David Ragan had put in a quiet night fighting in and around the top 15 at Charlotte Motor Speedway before circumstances gave him an opportunity to steal a good finish.
With no more fresh tires available, Ragan was kept on track for the Coca-Cola 600’s final restart with five laps to go. In the lead and on the high side, Ragan had Ryan Newman on two new tires underneath and Martin Truex Jr., whose team had questioned if Ragan was going to drop back, on four new tires sitting third.
“No, absolutely not,” Ragan said of pulling over. “We were doing all we could. You never know. I mean, those guys could get back there body-slamming, and I could have gotten a five or 10 car-length lead.”
The ending instead played out with Ragan being on the high-side of a four-wide battle for the lead by the time the field hit the backstretch. On his older tires, he fell to a15th.
“I felt like I hit my marks on the restart good,” said Ragan. “I got through Turns 1 and 2 and was leading down the back straightaway, and that’s all you can ask for. It helped that Newman was on two tires underneath me and he kind of held them up a little bit, but five laps was just too much.”
Ragan did lead three laps, which were the first laps he’s led this season. And his finish is a season-best after 13 races and just his second top 20 effort of the year. throughout the night, Ragan had an average running position of 16.8 and even before taking the lead, had challenged inside the top 10 for a bit.
“Our Select Blinds Ford Mustang was a top 10 or 12 car a lot of the night,” said Ragan. “We had some trouble on pit road and felt like I had to pass a lot of cars often throughout the night, but our team did a great job preparing a good car. That was the best mile-and-a-half car we’ve had in a long time, and we just ran out of tires. I had some damage from that Kyle Larson wreck with about 30 or 40 to go; we used an extra set of tires and we didn’t have any.
“We had some with about 20 laps on it, but I felt like if I could have got a good restart I would be able to hold them off. If it would have been two or three laps, we could have got a top five or top 10, but once all the dirty air got around we just didn’t have the grip to hang on there at the end. But that was fun. It was a 600-mile race and we learned a few things that will hopefully help us for down the road.”