Front Row Motorsports' David Ragan: Talladega NASCAR Cup race is 'a great opportunity' for us
Front Row Motorsports is the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ little engine that could and it is responsible for two notable upsets in motorsports history.
The most recent occurrence took place last summer at Pocono when Chris Buescher was leading on fuel strategy and went to victory lane when NASCAR was forced to end the race due to thunderstorms shortly after the halfway point was reached.
But it was David Ragan who scored the organization’s first victory back in 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway when he got a shove from teammate David Gilliland during an overtime finish that propelled both veterans past Carl Edwards on the final lap. This weekend is the four-year anniversary of that improbable triumph. During that time, Ragan had left Front Row to join Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing when both Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers needed substitute drivers in 2015.
The 31-year-old Ragan raced for BK Racing in 2016 and returned home to Front Row for the 2017 season. Thus, it’s only natural that Ragan would arrive to Talladega this weekend with a sense of opportunity to repeat history on the Alabama high banks.
“I feel really good about our chances,” Ragan told Autoweek on Wednesday. “We’re bringing the same car we raced at Daytona and we felt like we had a good chance throughout Speedweeks, so I’m just really excited to get down there.
“Talladega isn’t necessarily my home track like Atlanta, but it’s close and we always have a lot of friends and family there. That’s what made a couple of years ago so special.”
In the moments after the win, Ragan called it two literal Davids defeating the traditional Goliaths of the sport. And the finish was reflective of the chaotic nature of the sport’s largest track with several rain delays and a multi-car crash sending the race into overtime with darkness quickly approaching.
In fact, NASCAR gave the drivers a chance to change their tinted visors for clear ones during the final caution. With twilight fading into darkness, Ragan wasn’t even sure Cup Series officials would even allow the race to continue.
“It was really dark there at the end,” Ragan said. “I think NASCAR had about a 5-10 minute window to get that end or we were going to lose the track to darkness.
“Obviously, I’m glad NASCAR ran it but there hasn’t been anything like that in NASCAR to my memory. It’s one thing to run on short tracks with bad lighting at 120 mph, but 200 mph with the packs that we do is pretty scary. We were cutting it close that night.”
Ragan didn’t have an extravagant party of any kind to celebrate the win because he had to quickly catch the team plane back to North Carolina, but does have really fond memories of just enjoying the moment with his friends and family.
“I just wanted to enjoy the moment with my wife, Jacquelyn, and my brothers, and some friends,” Ragan said. “We didn’t have kids yet. So I just really looked forward to getting back to the shop that week and soaking the moment in with the guys at the shop.
“I had won before but that was the first win for the team and a lot of the guys who worked there. It was special for me to enjoy that with them.”
Even though much has changed at Front Row Motorsports during his two-year hiatus from the team, it’s preparation for races at Daytona and Talladega have not. Ragan showed good speed and an ability to work the draft during Daytona Speedweeks and believes he can again contend under the right circumstances.
“I think several years ago, we placed an extra emphasis on the restrictor plate tracks,” Ragan said. “But now, with some extra resources and investments from Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Engines, I feel like we place just as much of an emphasis on Sonoma as the restrictor plate tracks.
“But I think our shared experiences here still makes it our best track, and certainly I have added motivation to come here and win, because I do see it as a great opportunity for us. I think the whole team has responded to that.”