NASCAR river David Ragan (34) passes Carl Edwards (99) with the help of teammate… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Excuse David Ragan if he had to ask how to get to Victory Lane.
He was, after all, a 100-1 underdog to win at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon.
But he was the last man standing on a grueling afternoon when he squeezed past a number of NASCAR veterans on the last lap to pull off a huge upset in the Aaron's 499.
“This is a true David vs. Goliath moment,” he said. “Man, this is special.”
Ragan used a push from Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland to overtake veterans Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth on a green-white-checkered finish shortly after sunset.
Gilliland took second, followed by Edwards, Michael Waltrip and Johnson in a race that took more than seven hours to complete because of intermittent rain. The race was suspended for 3 hours and 36 minutes after NASCAR officials called a caution for rain with 63 laps to go.
For a while, it seemed that Edwards was going to win a rain-shortened race. Edwards made a last-second pass on rookie Ricky Stenhouse just before the caution.
“I had a feeling they were going to call that caution,” Edwards said.
“I wish we were sitting in first right now,” Stenhouse said shortly after the red flag came out at 2:18 in the afternoon.
By then, a bunch of usual suspects were out of contention. It didn't take long for the infamous Talladega shuffle to take almost a third of the field out of the Big Dance.
Kyle Busch tapped the back of Kasey Kahne's No. 5 Chevy on Lap 44, triggering a 13-car pileup that also included Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers, who had just stepped into Denny Hamlin's ride for relief help.
“I hate I caused a hell of a melee for everybody,” Busch said.
It was particularly painful for Hamlin, who started the race but got out of his No. 11 Toyota at the first caution because he is still recovering from a fractured vertebra in his lower back.
“The exchange went great,” Hamlin said before the big wreck. “Really, that was about as smooth as it's went for us. Obviously we've had a few repetitions at it. That was about the quickest that I was able to get out so everything went well. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over for the next driver. Everything really went seamless and painless.”
Except for the accident, the usual losing lottery ticket that some drivers get stuck with at Talladega.
Pit road looked like a junkyard as pit crews were scrambling to get cars race-ready again.
“I just kind of got shot through the center there, just a lot of momentum coming from behind,” Kahne said. “Felt the No. 18 (Busch) pushing me and next thing I know I was spinning. You just can't push with these cars. We learned that at Daytona. He was pushing me and spun me in the wall and then happened again, so that is what it is.”