Every week we expect that a Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing or Michael Waltrip Racing, drivers usually end up in victory lane.
We expect it and we don’t ever think anything different will occur.
So on Sunday night, seven hours after the green flag waved, a 3 ½ hour rain delay and two big wrecks, David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports pulled of the biggest upset since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500.
It was a win that even brought Mike Helton down to victory lane.
Front Row Motorsports doesn’t have full sponsorship for either of their teams. They don’t have hundreds of employees in their shop, they just have 65 employees. They build and hang their own bodies and engines in their 28,000 square foot shop. Sunday at Talladega this small team that is partially funded by owner, Bob Jenkins.
"It's tough to sell sponsorship for a team that's going to be 15th to 25th on average," Ragan said. "We have higher goals, and we expect to improve, but it doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen in one or two seasons."
The struggles of an underfunded team, a new car and wrecked race cars to start off the season, from where they started to victory lane on Sunday night, this team in 10 races has come a long way.
It is not often that you see competitors excited or happy for another driver to beat them. Jeff Gordon said over the radio after his crew chief told him who won, “I hope that is true, that would be awesome!”
Crew chiefs and other drivers came to victory lane to congratulate Ragan and his team. It was a moment in this sport we often don’t experience enough.
Last night took us back to a time in this sport when it wasn’t the mega teams winning every week but the small team, the driver who barely made it to the track that week but somehow they ended up taking home the trophy and the check.
The last time the number 34 car was in victory lane was back in 1963, when a African American driver named Wendell Scott pulled into victory lane The first and only time a African American has won in NASCAR. Scott’s win wasn’t recognized or celebrated like Ragan’s was.
Yes this is Talladega and anyone can win this race. Anyone can win. The best car all day of Matt Kenseth didn’t win. The rain delay once again gave second life for some drivers. Potential contenders like Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were knocked out early in the first “big one”. The second big one came late in the race.
Ragan’s win is a win for the little guy. There will be those who say well it is just Talladega. All you have to do is show up. While maybe in some regards that is true, but Ragan’s win is good for this sport.
There has to be a balance within the sport. Wins and upsets like these don’t happen often enough in this sport.
In the grand scheme of things the bigger teams will make the Chase, the bigger teams will continue to be the front runners every week.
Still, Sunday night was a reminder that once in while the little engine that could, actually did.