DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – David Ragan found redemption at historic Daytona International Speedway Saturday night picking up his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish in the 53rd annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola.
Ragan’s No. 6 UPS Ford was in a familiar position on the final restart. He was in the same spot earlier this year in the Daytona 500, but changed lanes before crossing the start/finish line and was black-flagged – losing his chance at winning the richest and most prestigious race in NASCAR. This time, Roush Fenway Racing teammate and drafting partner Matt Kenseth was lined up behind Ragan, keeping him out front for the last eight laps and helping him become the seventh driver whose first-ever win has come in the mid-summer classic.
“There’s not a better place to do it than Daytona. It couldn’t be any better,” said Ragan from Gatorade Victory Lane. “We’ve been so close so many times and finally we’re here. Daytona means a lot. It is a special race and we’re very fortunate to get our first win here.”
Despite racing well on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, circumstances have kept Ragan from finishing well and his previous best finish of fourth came back in 2007 in the ARCA series.
Kenseth held on to second and Joey Logano, winner of last night’s SUBWAY Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, finished third.
After capturing his 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole this week, veteran Mark Martin had a strong run, but was involved in an incident during the first green-white-checkered attempt and finished 33rd.
Carl Edwards entered the race as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader, but spun exiting Turn 4 on lap 23 and sustained damage to the No. 99 Subway Ford, enabling defending race winner Kevin Harvick to take over the points lead.
Similar to the Daytona 500, the new racing surface created a passing-friendly environment setting new race and track records. A track-record 25 drivers exchanged the lead a race-record 57 times; the previous record of 49 lead changes was set back in 1974. Ryan Newman paired with Denny Hamlin and was able to lead a race-high 25 of the race-extended 170 laps.
The Independence Day holiday classic opened with a pre-race concert by country music star Martina McBride and a tribute to four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. DIS also recognized NASA’s Space Shuttle program and the final flight – which is scheduled for July 8 – with United States Navy Commander and Astronaut Dominic “Tony” Antonelli serving as Honorary Starter.
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