over a mistake before David Ragan could finally put the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 debacle behind him.

Ragan had NASCAR’s biggest race within his grasp last Feb. 20 when for some unknown reason he turned the steering wheel of his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford ever so slightly left on the next to final re-start. Immediately race officials black flagged him for changing lanes before he crossed the start/finish line, sending him to the back of the pack and crushing his dream of winning his first Cup race.

Whispers up and down the NASCAR garage had it that the misstep would probably cost Ragan his seat with RFR’s Cup team and that the Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne or NASCAR Nationwide driver Ricky Stenhouse would be parachuted into the No. 6 Ford.

All Ragan has done since is consistently prove he is worthy of staying in stock car racing’s top loop. And his win Saturday back at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400 put an exclamation mark on his personal journey down the road to redemption.

Afterward Ragan said that as satisfied as his first Cup win was, he had hoped it would come sooner.

Those 132 days between Feb. 20 and Saturday night seemed like forever for the 25-year-old from Unadilla, Ga.

“I was hoping to win one a little earlier than the July Fourth race here,” he said. “But we finally got one back at Daytona.”

Ragan admitted he was thinking about his gaffe of five months ago on the second of two green-white-checkers re-starts this time again at Daytona.

“Actually, I was on (teammate) Matt Kenseth’s radio that last re-start and his spotter mentioned it and I said: ‘You don’t have to tell me, so don’t even say it.’ ”

Ragan said that he thought about the absolute numbness he felt following his 500 finish while he drove down the front stretch on Saturday to take the final green flag.

“I thought how it would have been tough to lose another one,” he said. “I said (to myself): ‘Man, if we don’t win this thing, I’m not gonna want to talk to anyone afterward.’

“But we were able to win. That does ease the pain from February.”

There was no talk this time about Ragan’s job being in jeopardy at RFR.

In fact team owner Jack Roush said that Ragan’s win might have also saved the sponsorship deal with UPS, which is in serious talks about whether to come back in 2012.

Finish lines

A pit-road penalty cost Toronto’s Robert Wickens a podium finish this past weekend in the Formula Renault 3.5 race at Hungaroring. Wickens ended the weekend with a fifth- and seventh-place finish in two rounds of the FR 3.5 series dropping him four points behind Jean-Eric Vergne in the championship. Wickens will be at the Formula One British Grand Prix this weekend as the official reserve driver for Marussia Virgin Racing ... Joey Logano won the Nationwide series Subway Jalapeno 250 Friday night, his first win of the season ... Nico Rosberg has told the F-1 Mercedes team he wants to stay with the German manufacturer but warned that he also wants a winning car, something he has not had yet ... Bayne’s 41st-place finish at Daytona, makes him the worst finisher in Daytona’s July race after winning the Daytona 500. The previous worst finish was 40th for Cale Yarborough, the 1983 Daytona 500 winner. ... Scott Speed has won a minor round in his legal battle with Red Bull Racing over his departure from the team at the end of last season. A North Carolina court has put a lien on the Red Bull shop in Mooresville. Speed is seeking $6.5 million U.S. in damages from the energy drink giant.

NASCAR Sprint Cup

David Ragan got a great push from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth Saturday on the final of two green-white-checkers re-starts to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

It was a redemption of sorts for Ragan, who lost an almost sure thing win last February at DIS when he changed lanes in the No. 6 RFR Ford before the start finish line.

“This was a great race,” Ragan said. “It does ease the pain (of his February loss), and so we’ll think about this one a lot more than we’ll think about the Daytona 500.”

With Kenseth providing the push in the No. 17 RFR Ford Ragan also avoided a pair of huge wreck behind him on the final lap.

Kenseth finished second, Joey Logano third in the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kasey Kahne fourth in the No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota with Kyle Busch rounding out the top five in the No. 18 JGR Toyota.

Carl Edwards, who had been leading the championship going into the race, wrecked his No. 99 RFR Ford on Lap 23, finished 37th.

It was Edwards’ second poor finish in the past four races.

“We don’t ever give up and that’s the thing,” he said. “I told my guys to keep their heads up. We’ll take this bad day and keep our pride. This is part of it.”

Kevin Harvick, who finished seventh in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet takes over the championship lead.

Jeff Gordon had the move of the race when he spun and saved his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to bring out he next to last caution.

“The car came around and luckily I straightened it out somehow,” he said. “I don’t know. It was awesome and how we finished sixth is unbelievable.”


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