Talladega has a long and storied history of Cinderella winners, with drivers like Richard Brickhouse, Dick Brooks, Ron Bouchard and Bobby Hillin, Jr., claiming their lone Cup Series victories on the track’s treacherous, 33-degree banking. Sunday’s win was Ragan’s second in the Sprint Cup Series, after driving Jack Roush’s UPS Ford to Victory Lane in the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. But it took the term “upset” to a whole new level, with Ragan and Gilliand sweeping the top two finishing positions for a Front Row Motorsports team that has previously done little to live up to its name.
"On the white-flag lap, I thought we were going to win it,” said Edwards, who trailed Ragan and Gilliland to the checkered flag. “(Then) I saw those guys coming, and thought, `Who…. is… that?’ I blocked as much as I could, (but) if I'd turned to stay across (Ragan’s) hood … I was going to be on the highlight reel for all the wrong reasons.”
“They came up on us so fast,” agreed Jimmie Johnson, who finished fifth. "I could see Carl trying to block, and I said, `There's no way to block the speed they're bringing.’”
So unlikely was Sunday’s verdict that even the Goliath’s vanquished by Ragan’s last-lap dash were left shaking their heads and smiling.
“I saw David at the last minute,” said seventh-place finisher Matt Kenseth, who dominated the day with a race-high 142 laps led. “But he was going so fast that if I had pulled in front of him, I was going to get wrecked. I just had to bite the bullet.
"It's always cool to see the underdogs go up there and grab one, though."
"As frustrated as I am about the loss, I'm really happy for these guys (at Front Row Motorsports)," said Edwards. "It couldn't happen to two better guys and a harder-working team."
"It's a huge, huge deal for us to be sitting here right now," said Ragan in Victory Lane. "I'd hate to have to line up and do it again… but a one-two finish! Can you believe that?"
"We had a heck of a run,” admitted a beaming Gilliland afterward. “We were pushing, I was locked to his bumper and I wasn't going to let go. It's a huge day for any team to get first and second, but for Front Row Motorsports and our little team, we're really proud of that. (Team owner) Bob Jenkins does this 80 or 90-percent out of his own pocket. There are weeks when we don't have enough tires to put on our cars and we have to put on scuffs (purchased from other teams).”
“You always believe (a win) can happen,” said Ragan of a Front Row Motorsports team that had managed only one Top-20 finish this season; a 20th last Saturday night at Richmond. “I don't know that I ever practiced my Victory Lane speech in my head, though. I didn't think about it that much, but you absolutely believe in yourself and your team.”
“The thing that makes our team different is we're so close,” said Jenkins, still trying to catch his breath nearly a half hour after the checkered flag flew. “More than anything, we're friends. What happened today is so satisfying. Over the last nine years, we've gotten a little bit better every year. I felt the progress and I knew it was just a matter of time before we'd win one of these things.”
Ragan’s marathon Talladega win took more than seven hours to complete, thanks to a 3.5-hour rain delay that tested NASCAR’s new Air Titan track dryer – and fans’ patience – to the limit. It was the first victory for a No. 34 car since Wendell Scott won his first (and only) premier series race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, FL on Dec. 1, 1963.
And in its own way, it was no less of an upset.