News & Media

Ragan comes from nowhere for Brickyard pole

July 30, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

INDIANAPOLIS -- The roll continued for David Ragan on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ragan's qualifying lap at 182.994 mph (49.182 seconds) was fast enough to win the pole for Sunday's Brickyard 400, the 20th Sprint Cup race of the season.

Brickyard 400

Race Lineup
2.Kasey KahneToyota
3.Jimmie JohnsonChevrolet
4.Kurt BuschDodge
5.Brad KeselowskiDodge

The Coors Light Pole Award was the second of the season for Ragan, who also picked up the first Cup victory of his career earlier this month at Daytona. Ragan is 13th in the Cup standings and is in a Chase-eligible wild-card position as the only driver in positions 11-20 in the standings with a victory.

* Out Front with Miss Coors Light: Rachel with David

Kasey Kahne (182.927 mph) will start from the outside of the front row. Early qualifier Jimmie Johnson, who went out 17th, saw his lap at 182.801 mph stand up for third, with Kurt Busch (182.671 mph) claiming the fourth starting spot in a highly competitive time-trial session.

Brad Keselowski will take the green flag from the fifth spot, followed by A.J. Allmendinger, Juan Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and series points leader Carl Edwards.

"It'll be cool to lead the pack [Sunday]," said Ragan, who is in a contract year at Roush Fenway Racing, as is his sponsor, UPS. "I knew we had a shot at the pole when we unloaded in qualifying trim on Friday. [Crew chief] Drew [Blickensderfer] made a few small adjustments, and I just tried to hit my marks and not do anything crazy.

"I knew we had a shot at a top-five or top-10 run for sure, so I just wanted to be a little conservative. I hit my marks, and everything did what it needed to do, and we wound up on top. It's an honor to be here and to be the fastest guy at Indy."

Kahne's lap was .018 seconds slower than Ragan's, and though he slipped slightly off Turn 4, Kahne didn't think that was enough to cost him the pole.

"I slipped, but I never had to come off the gas," Kahne said. "I just drifted up through it. I don't think it slowed me down much. If it slowed me down anything, it wasn't enough to get the pole -- and it was that close.

"I felt like I didn't come to the green flag quite as fast as I should have, but the rest of the lap was really good. It was just really close. The 6 [Ragan] put down a great lap."

David Stremme, Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell, J.J. Yeley and Scott Wimmer failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

Hamlin to back

Denny Hamlin qualified 14th for the Brickyard 400, but he won't cross the starting line in that position. The engine failure he suffered in Thursday practice, and subsequent engine change on his No. 11 car, mean he will have to start at the rear of the field under NASCAR's one engine rule.

It was just the latest in what have been a string of engine failures this season for the No. 11 team, which was somehow weathered them to stay in the thick of the Chase hunt. Doing the same at Indianapolis will be difficult, given how difficult it is to pass on the narrow track. Only three winners in the history of the race have ever come back from starting positions of 20th or worse, although Johnson did win in 2006 after fading to the rear with a tire problem early in the event.

"It's going to be tough," Johnson said. "Tires are important here, so it's really difficult to get off-strategy from a tire standpoint. It might be worth a shot. That might be something they're going to consider. What's most difficult about it is, when you're in dirty air that far back, you have to have a setup on the car, and as you work your way forward, you have to start backing out of that and staying on top of the adjustments. That's the hardest thing."


• David Ragan won his second Cup pole in his 166th start. Both poles have come this season.
• David Ragan joins Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya as the fourth repeat pole winner of 2011.
• This is David Ragan's first Brickyard 400 pole in his fifth start. His previous best start was 16th in 2008.
• David Ragan becomes the 15th different pole winner in 18 Brickyard 400 races.
• This is Roush Fenway Racing's 73rd Cup pole, fifth pole of 2011 and first Brickyard 400 pole.
• Kasey Kahne (second) scored his best Brickyard 400 start in his eighth race. He has started in the top-five in five of his eight Brickyard 400s.
• Jimmie Johnson (third) earned his fourth top-five start in his 10th Brickyard 400 race. He has won three of the past five Brickyard 400s.
• Kurt Busch (fourth) scored his second best start in 11 races at Indy. This is Busch's eighth top-five start this season including six of the past eight.
• Brad Keselowski (fifth) will make his eighth top-10 start this season.
• A.J. Allmendinger (sixth) earned his best Brickyard 400 start in his fourth race. It is his first start with crew chief Greg Erwin.
• Juan Montoya (seventh) will make his fourth top-seven start in five Brickyard 400 races. This is his first race with new crew chief Jim Pohlman.
• Jeff Gordon (eighth) leads all drivers with four Brickyard 400 wins.
• Jeff Burton (13th) will make his third top-12 start in the past four races. This is his first race with new crew chief Luke Lambert.
• Three drivers are making their first Brickyard 400 start: Trevor Bayne (21st), Andy Lally (39th) and TJ Bell (40th).

-- David Caraviello | Video: Hamlin blows engine