David Gilliland

May 5 in NASCAR: Front Row Motorsports’ stunning Talladega win

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Over the course of his NASCAR Cup Series career, David Ragan proved to be one of the more consistent restrictor-plate racers, earning both of his Cup wins on superspeedways.

The last and most surprising of those occurred on May 5, 2013, at Talladega Superspeedway with Ragan competing for Front Row Motorsports, a team that hadn’t won a race since its founding 2005.

A rain delay caused the Aaron’s 499 to end near darkness as the race concluded with a green-white-checkered finish.

Ragan restarted five rows back on the outside as Matt Kenseth led the field.

When the field took the white flag, Carl Edwards led as Ragan raced around the fifth position. Right behind him was teammate David Gilliland.

Going down the backstretch, a shove from Gilliland helped Ragan split a gap between Kenseth on the outside and Jimmie Johnson on the inside as Edwards still led.

Kenseth was quickly moved aside as Ragan assumed his spot hugging Edwards’ rear bumper.

That lasted only a moment as Ragan darted to the inside with his momentum as they entered Turn 3. He nosed ahead of Edwards in the middle of the turn and had the lead as they entered the frontstretch.

As Ragan dodged-and-weaved his way through the tri-oval, Gilliland side-drafted Edwards. After Ragan took the checkered flag, Gilliland barely beat Edwards to the finish line, giving the aptly named Front Row Motorsports a 1-2 finish.

“I don’t know what to say, this is a true David vs Goliath moment here,” Ragan told Fox in Victory Lane. “They’re not all this easy, but man, this is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win. Feels like I’ve never been here before.”

Also on this date:

1963: Jim Paschal led the final 69 laps to win a Grand National race at Tar Heel Speedway in Randleman, North Carolina. Paschal beat Joe Weatherly for the victory on the quarter-mile dirt track. It was the second of only three Grand National races the track hosted, all coming in the 1963-64 season.

1968: David Pearson led all but one lap to win a 300-lap event at Asheville-Weaverville (N.C.) Speedway. He beat Bobby Isaac by two laps for the victory on the half-mile paved track. It would only host three more Grand National races for a total of 34.

1974: David Pearson won his third and final race at Talladega Superspeedway, beating Benny Parsons by .17 seconds.

1985: Without the aid of a caution, Bill Elliott came from nearly two laps down to win at Talladega after a broken oil fitting sent him to pit road on Lap 48. Elliott passed Cale Yarborough with 20 laps to go and then beat Kyle Petty by 1.72 seconds. It was one of the three wins Elliott claimed in order to achieve the Winston Million that year.

April 17 in NASCAR: Johnson wins in four-wide finish at Talladega

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The early 2010s were a different time for NASCAR when it came to restrictor-plate tracks and it can be summed up in two words: Tandem racing.

For a brief time, the signature image of a huge pack of cars streaming around Daytona and Talladega was replaced by the visual of two-car pairings, usually teammates, frantically pushing each other for position.

The tandem era arguably peaked on April 17, 2011 at Talladega in a race that featured 88 lead changes.

With five laps to go in the Aaron’s 499, 10 groups of tandem partners jockeyed for the win, with Dave Blaney leading into Turn 1 via a push from Kurt Busch. Neither driver would finish in the top 15 after Busch nearly wrecked Blaney with four laps to go.

With three laps to go, the remaining pairings with a shot at the win were: Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle; Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann; Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin; Tony Stewart and David Gilliland; AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard.

With two laps to go, the parings of Edwards/Biffle and Bowyer/Harvick had a good advantage over the rest of the field. But by the time the field exited Turn 4, the Gordon/Martin duo had passed Bowyer/Harvick. They were the leaders as they took the white flag.

When the field reached Turn 3 for the final time, Johnson/Earnhardt had entered the fray. They were behind Bowyer/Harvick and Gordon/Martin as they entered the tri-oval. Edwards/Biffle trailed them.

Johnson/Earnhardt then dove to the lower lane in the tri-oval and started a three-wide drag race to the finish line that would become a four-wide finish at the last moment.

Johnson beat Bowyer by .002 seconds.

“I drove through (Turns) 3 and 4 and I’m like, ‘We’ll get another chance, I hope,'” Johnson told Fox. “They were worried about each other in the second and third lane and left that bottom open and we had some big (momentum) on our side and off we went.”

Also on this date:

1960: Joe Weatherly won his second race in two nights with a victory at Wilson (N.C) Speedway, a half-mile dirt track. But Weatherly wasn’t the first to cross the finish line. That was Emanuel Zervakis. NASCAR disqualified his win after they found his fuel tank was oversized, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”

1965: Rookie Dick Hutcherson earned his first career win in a race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway. He went on to win nine poles and nine races that season on his way to a runner-up finish in the points. He’d only compete in two more seasons, winning five times. He went on to crew chief for David Pearson during Pearson’s 1969 championship run.

1977: Cale Yarborough led 495 of 500 laps and won a Cup race at Bristol by seven laps over Dick Brooks.

1994: Terry Labonte led only the final 29 laps and beat Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan at North Wilkesboro for his first win as driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet.

2009: Greg Biffle led the final 106 laps and beat Jason Leffler at Phoenix Raceway for his 20th and final Xfinity Series win.

David Ragan to race a truck for first time since 2006

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Former NASCAR Cup driver David Ragan will come out of retirement to race in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway on April 18.

The 34-year-old Ragan will drive the No. 17 Ford F-150 for DGR-Crosley, the team announced Wednesday. The truck will be sponsored by Select Blinds.

The race marks the first time Trucks have raced at the ¾-mile track since 2005. It also will be Ragan’s first time in a truck since 2006.

Even though he has stepped away from full-time racing, Ragan is still keeping busy, including moving into a development role with Ford Performance, where he assists teams with simulator work and is also part of the development team for the NextGen car that will debut in 2021.

“I’m really looking forward to racing one of DGR-Crosley’s F-150’s at Richmond,” Ragan said in a media release. “I’ve been friends with David (team co-owner David Gilliland) for a long time, and I see how much work he’s putting into this team and the success they’ve had early on.

“They have a shop full of great people and I’m glad that we could make all this happen.”

Ragan has over 30 combined Cup, Xfinity and Truck series starts at Richmond. Next month’s race will be his second start of the year, having finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500 driving for Rick Ware Racing.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced in the Truck Series, and I’m incredibly thankful to Select Blinds for supporting me and allowing me to do this,” Ragan said. “This is what I wanted to do when I decided to stop racing full-time at the end of last season; I want to race in different series, with different teams.

“Obviously, we want to be competitive, and I have no doubt that DGR-Crosley will bring me a great truck. Richmond has always been one of my favorite tracks that we race at; hopefully, we can get the folks from Select Blinds another good finish this year and put on a good show for the fans.”

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Todd Gilliland to pilot new Front Row Motorsports Truck entry in 2020

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Front Row Motorsports is expanding its NASCAR presence, announcing Monday it has formed a partnership with DGR-Crosley to compete full-time in the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series.

Todd Gilliland, the 19-year-old son of NASCAR driver David Gilliland, will pilot the No. 38 Ford F-150 for the Mooresville, North Carolina organization.

This will be the younger Gilliland’s third full-time season in the Truck Series, having previously competed in 48 starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Gilliland has one win (2019 at Martinsville), as well as 12 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes.

The younger Gilliland also recorded 20 wins in a combined 53 starts in the former NASCAR K&N Pro West and East series (now known as the NASCAR ARCA Menards West and East series). He won back-to-back championships in the K&N West series in 2016 and 2017. He also has two wins in nine starts in the ARCA Menards Series.

“I’m really looking forward to racing an F-150 in the Truck Series this year with Front Row Motorsports as part of the Ford family,” Todd Gilliland said in a media release. “I’ve been around (FRM owner) Bob Jenkins and the whole Front Row crew for a long time growing up with my dad racing for them.

“The talent that they’ve brought in for my program is really exciting. I know or have worked with almost every person that’s on my team this year at some point in my career. That helps tremendously in building relationships and trust with each other.”

Todd Gilliland will be continuing a family tradition of sorts: the No. 38 has long been associated with his grandfather, Butch, as a racer, as well as for much of his father David’s Cup career. David Gilliland competed in 214 NASCAR Cup races as a driver for Front Row Motorsports from 2010-16.

“Car numbers are important to a driver because they are essentially your identity when you’re on track,” Todd Gilliland said. “It’s cool to think about a Gilliland being back in the No. 38, and I’m really proud to be able to drive the same number that my dad and grandpa did.”

Jon Leonard was also named as crew chief for Todd Gilliland’s Truck Series entry. Leonard previously served as a team engineer, as well as interim crew chief for Leavine Family Racing and in a prior engineering role with Richard Childress Racing.

NASCAR veteran Coleman Pressley will be Gilliland’s spotter.

“We’re all very excited for this expansion,” Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins said. “I’ve watched Todd grow up in this sport and have seen the talent he brings firsthand.

“Not only does he come from a racing family, but he’s got the natural ability of a winning driver. I’m confident that having him drive in our debut season will be a great success.”

Front Row Motorsports will also field NASCAR Cup teams in 2020 for Michael McDowell and John Hunter Nemechek.

The Truck Series begins its 23-race season on Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway.

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DGR-Crosley switches from Toyota to Ford beginning in 2020

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Ford Performance is strengthening its driver development program by joining forces with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move from Toyota to Ford Wednesday.

The multi-year agreement will see team co-owner David Gilliland, a former Cup Series driver, lead the team’s driver development program as it field entries in late models, the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

“We’re very excited to have DGR-Crosley come to Ford as part of our long-term efforts to develop drivers for NASCAR,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “We have just scratched the surface of what is possible in developing the next generation of Ford drivers with people like Chase Briscoe, and we believe a coordinated effort with a team like DGR-Crosley will help move that process forward successfully.

“David Gilliland was a trusted and valued Ford driver in NASCAR for many years, and we look forward to renewing that relationship with him in this new effort.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m super excited about the partnership with Ford and how things are lining up for 2020. I spent a lot of time racing Fords throughout my career, and it’s really special to now be able to bring them into our race shop. A lot of time and consideration was spent on this decision, and internally we know that this is the move that we needed to make in order to advance our program to the top level. We have a great group of hard-working, talented people at DGR-Crosley, and with Ford coming on board, our future is really bright. We’re excited for all the things ahead.”

DGR-Crosley will announce its driver lineup at a later date.

The team first entered the Truck Series in 2018. Tyler Ankrum won its first race this year at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying for the playoffs in the process.

It fielded a team record five entries in the playoff race at ISM Raceway.