In the Atlanta Motor Speedway media center, one of the many photos emblazoned on the wall is of Joey Logano, David Ragan and Reed Sorenson, a shot taken within the past few years celebrating the three drivers having risen from racing Legends and Bandolero cars on the quarter-mile 'Thunder Ring" at Atlanta Motor Speedway to competing at NASCAR's top level at one point within their racing careers.
Any time that either of these drivers find success within NASCAR, it's a proud moment for the Atlanta Motor Speedway staff, many of which have memories of Ragan, Logano and Sorenson forming themselves as racers a handful of years ago.
But of all the successes of which they have found, Ragan may have surpassed them all this past weekend at Talladega.
On paper, it would have been understandable to count out Ragan and his Front Row Motorsports team going into Sunday's race. The team had never finished in the top -five of any race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Still, Ragan did enter the weekend with a track record of success on larger tracks, having won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega and his only Sprint Cup win to date having come at Daytona.
So if there was a dark horse for a strong finish, Ragan was probably a solid pick.
But for a win? Well, let's just call it a racing example of David vs. Goliath.
Ragan did what any driver has to do in order to win a race. He kept his car out of trouble and moved into position to have a shot at a win in the late going of the race. And then, on the final restart, there Ragan was, moving towards the lead with a push from teammate David Gilliland and into the lead.
If you want to talk upsets, this one may have been one of the biggest in recent NASCAR history. You probably have to rank it up there with Greg Sacks 1985 Talladega win, Derrike Cope's 1990 Daytona 500 victory as well as Trevor Bayne's 2011 Daytona 500 win.
It's basically a racing version of Florida Gulf Coast's magical run in this year's NCAA basketball tournament.
So if you've ever been one to root for the underdog, Sunday's win by David Ragan was fun to watch. It's another reminder that in racing, the outcome isn't decided until the checkered flag falls, no matter who the dominant driver may be.
JR Motorsports On Top
Talk about close finishes. Saturday's Nationwide Series race wasn't short on excitement, with multiple turns of events and an ending so close that NASCAR timing and scoring had to confirm the winner.
When it was all over, Regan Smith not only came away with the win, but also vaulted JR Motorsports in the series driver points standings lead for the first time in the team's history.
Although Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing appeared to be the favorites to win the Nationwide title entering the season, JR Motorsports is asserting that it will be a major factor as the season goes on.
The Fans Say
So, what do the fans think of what happened this week? Well, here's a sampling, courtesy of some of our Facebook fans...
"That was AMAZING!!!!! I was about to go thru the roof!"
"Congratulations David, what a fantastic win! You are a class act, and you make Georgia PROUD! So happy for you!!! Way to go!"
Who's Up and Who's Down?
Jimmie Johnson simply keeps finding ways to string together strong finishes, and the No. 48 team is already in late-season form. In 10 races, Johnson has failed to finish outside the top 10 just three times and has only one finish of 12th or worse.
As far as consistency goes, Carl Edwards is doing a good job of bringing home solid finishes. In his last six races, he has four finishes of sixth or better and has had a chance to win the past two races within the closing laps. As a result, Edwards has quietly assumed second place in the points standings.
Aric Almirola likely garners some of the biggest sentimental fans in racing with him driving the No. 43. He stands to gain more given his recent results. Four top-10 finishes in a row have helped him rise to seventh in the points standings.
Stewart's spring of discontent continues. He is currently 22nd in the points standings with one top-10 finish. But as many fans of Stewart will tell you, "Smoke" tends to heat up during the summer months.