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NASCAR Cup Series

McDowell Satisfied with his DAYTONA 500 Top-Five Finish

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Michael McDowell was able to earn a top five finish at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in the DAYTONA 500. McDowell, who started 34th, was able to survive multiple wrecks to position himself to contend for the victory.

The Arizona native only had one top 10 last season and has already matched it after Sunday afternoon’s race for this campaign. McDowell felt like he could have taken the victory but lacked speed and help.

“There’s always something you can do differently, you know we just didn’t have the outright speed to break the plane of the 18 or the 11,” McDowell told POPULAR SPEED. “We were trying like heck but so was everybody else, so when the 18 shot to the outside there he had a big run with a lot of momentum and I tried to go with him to hope that the 18 and 11 would get together so I can maybe sneak a win out of it.”

This is a boost of momentum for his team, especially since they’re not the best funded organization.

“For a small team its awesome, no doubt about it, I’d be lying to you guys if I was over the moon excited,” McDowell said. “I’ve been in the Cup series for over 10 years now, I have one goal, and that one goal is to get a win. I was close to getting their tonight, or at least had a shot at it and wasn’t able to get it done at the end so I’m happy with the finish. I’m proud of the team but that wasn’t the goal.”

Next week as we head to Atlanta Motor Speedway, the new rules package will be in place and we are still unsure on what to expect. We might see smaller teams start to come up and compete with bigger teams. This creates excitement for McDowell as we move towards Atlanta.

“Atlanta is brand new for everybody it a new rule package, who knows it could be like Daytona and Talladega and if it is I’ll do really well because these are two of my best tracks, but Atlanta will be a fresh start for everybody and we’ll see who’s got the speed and how the cars race, and we move on from there,” McDowell said.

McDowell is content with his top five at Daytona, but a win is something that he really wants to achieve soon especially since he’s been in the series for over 10 years.

“I’m really proud of everybody, the Love’s Travel Stop Ford Mustang was fast. We would have loved to pull into victory lane but a top five is great.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ragan Looking for Another NASCAR Cinderella Story

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway is this Sunday February 17, and experts are bound to start making predictions on who will win the Great American Race. With favorites to possibly emerge after the Gander RV Duels, there’s also a darkhorse to keep in mind.

David Ragan will be piloting the No. 38 SelectBlinds.com Ford Mustang for Front Row Motorsports once again this season. With drivers excited about the new Mustang, expect the success that has been carried in past plate races to continue at Daytona this upcoming weekend. 

A driver like Ragan is a perfect match for the Cinderella story of this year’s DAYTONA 500. While Front Row Motorsports may seem underfunded compared to their counterparts, the veteran knows how to get the job done. He has two career wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, both at restrictor plate tracks. His first being at Daytona in the summer of 2011 and his second at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring of 2013.

“That year in 2011 we work close to the front and we made it work. You can’t get caught up in racing, 500 miles is a long race here,” Ragan said during DAYTONA 500 Media Day. “It feels so much longer than the Coke 400. Its 100 miles longer but it feels like its 300 or 400 miles longer so you’ve got to pace yourself to the end.”

With the Gander RV Duels coming up on Thursday night, Ragan looks to improve his starting position after qualifying 23rd on Sunday. Ragan will be participating in the second Duel starting in the middle of the pack in the 11th position.

With the DAYTONA 500 opening the year, it becomes  special because you don’t know what to expect from drivers since it’s the first race of the season. New faces can emerge in making a name for themselves and every driver feels like they have a shot at winning the event.

“I think we’ll have a good enough car that we can we can get up front at some point,” Ragan said. “It’s just a matter of when are you in the front of the pack. It’s a big cycle at speedway racing. The leaders get shuffled to the back, the guys in the middle can get shuffled to the front based off of strategy and making good decisions on the racetrack so you’ve just got to make sure that you’re on the right cycle at the end of the race at the right time and to dodge the wrecks.”

Ragan sounded confident during Media Day on Wednesday, and that  should in return have people keeping an eye on him to be a dark horse on Sunday during the Great American Race.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: BryanR_305

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Front Row Buys BK Racing Charter; Leases to TriStar

A day after Front Row Motorsports revealed the acquisition of one of its Charters by TriStar Motorsports, the organization has bought one of BK Racing’s two Charters for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

BKR’s No. 83 Charter now belongs to TriStar though because FRM is leasing it to the new Cup Series No. 72 team. BKR will compete in the upcoming season with only one Charter for the No. 23, which will be driven by Joey Gase and Gray Gaulding.

FRM’s two full-time cars will both remained guaranteed into all 36 points events for Landon Cassill and David Ragan because both entries are chartered. At the end of the 2017 season, TriStar’s Charter lease will end, and it will be returned to FRM, giving the Ford organization three Charters for 2018.

As the season gets closer and closer, the MENCS field is becoming more and more clear. To avoid any confusion, here is a list of all 36 Charter teams that will be guaranteed into every race this season:

  1. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
  2. 2 Team Penske
  3. 3 Richard Childress Racing
  4. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
  5. 5 Hendrick Motorsports
  6. 6 Roush Fenway Racing
  7. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
  8. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
  9. 13 Germain Racing
  10. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
  11. 15 Premium Motorsports
  12. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
  13. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
  14. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
  15. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
  16. 21 Wood Brothers Racing
  17. 22 Team Penske
  18. 23 BK Racing
  19. 24 Hendrick Motorsports
  20. 27 Richard Childress Racing
  21. 31 Richard Childress Racing
  22. 32 GoFas Racing
  23. 33 Circle Sport-The Motorsports Group
  24. 34 Front Row Motorsports
  25. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
  26. 38 Front Row Motorsports
  27. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
  28. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
  29. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
  30. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
  31. 48 Hendrick Motorsports
  32. 72 TriStar Motorsports
  33. 77 Furniture Row Racing
  34. 78 Furniture Row Racing
  35. 88 Hendrick Motorsports
  36. 95 Leavine Family Racing

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ragan Returning, Cassill Remaining With Front Row

After stints between Joe Gibbs Racing, the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, and BK Racing, David Ragan is returning to Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 38 in 2017.

Landon Cassill, who drove the No. 38 in 2016, is remaining with FRM but will pilot the No. 34, which was driven by Chris Buescher this past season. Buescher will drive a second entry for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2017.

Ragan last raced for FRM in the 2015 Daytona 500, where he finished 17th. He was then summoned to fill in at JGR for Kyle Busch, who was injured in the XFINITY Series race the day before the 500, in the No. 18 for nine races. Then he moved to MWR’s No. 55, which needed a driver after Brian Vickers was sidelined for ongoing blood clot issues, at Kansas Speedway and stayed there for the rest of the year. He spent all of 2016 at BKR driving the No. 23 Toyota.

Ragan spent three full seasons with FRM from 2012 to 2014 and won in the No. 34 at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013, which was an enormous upset and the first victory for the mid-tier Premier Series organization.

The No. 34 grabbed the checkered flag again in 2016 when Buescher won the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway in August. Buescher made the Chase and became to the first ever FRM driver to do so.

Cassill, entering his seventh full-time season, is still in search for his first win. The 2016 campaign was his best season in NASCAR’s top series after finishing 29th in the standings, averaging a 26th-place finish, and leading a career-high 20 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring.

FRM will continue its technical alliance with Ford team Roush Fenway Racing and its engine program with Roush Yates Engines for the upcoming season.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Osborne’s Gamble Pays Off at Pocono, Ends Personal Winless Streak

When NASCAR officials decided the fog and misty weather were enough to end the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway 22 laps short of the advertised distance, Front Row Motorsports driver Chris Buescher shockingly earned his first career Sprint Cup Series victory.

While it was a tremendous upset for the 2015 XFINITY Series champion to get the win with FRM, crew chief Bob Osborne stood alongside the 23-year-old rookie in Victory Lane, which he hadn’t visited as the man atop the pit box since March 2011.

Osborne, who now has 19 career Cup victories, got his first Cup win with someone other than Carl Edwards on Monday. He last celebrated in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane more than five years ago when Edwards was racing for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 99 Ford.

The veteran crew chief gambled by keeping his driver on the track as the field cycled through green flag stops. Buescher inherited the lead once all the leaders stopped and on Lap 133, his gamble paid off as the yellow flag waved for fog covering the track.

After 138 laps, NASCAR instructed cars to come to pit road and after more than an hour under the red flag, the race was called.

“To be honest with you, we had a top-15 car,” Osborne said. “It’s headed in the right direction from our first race here and for where we are with our program. With fate really going our way today and with calls going our way, which we haven’t had a lot of this year, it worked to put us in a position to win it.”

Osborne’s goal coming into the weekend was to better the No. 34 Ford’s performance from the last race at Pocono in early June, when the team finished 28th.

“Coming into the weekend, we wanted to improve on the first time we were here and have a better-handling racecar relative to the competition,” Osborne said. “We did accomplish that — we had a more competitive car than what we had the first race. I was happy to see that, and we’re going to continue to do that race after race for the rest of the season.”

Osborne and his young driver still have some work to do if they’re going to compete in NASCAR’s playoffs. With five races left until the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway, he is six points behind BK Racing’s David Ragan for 30th.

Osborne sat out as a crew chief in 2013 and 2014 due to an unspecified health issue. In 2015, he returned to the role as Trevor Bayne’s crew chief with Roush Fenway and scored two top 10s.

While he’ll now feel the pressure of making Buescher a top-30 driver in the standings, there must feel some relief in ending an 89-race winless streak.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Whirlwind Season Could End with David Ragan in the Chase

TALLADEGA, Ala. — By the end of the season, David Ragan will have driven for two different manufacturers, three different teams and will have worked with seven different teammates — an unprecedented scenario in the recent history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

And through it all, this wacky season could end with him in the playoffs and in the hunt for his first career championship.

The season turned upside down for Ragan in the days after the Daytona 500 when Joe Gibbs Racing asked the 29-year-old veteran to fill in for Kyle Busch in the storied No. 18 car after its primary driver was injured in the XFINITY Series race the day before the Great American Race.

While it’s never a good thing when a driver is forced to the sidelines due to injury, the incident came at an ideal time for Ragan who wasn’t sure if he had the funding needed to run the full season at Front Row Motorsports, where he has driven since the 2012 season.

As a result of the circumstances, Ragan finds himself in the thick of the playoff race, running as high at 10th two weeks ago before disappointing outings at Bristol and Richmond. Nevertheless, Ragan has enjoyed his return to the spotlight and doesn’t have a problem moving on to MWR after this race as opposed to later on in the season when Busch is ready to come back.

“I think timing is everything and it’s so much more important for me to have an opportunity going forward with a full-time car, with a very competitive organization like Michael Waltrip Racing than it would be for me to run a few more races before Kyle’s return,” Ragan said. “Ultimately, I always knew that this was just going to be a couple of months – a three-month deal – until Kyle gets back.

“For me the big picture is the entire season and finishing the season and having a real chance at being competitive going forward and having a shot to make the Chase.”

Ragan only drove for two teams in his first eight Sprint Cup Series seasons in Roush Fenway Racing and Front Row Motorsports. He admitted that the Musical Chairs from FRM to Gibbs to Waltrip has been “a little weird” this season.

“Then the Joe Gibbs Racing deal happened and just trying to meet their people and understand how they do things and their way of running through a race weekend and learning the guys’ names on the team,” Ragan. “I think just this weekend I’ve finally gotten everyone’s name down and so that process has got to start all over again, but I tell you the Gibbs organization has been great as far as including me as a part of their team.

Of course, it helped that Ragan previously worked alongside Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth during their previous tenure at Roush but Ragan also praised Denny Hamlin for helping his brief transition into Gibbs go as smoothly as possible.

“Denny’s been a very good teammate and has been really helpful at a lot of tracks that he’s really good at, but going forward the Michael Waltrip Racing guys appear to be the same way as the Joe Gibbs Racing teams.”

While he is leaving a championship winning organization now in Gibbs, his move over to Michael Waltrip Racing is certainly a step up from Front Row Motorsports. Without knowing what the long term plan is for the No. 55 car with primary driver Brian Vickers indefinitely sidelined from competition, Ragan knows this could be his final chance to prove that he belongs in a top-tier ride that is capable of making the playoffs and contending for championships.

“For me, you never lose that desire to be a champion or a very competitive person in this sport…,” Ragan said. “Certainly, there are teams in this garage that have the resources and the financial backing to be competitive and win and then there’s teams that don’t.”

Ragan praised NASCAR for doing “an incredible job of keeping the playing field level,” but understood that to win races and consistently run near the top-10, he has to capitalize on this opportunity with Gibbs and Waltrip for the remainder of the season.

“I’m 29 years old (and) I’ve just never lost the drive to continue to get better and work as hard as I can,” Ragan said. “And whatever opportunities are in front of me, I just try to make the best of it.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
Development Journalists

Honor Roll or Detention: Front Row Motorsports

After earning their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and compiling two top-fives along with four top-10s in 2013, Front Row Motorsports was looking to continue its growth last year.

Things did not go as they had planned.

The race team managed just one top-10 in 2014, which came when David Ragan finished 10th at the fall Martinsville race. The finish was his first top-10 at a non-restrictor plate track, and only one of three top-20 finishes he garnered last season. The other two came with 19th place finishes in back-to-back weeks at Pocono and Watkins Glen.

David Gilliland had the highlight of his season in July when he earned Front Row Motorsport’s only pole of the year at the Coke Zero 400. The Riverside, California native led five laps and was running 23rd prior to being taken out by “The Big One” on Lap 98. Gilliland’s sole top-20 finish came in the August Pocono race, where he finished 17th.

David Ragan

Wins: 0

Top-Fives: 0

Top-10s: 1

Laps Led: 14

Point Standings: 32nd

David Gilliland

 Wins: 0

Top-Fives: 0

Top-10s: 0

Laps Led: 14

Point Standings: 30th

While last year turned out to be underwhelming season for Front Row Motorsports, both David Ragan and David Gilliland have both been successful at restrictor plate tracks. Both drivers are contenders to run well at Daytona and Talladega.

In 2015, the race team has expanded to three teams with the hiring of Cole Whitt to pilot the No. 35 car. The addition of the talented 23-year old driver seems to be a step in the right direction.

As far as season-long success goes, it seems that Front Row Motorsports is primed for a repeat of 2014.

Front Row Motorsports: D

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

David Ragan Aiming for Chase Berth in 2015

(EXCLUSIVE) With just a single victory, anyone can be a championship contender in the modern NASCAR, something that has breathed new life into the career of Sprint Cup Series veteran @DavidRagan.

Since joining Front Row Motorsports back in 2012, Ragan has provided leadership and results, winning once at Talladega in 2013 while working towards the day that they could finally contend for a playoff spot.

NASCAR shortened their timetable in 2014, introducing an expanded Chase for the Championship where virtually all winners are guaranteed a spot. Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger inspired Ragan last season, having made spirited runs in the 10-race playoff, despite driving for mid-level teams. Ragan admitted that he thought, “why not us,” in regards to 2015, especially with the Daytona 500 looming on the horizon.

“I think that any team who can win a race, like we’ve proven that we can do, can rise to the occasion in the Chase,” Ragan told Popular Speed on Sunday night. “Just look at the first three races in the Chase — Chicago, Dover and New Hampshire — three different races. Anyone can make a run.

“If you can make the Chase, I believe that same team is capable of stepping up, especially in those first two rounds. Just look at Newman last season. They had a mid-pack car for a lot of the season and they rose to the occasion. They nearly won the championship and that is extremely inspiring to our team as well.”

Front Row does not have a partnership with the two major Ford organizations — Team Penske or Roush Fenway Racing. With that said, Ragan also believes the struggles of Roush last season trickled down and afected both Front Row and Richard Petty Motorsports, adding that a fresh start to 2015 will do all of Ford Racing a lot of good.

“Penske is on a different program right now,” Ragan said of the team that won 10 races last season. “They have different simulations and a different approach. I think the struggles at Roush really hurt RPM and it hurt us a little bit too.

“At the same time, I think Roush improving this season will help everyone at Ford work together and improve all of our results.”

READ MORE: Front Row General Manager Laying Foundation for Competitive Future

All told, Ragan is looking forward to returning to Daytona. He won the July event in 2011 for Roush and has remained competitive since move to FRM.

“I don’t think the rules have changed all that much for Daytona and Talladega,” Ragan said. “The rules are similar and the plate size is the same so I think we’re going to have a shot. There will be plenty of opportunities to turn laps between practice, qualifying and the duels. So there will be a lot of chances to get a feel for our cars.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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Uncategorized

Front Row Motorsports Laying Foundation for Competitive Future

By Matt Weaver — Front Row Motorsports is the little engine that could in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but its current conductor, general manager Jerry Freeze, believes the right set of circumstances could eventually transform the locomotive into one of the premiere convoys in all of motorsports.

Make no mistake, the current FRM little resembles one of the elite organizations in NASCAR, like a Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing but it has steadily risen up the grid since making its debut in 2005. In the process, the team has earned both a reputation and a well-defined organizational personality as a winner and beacon of hope for the “little guy.”

Freeze has been with the team since 2009, having just come off a lengthy stint at Petty Enterprises, and has been able to oversee the biggest leap in prominence yet with the additions of drivers @DavidGilliland and @DavidRagan in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

During their combined tenure at Front Row Motorsports, Ragan and Gilliland were able to bring home the first race victory in team history, finishing 1-2 at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Ragan recently achieved another organizational milestone in October, scoring the first non-restrictor plate top-10 finish for FRM at Martinsville Speedway.

While the achievements would not have been possible without dedicated engineers and mechanics, Freeze believes that Ragan and Gilliland, who previously competed for Jack Roush and Robert Yates, played a pivotal role in their recent success by adding an element of big team experience to their humble shop in Statesville, N.C.

“We were able to offer them an opportunity — that while we weren’t ready to win races or make the Chase — we were willing to make steps to work towards that,” Freeze told Popular Speed on Wednesday afternoon. “They’ve added a lot to our organization, and coming from someone who often deals with the business side of the sport, I can tell you that they are capable drivers both on and off the track.

“They’ve seen how a big team operates. They’ve done the off-track stuff with sponsors, partners and the media. They know how to go test and evaluate parts and pieces and have brought a big team mentality to us when their opportunities at Roush and Yates were downsized.”

READ MORE: Ragan Working Towards Front Row Return in 2015

The current roster at Front Row has enjoyed a lot of success in recent seasons but there have been struggles in equal abundance. The team does not have an affiliation with a major Ford powerhouse like Penske or Roush and the multitude of rule changes have often left them behind the proverbial eight-ball.

Ragan says he believes the team has reached a competitive peak of sorts under the status quo, without the aid of a partnership with an elite team.

“I do feel like we have peaked as an organization with what we have right now,” Ragan said. “I don’t think a lot of people remember that we don’t have a partnership with a bigger organization. We have a great relationship with Ford and they provide us a lot of feedback but we build our own parts and don’t get a lot of information from other Ford teams.”

A self-made millionaire and Yum! Foods franchisee from Tennessee, Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins prefers to maintain the in-house approach for the time being. With that said, Freeze maintains that it is not an inflexible policy. Front Row is open to establishing partnerships with other teams but it has to be something that makes sense. In fact, it may be more viable for several smaller teams to form an alliance to stretch their limited resources, an option that Freeze says has been discussed.

“We’re not totally closed to aligning with other teams,” Freeze said. “What I think would work for us at Front Row, is if we looked to teams that were on a similar platform as we are, some of the smaller teams that haven’t lined up with a bigger team, and then worked with them…

“As it stands, I don’t see us outsourcing or eliminating our own production of parts and chassis. We’re not totally against it but I don’t know if there are a lot of opportunities because everyone appears lined up with a dancing partner and our owner, Bob Jenkins, believes we’ll be better for it in the long run.”

Even with a budget that is roughly a third of each of the major contenders in the sport, Freeze and Ragan believe the future is bright for Front Row Motorsports. Ragan says that his current team has set itself up to potentially become a major player over the next decade as established team owners retire or diminish their presence, allowing owners like Jenkins to rotate into the forefront.

“I think the outlook is bright,” Ragan said. “You look at the ownership situation in the Sprint Cup Series right now and you have a lot of owners who are likely going to retire over the next several years — and would likely agree that they won’t be around forever.

“So I believe that this presents an opportunity down the line for a team like ours.”

Ragan’s sentiment is one that Freeze says has a degree of logical merit, adding that it all depends on the commitment level of the heirs in place at Penske, Hendrick, Gibbs and Richard Childress Racing.

“We think about it, Bob thinks about it and so do our partners,” Freeze said. “I know NASCAR has really worked to open itself up to more owners entering the mix but it is such a huge undertaking, This takes the right person to take the flagpole, put it into the ground and commit to going after it. That someone has to be passionate about the sport.

“Jack, Richard and Rick are just so passionate. It takes the right guy and I believe Bob is the right guy. He’s very involved in the day-to-day in his (other companies) so as a race team, we have to become more established and get more partners so we are no as reliant on Bob with the operations and the like. But yeah, I think we all feel that way and time will tell when it comes to looking at the current crop of powerful owners.”

In the meanwhile, Front Row will continue to battle the adversity associated with life as the underdogs. Freeze believes the private testing ban enforced against NASCAR teams next season will actually help them bridge the gap to the rest of the field.

Front Row did not test as much as the established organization to begin with and Freeze believes this could gain them at least 0.3 of a second on the rest of the field.

All in all, Freeze likes the position his team is in right now. They have a talented core of engineers, two hungry drivers and an owner committed to the sport. There will be peaks and valleys but the team is continuing to work towards excellence and could someday be a face of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“I can’t really see a downside to a team like ours,” Freeze said. “We get to go do the 7-posts and wind tunnels. We have a great relationship with Ford and they have time allocated for us so we can go to those places and continue to learn. We just can’t take it to the next step and track test as often. Now the same rules apply to the rest of the field.

“I like the opportunity that presents.”

Categories
Uncategorized

David Ragan Working Towards Front Row Return in 2015

EXCLUSIVE By Matt Weaver — Richard Petty Motorsports recently signed @SamHornishJr to drive the team’s No. 9 car next season but there was a lot of talk during the weeks leading up to the announcement that @DavidRagan was the favorite to replace the departing Marcos Ambrose.

Ragan says that wasn’t the case and despite his sincere desire to join RPM, they never had anything more than preliminary conversations.

“I had my contract coming up at the end of the year and we haven’t talked a whole lot about the 2015 season,” Ragan told Popular Speed on Wednesday. “My goal was to get myself in a real good competitive situation and I didn’t have a contract and I showed them some interest, but that’s it.”

Ragan added that Richard Petty and his co-owners had a game-plan for what they wanted to do with the No. 9 moving forward and those plans simply didn’t include him. Ragan made a lot of sense at the time as he has helped establish Front Row Motorsports into a Sprint Cup Series winner and given the team underfunded organization several top-20 finishes since joining the team in 2012.

He owns a Ford dealership to boot, making him a favorite in the Blue Oval front office.

With his casual interest in Petty aside, Ragan expressed pride and satisfaction in his relationship with Front Row Motorsports and believes that they will come to an agreement prior to the start of the 2015 season. The team owners, including Bob Jenkins, are working to finalize their sponsorship agreements first and the driver lineup will come next.

“I haven’t finalized anything with the team yet but we’re working on it,” Ragan said. “We’ve got to get the sponsors lined up. The owners have to get their budgets sorted and the drivers are usually the last things to come together.

“Hopefully, over the next few weeks, we’ll get that sorted. I would definitely love to be back.”

Ragan, 28, has two career wins in the Sprint Cup Series and one with Front Row, at Talladega last spring. He previously raced for Roush Fenway Racing and was a former development driver for that organization.