David Ragan took the lead from teammate Carl Edwards on lap 199 and held him off on a green/white/checkered finish to win his second career Nationwide Series race Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Jack Roush put three of his cars in the top five after Matt Kenseth came home fifth.
Edwards may have lost the battle, but he won the war — picking up ground on series points leader Kyle Busch, who stumbled to a 28th-place finish.
“We had the fastest car the last half of the race,” Ragan said. “I just tried my best to stay calm and when you have a good car that gives you lot of confidence.
“I knew we had a good car, knew it would stick when I drove into the corner and just tried to do what I was doing the last 100 laps and it all worked out.”
As the race was nearing the 200-lap mark, Ragan found himself in second place stalking Edwards as the leader picked his way through slower traffic. When Edwards got hung up behind Eric McClure on the backstretch, Ragan passed the No. 60 on the low side entering turn three and took the lead.
“He just got by me,” Edwards said. “He had a better car and he played me like he should have. He got me in position, got me pinned, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
“That was all I had. Any more would have been a little bit too risky, I think,” he added.
Ragan’s No. 6 Ford was rolling so well through the center of the turns that Edwards was unable to make much of a charge at regaining the lead until a debris caution came out on lap 243. The race restarted on lap 251 and an attempt was made at a green/white/checkered finish. It didn’t take Ragan long to decide which lane he wanted to be in when the green flag fell during the double-file restart with two laps to go.
“I don’t think there was enough money in the speedway tonight to make me choose the bottom,” Ragan said. “It didn’t take me very long — I knew I was going to take the outside.”
Ragan got the jump on Edwards to lead the first lap after the restart and was building on that lead on the final lap as he sailed out of turn two. But a wreck on the frontstretch brought out the caution for the ninth and final time, sending Ragan to Victory Lane at Bristol for the first time.
Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kenseth rounded out the top five.
“All the attention was on me the last few laps,” Ragan said. “Everyone saw that we had a car to win. It was just a matter of if I made any mistakes or not.”
Ragan avoided any key mistakes that could have cost him the lead down the stretch, but the same couldn’t be said for several of the leaders early in the race.
Keselowski settled for third place after winning the pole earlier in the day, a result partially because of a miscue early in the race. After a double-file restart on lap 35, he found himself in a side-by-side battle for the lead with Justin Allgaier.
Keselowski got his front fender into Allgaier on the backstretch, and the contact cut down Allgaier’s left rear tire. Allgaier spun into the wall in turn three while Keselowski’s No. 88 Chevy sustained enough front-end damage to send him down pit road.
“That was 100 percent my fault,” said Keselowski, who won last year’s Food City 250. “I was racing hard and I guess I raced a little too hard. I feel terrible about it. He had a great car and probably could have won the race.”
When the green flag came back out on lap 47, Busch and Harvick soon found themselves in a battle for the lead. Busch was in the process of passing Harvick on lap 52 when he clipped the car of Chase Austin, which slowed coming out of turn four after blowing a tire.
Busch spun down the frontstretch and sustained heavy damage, which brought out the red flag. Busch’s poor finish coupled with Edwards’ runner-up result allowed Edwards to chop 91 points off his deficit in the standings. He trails Busch by 248 points.
Like Keselowski, Kenseth also rebounded from early trouble. Kenseth brought out the first caution on lap seven when his ill-handling No. 16 machine spun in turn two. He steadily worked his way back to the front to give owner Jack Roush plenty to celebrate.