David Ragan celebrates after passing Carl Edwards on the final lap and winning at Talladega Superspeedway.
TALLADEGA, Ala. — In one of the greatest upsets in NASCAR history, David Ragan, with drafting help from his Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland, passed Carl Edwards on the final lap Sunday and then held off Edwards and Gilliland to win the rain-delayed Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
A wild nine-car melee with six laps to go resulted in an even wilder green-white-checkered flag finish that saw Ragan and Gilliland come from well back in the pack to surprise everyone, including superstars Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Edwards, who were battling hard for the lead.
Kenseth was the leader on the final restart, but Edwards got by him on the white-flag lap, only to see Ragan and Gilliland come roaring by on the last lap.
Edwards tried to block, but Ragan and Gilliland had too much for Edwards as they shot by to move to the top two. Edwards rallied on the outside, but Ragan blocked him as they raced through the tri-oval. Edwards and Gilliland raced side-by-side for second with Ragan earning his second Sprint Cup win. His first came at Daytona in 2011 while driving for Roush Fenway Racing.
Gilliland edged Edwards for second, with Michael Waltrip and Johnson completing the top five. The second five was composed of Regan Smith, Martin Truex Jr., Kenseth, Scott Speed and Aric Almirola.
Edwards was the man out front when the race was stopped after 125 laps for rain.
The red flag lasted three hours and 46 minutes.
Kenseth dominated the race both before and after the rain, as he led a whopping 142 laps, but he was not able to hold onto the lead when it counted.
The green-white-checkered flag finish, which extended the race to 192 laps, was set up when Ricky Stenhouse made it four wide as he tried to squeeze by J.J. Yeley.
Stenhouse clipped Yeley, turning him into Kurt Busch, who flipped over in the air before landing on the top of Ryan Newman.
Busch and Newman were both OK, but both of them were quite upset by what they called “wild, crazy racing.”
During the ensuing yellow flag, Kenseth complained to NASCAR that it was too late to continue. However, NASCAR felt otherwise.
The top five on the restart were Kenseth, Edwards, Johnson, Smith and Stenhouse.
Kenseth got the jump as the green came back out, but as he switched back and forth between the low line and the high line, Edwards dived below him to grab the top spot.
And then seemingly out of nowhere came the charging duo of Ragan and Gilliland. They were carrying so much speed that none of the top three could hold them off.
Ragan, who was released by Roush Fenway Racing after the 2011 season because of a lack of funds to keep his No. 6 car afloat, was picked up by Bob Jenkins and his Front Row Motorsports team.
Ragan’s best finish during his first year with Front Row was fourth in the second Talladega race.
After missing four races because of a fractured vertebra, Denny Hamlin started the race before being relieved by Brian Vickers during the first caution flag on lap 25.
However, Vickers was one of 13 cars caught up in the infamous “Big One” at Talladega on lap 42 when Kyle Busch clipped Kasey Kahne in the right rear as they battled for second place behind Kenseth.
“You can’t push with these cars (the new Gen-6 machines),” Kahne said. “We learned that at Daytona, but (Kyle Busch) was pushing me and spun me into the wall.”
Busch agreed that he caused the accident.
“I got into the back of the 5 and was going to go to his outside and he moved up. I didn’t expect it,” Kyle Busch said. “I hate I caused a helluva mess for everyone. It’s way too early to be making those kind of moves. “
The wreck knocked out potential winners Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart as well as Kahne and Kyle Busch.