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Ragan tops NASCAR Goliaths at Talladega
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan (34) celebrates after winning the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)
David Gilliland pushed Ragan, his teammate, to the lead on the final circuit in a green-white checkered-flag finish that took Sunday's Aaron's 499 four laps past its scheduled distance of 188 laps. Gilliland came home second, followed by pole sitter Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and series leader Jimmie Johnson.
Ragan's victory followed a massive wreck that took the race to overtime - and to near-darkness.
On Lap 183, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tired a four-wide move to the outside, but contact with J.J. Yeley's car triggered a multicar melee that wiped out Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer, among others.
That set up the two-lap dash in overtime with Matt Kenseth in the lead and Edwards beside him on the front row. Kenseth, who led 142 laps, dropped to eighth at the finish.
Michael McDowell blew a tire and hit the wall on Lap 174 to cause the fourth caution of the race and bunch a field that had become segmented during a series of green-flag pit stops that ended on Lap 168. When NASCAR threw the yellow, Johnson led a six-car breakaway that included Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Edwards, Bowyer and Waltrip.
The caution, however, brought 19 other lead-lap cars back into play and the massive wreck at the end of the backstretch changed the game completely.
NASCAR slowed the race on Lap 122 and stopped it after Lap 125 when showers that had been forecast for race day arrived shortly after 3 p.m. Edwards had nosed ahead of Stenhouse moments earlier and was ahead at the last scoring loop the cars crossed before the yellow.
That left the Fords of Edwards, Stenhouse, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski at the front of the field when NASCAR red-flagged the race, forcing drivers and fans to wait and see whether the event would resume.
After a stoppage of 3 hours, 36 minutes, the race restarted after pit stops, and Kenseth quickly surged to the front.
As the cars approached Turn 1 on lap 43, a tap from Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota turned Kasey Kahne's No. 5 Chevrolet into the outside wall and triggered a wreck that damaged 16 cars, among them the Chevys of Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, the Toyota of Brian Vickers (after a driver change with Denny Hamlin) and the Ford of Greg Biffle.
"I know I got in the back of the 5 (Kahne), and I guess I was trying to go to the outside of him," Busch said. 'But he just moved up in front of me, and I wasn't expecting it, and I tried to go to the outside of him, and before I could get to the outside of him I got in the back of him.
"I just hate that I caused a hell of a melee for everybody. I hate that. A lot of cars got torn up, and it's way too early in the race to be doing any of those sorts of moves, whether he made it or I made it. Just I hate it that we all got crashed in that deal."
Both Kahne and Busch visited the infield care center after the wreck, and both were released in short order.
"I just kind of got shot through the center (of the field) there, just a lot of momentum coming from behind," Kahne said of the action immediately before the crash. "Felt the No. 18 pushing me, and next thing I know, I was spinning
"You just can't push with these cars. We learned that at Daytona. He was pushing me and spun me in the wall, and then (it) happened again, so that is what it is."
Kahne said he and Busch didn't speak in the care center.
"No, I didn't talk to him," Kahne said. "I think we both probably understand what happened, and we'll figure it out from there."