Race Weekend Central

2012 NASCAR Driver Review: David Ragan

David Ragan

2012 Ride: No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
2012 Primary Sponsors: Scorpion Truck Bed Liners, Scorpion Window Films, Scorpion Coatings, Al’s Liners, Glory Foods, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s, Distraction.gov, Client-One Securities, Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, MHP/8-Hour Alert, Green 1, Where’s Waldo, CertainTeed/31-W Insulation, Environmental, Rick Santorum for President
2012 Owner: Bob Jenkins
2012 Crew Chief: Jay Guy
2012 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s, 5 DNFs, 0 poles, 28th in points

High Point: A last-lap top five at Talladega is nothing to sneeze at, even as Tony Stewart is sailing skyward over 20 cars. You can’t put together a better plate package than a Roush Yates-powered anything in the Cup Series, and their record this year speaks for itself. Ragan, who was damaged in that October wreckfest but emerged with enough speed to finish fourth, continued to show strength at plate tracks this season; his lone win at the Cup level came at Daytona in July 2011.

Low Point: Any track not located in Alabama. No other finishes better than 20th came for Ragan outside of the 2.66-mile speeddrome. That 43rd-place finish at the Daytona 500, a track this driver can be competitive at didn’t help, either. But at least Front Row can say they still left there with more points than Jimmie Johnson!

Summary: The Front Row Motorsports team is a result of the Top-35 rule in the Cup Series, guaranteeing spots to owners who compete each week as well as a testament to the difficulty of building a Cup team from scratch these days. While FRM may use the same Blue Oval chassis on paper as Carl Edwards or The King, there is still an absence of resources and technology sharing for this tandem effort. Stewart-Haas Racing it is most certainly not.

This two-car organization (plus start-and-parker Josh Wise) gets by with sponsorship largely through team owner Bob Jenkins’s franchise involvement with Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s; in other words, what limited money he can scrounge out of his own pocket without going broke. Purses certainly help matters some; the No. 34 and 38 teams combined to take in just under $7 million in winnings for 2012. But most top teams bring in at least three times that amount, in outside backing and it requires about $25 million a year in total to field a competitive car. Any more questions why FRM’s a step behind?

Team Ranking: First of two. FRM has their work out for them with that name, still struggling to find proper sponsorship since their inception in 2005. While they make the most of what they have – the 2012 season saw Ragan and David Gilliland combine for one top-five, two top-10, four top-15 and eight top-20 finishes, plus an average finish of 27th – it’s a far cry from the eye-popping stats that define the multi-car organizations they chase. Ragan was responsible for the top fives and 10s, which gives him the edge over Gilliland, but both would like to be much better than that.

Off-Track News: Ragan got a nice Christmas present this past month in the form of a wife. He married his girlfriend Jacquelyn Butler, who’s no stranger to racing competition either – she won the Better Half Dash at Charlotte last year.

2013 Outlook: The new Gen-6 car will debut next year and FRM will be a part of that. No, not as much as, say Roger Penske’s teams will be, but expect some mule-work for the satellite, Roush Fenway-affiliated group. They’re not a start-and-park operation by definition, but outside of the plate tracks – or a strong showing at someplace very large and wide open – they will continue to play the role that they’re equipped for.

Ragan will be back with the team in 2013 along with crew chief Jay Guy. Brought over after the flagship No. 6 of Roush Fenway Racing was mothballed following the 2011 season, the equipment is clearly a level below. That puts a limit on just how good he can be in 2013, a Chase no-no even if every restrictor plate break goes his way.

2007 Frontstretch Grade: D+
2008 Grade: B+
2009 Grade: D+
2010 Grade: C-
2011 Grade: C+
2012 Grade: C

Little Known David Ragan Fact: Ragan owns a Ford dealership in Perry, Ga. – David Ragan Ford.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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