It was a story about survival in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday (5/5) as two “Davids” proved to be more than “Goliath” could defeat when David Gilliland pushed his teammate David Ragan to the win in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega.
The Aaron’s 499 got underway with sunny skies and a threat of rain moving in on the Talladega Superspeedway late in the race. The first few laps of the race indicated that this would be a very fast race on the 2.66 mile track called “Dega.” It took only a handful of laps for Matt Kenseth to move up from his sixth place starting position to take the lead and start showing that he was the car to beat Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin started the race in the #11 Toyota. It was the first time he had been in his Sprint Cup car since the wreck that injured his back at Auto Club Speedway six weeks ago. As planned, Denny climbed out of his race car under the first caution flag allowing back-up driver Brian Vickers to take over for the reminder of the NASCAR race. Brian was not able to collect many points for Denny after the switch as he was caught up in the first of two “big ones” just twenty-some laps later that involved a total of 13 cars.
Matt Kenseth dominated in his Joe Gibbs #20 Toyota through the afternoon leading a race high 142 laps. He did lose the lead when several cars teamed up to drive past him just as the rain fell on the Talladega Superspeedway putting the race under the red flag for three and a half hours. When the rain moved on and the track was dried, Matt moved back out to the lead to try and redeem himself for losing it prior to the red flag period. Matt played defense at 200 mph in order to avoid being teamed up on again and drive to the win.
Things change really fast at 200 mph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. All of the drivers were driving hard and doing all they could to gain positions as the laps began winding down in the race. That is when it all changed. The second “big one,” and fifth and final caution of the race happened when two cars got together causing a crash that collected a total of 12 cars in the process. By the time they cleaned up the debris from the melee, the Aaron’s 499 was sent into NASCAR’s version of overtime, the green-white-checkered finish.
It was during those race-ending final two laps that teammates David Gilliland and David Ragan got together to make a charge for the win. The two are the drivers for the underfunded NASCAR Front Row Motorsports team. While the cars from the huge race teams like Matt Kenseth from Joe Gibbs Racing raced and blocked the other more likely race contenders, the two Davids seemingly flew under the radar and moved forward quickly.
While Kenseth pushed up the track to keep from being passed on the outside, Gilliland pushed Ragan to the lead on the low side of the track. Once the two Fords got out front, none of the “Goliath” Sprint Cup teams could get in front of the Front Row Motorsports teammates to take the win away from them. Ragan captured his second win of his career in NASCAR’s top series with Gilliland grabbing second place.
Carl Edwards held on to take third place with part-time driver and team owner Michael Waltrip finished in fourth place. Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five in the race. See the complete race results in the Aaron’s 499 here.
Jimmie Johnson left the Talladega Superspeedway still at the top spot in the point standings with Carl Edwards holding steady in second as well. Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up a spot to third place in points. Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski both moved up a single spot in the points to fourth and fifth places respectively. See the complete NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Darlington Raceway to race under the lights Saturday night, May 11th for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
By: Buck Stevens
(Feature image photo credit: NASCARmedia.com/285586Jerry Markland/Getty Images)