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Sunday, April 5, 2009

After a charmed 2008, Ragan is snakebitten in 2009

As 2008 came to a close, David Ragan rose from the ashes like a Phoenix, nearly making the Chase after a horrific 2007 debut. He nearly made the Chase after amassing a dozen top-10 finishes, and rarely finished lower than 20th. It appeared he had stepped up the ladder, and would be able to take that next step and reach the Chase in 2009.

Seven races into this new season, I’ll be kind and say things haven’t gone exactly as planned. Other than a top-10 finish at Daytona, Ragan’s season has been the pits.

Some weeks he’s run into mechanical trouble, and other weeks the car just hasn’t run good at all. His finishes -- 17, 42, 19, 27, 27 and 37 – have dropped him in the points standings down into Sam Hornish Jr. and Reed Sorenson territory.

Ragan is better than these results show. He was running solidly in the top-10 on Sunday before another mechanical problem put him out of the race. Something hasn’t been right on many of the Roush teams so far this year, and Ragan’s results are indicative of this.

Another interesting sidebar is that either Ragan of Jamie McMurray, who is running only a little better than Ragan, will have to be off the Roush team after 2009. Ragan’s youth will probably keep him there, but if he continues to run in 30th McMurray might get a second thought from the Cat in the Hat.

I’m a firm believer that Ragan will rebound before the year ends and keep his ride, but at this point he’ll have to have an incredible run to contend for the Chase. He has to be extremely disappointed in how this year has started.

What’s with all the pit road mistakes this year?
While I’m not expecting perfection, it continues to amaze me how many errors are being made on pit road this season. Though it didn’t affect his finish much, it was still strange to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. completely miss his pit stall because his team didn’t have his pit board displayed prominently enough. Also, Carl Edwards’ crew had a slow pit stop that dropped him from 1st to 11th on the final round of stops, costing him a shot at the win. While he didn’t tee off on the crew like Kyle Busch would, you could tell Edwards was steamed.

Between slow stops, missing lugnuts, pitting out of the box, running over hoses, chasing after tires and countless speeding penalties, it seems that lately more races are being decided because of what happens on pit road.

I have a feeling a lot of pit crews are going to be doing some extra practice this week, particularly Edwards’ team.


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