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A Wet Win For Ragan At Talladega

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 yesterday 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.”

Hinchcliffe Wins IndyCar’s Sao Paulo 300

Sao Paulo — James Hinchcliffe overtook Takuma Sato of Japan on the last turn to win IndyCar’s Sao Paulo 300 for his second career victory yesterday.

The Canadian moved from third to second with three laps to go and, after the long back straight, moved inside Sato to take the lead just a few yards from the finish line at the Anhembi street track.

American Marco Andretti was third.

Will Power, who won the previous three races in Brazil but started only 22nd after a mishap in qualifying, retired on lap 19 because of an apparent gear shift problem.

Power’s Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, a home-crowd favorite and the points leader entering the weekend, had an incident-filled race and finished 13th.

Pedrosa Wins Spain GP

Jerez, Spain — Dani Pedrosa won his first MotoGP race of the season, leading a 1-2 Honda finish with Marc Marquez at the Spain Grand Prix yesterday.

The 20-year-old Marquez moved to the top of the standings with 61 points after three races. Pedrosa has 58, a point ahead of world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Pedrosa completed the 27 laps of the 2.74-mile Jerez Circuit with relative ease after taking the lead from pole-sitter Lorenzo for good by passing him on an inside curve during the sixth lap.

Lorenzo held off Marquez until the last curve when the newcomer squeaked by for second place after the riders bumped.

It was Pedrosa’s 23rd MotoGP career win.