Skip to content

Excited about NASCAR’s Chase changes, Ragan looks for more David vs. Goliath success in 2014

Feb 11, 2014, 11:05 PM EST

David Ragan celebrates his win two months ago at Talladega. Getty Images

Ever since he became a full-time Sprint Cup driver in 2007 at the age of 21, David Ragan‘s performance has been kind of stuck in neutral – not by choice, mind you.

But for whatever reason – with the exception of a career-best 13th-place finish with Roush Fenway Racing in 2008 – Ragan has finished consistently between 23rd and 28th in the other six of his seven Sprint Cup seasons.

That’s hopefully going to change in 2014. After winning at Talladega last spring (Ragan’s second career Sprint Cup win), being pushed to the finish line by Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland, it gave the entire team a David definitely can beat Goliath kind of confidence.

And if 2014 goes the way Ragan hopes, there’ll be a lot more giant killing to do during the 36-race Sprint Cup season.

“That was a big day for our team and me and David (Gilliland) personally,” Ragan said recently. “A 1-2 finish was something to be proud about. It was an opportunity for us to continue to build our brand.

“Definitely, a lot of good things came from that. It gives our guys motivation that if we all execute the plan we have, that we can win another one if the stars align right and if we put ourselves in the right position. We can’t win races running 20th or 25th, but if we can get to that top 10 or top five, we can win a race. We can win some this year at several different tracks. You’ve got to win one before you win two and before you win three.”

The Unadilla, Ga., native has seen a completely different side of the Sprint Cup world since joining Front Row in 2012 after his contract was not renewed by Roush Fenway when enough sponsorship couldn’t be found.

After five seasons with one of Sprint Cup’s premier teams, signing up with Front Row kind of brought Ragan back to his roots of working with smaller teams before he got his big break with Roush in 2005.

“I’ve kind of matured and opened my eyes up a little bit,” Ragan said. “I was a young guy, 19 years old, when I started at Roush. You come in and it’s a fast-paced world, I’m running Nationwide races and Cup races and traveling to 30-40 sponsor appearances a year.

“You don’t really see the big picture. You have tunnel vision, where you see what you’re doing that given time. That makes it tough and it was tough for me to learn at a young age, so coming to Front Row, a little smaller organization and not as many commitments outside of the race track, you do get a chance to step back and see what’s important in the real world.

“Definitely, my profession and career as a race car driver, I want to be successful and win races, but it’s also important to have a good family, your friends, your loved ones, spend some time with your old grandparents and things. You kind of see what’s going on. That’s probably the difference in between 19 years old and 28 years old.”

Had NASCAR expanded the field of the Chase for the Sprint Cup from 12 to 16 last season, Ragan would have made the 10-race playoffs by virtue of his Talladega win. Even though he didn’t make the Chase, Ragan believes there’s plenty of carryover from last season that can serve as motivation for his efforts in 2014.

“The opportunity to have a few more guys in the Chase is great,” Ragan said. “I think the way it’s going to happen, when you have teams being eliminated from the actual championship contention, that’s a good format, in my opinion.

“To have a Front Row Motorsports capable to make the Chase, you have to step your game up. You’re not going to be able to goof off for nine races and win the championship. You’re going to have to be competitive every single race and win some races throughout the year. Winning is all we want to do, it’s what the fans want to see and I think NASCAR has given us what everybody wants to see.”

Ragan comes from a racing family, one with roots that date back to the earliest days of NASCAR, when his grandfather competed on the beaches of Daytona. Ragan’s father, Ken, competed in 50 career Cup races from 1983 to 1990.

And now third-generation David is carrying on the family tradition. Even though he considers himself an old school racer, Ragan likes the changes NASCAR has made to the Chase, particularly the incentive and excitement that comes with it, and the ability to create a scenario that will mean greater excitement, bigger TV ratings and attract new fans to the sport.

“I guarantee you that whoever wins the Daytona 500, one of their first thoughts is that ‘I’m going to be in the Chase at Chicagoland,’” Ragan said. “It gives me chill bumps about (possibly making the Chase). I’m excited, and I couldn’t be more of a traditional fan.

“My grandfather and family was entering NASCAR races back in the late 1940s, so we’ve been around this sport for a long time. I love all forms of auto racing. I couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming season. I think we have to continue to evolve our sport based on the fans that we have in the world, and based on the world as it changes.

“You look at other sports and they’re consistently making small changes and tweaks. The fundamental parts are always going to be there: You’re going to have 43 cars, you have to go and race and the best guy is going to win.

“It is a game changer and is something that in a positive way can be a great thing for our sport. We all live on instant news, we want every football game to come a time-expired field goal being kicked, or a baseball game in the bottom of the ninth and the team from behind and win, or the 2007 Red Sox, where they came back from an 0-3 deficit. That’s the stuff you always remember, and this is kind of setting it up to have those kinds of finishes.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Here’s a flashback to Ragan’s win last April at Talladega:

Latest Posts
  1. Force India owner Vijay Mallya comes out firing against Red Bull on Twitter

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Mallya attacks Red Bull following its double exclusion from today’s qualifying session in Abu Dhabi.

  2. Formula E Notes: Lucas di Grassi keeps points lead; Nick Heidfeld excluded from Putrajaya ePrix

    Nov 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Formula E Championship - Putrajaya Getty Images

    di Grassi climbs from 18th on the grid to second at finish in Putrajaya ePrix; Nick Heidfeld found to have made pit stop car change outside permitted area, relegated to 19th.

  3. Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

    Nov 22, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    The stage is set for the final showdown on Sunday. Will it be Lewis or Nico?

  4. GP2: Vandoorne claims fourth win of 2014 in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

    © GP2 Media Service © GP2 Media Service

    McLaren junior driver moves up to second in the championship with feature race win in Abu Dhabi.

  5. IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay, partners give $2.5 million to new Cleveland Clinic cancer center

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 2 Getty Images

    The new cancer center’s lobby will be named in honor of RHR’s late mother, who succumbed to colon cancer in 2009.

  6. Stevens impresses in maiden F1 qualifying outing

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    The British F1 debutant will start his first grand prix from 17th place tomorrow.

  7. Jeremy Mayfield continues racing comeback this weekend in Myrtle Beach

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:58 PM EST

    Jeremy Mayfield, shown in one of his last Sprint Cup races, at Texas, in 2009. He was suspended by the sanctioning body a few weeks later for failing a drug test. (File photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    He remains suspended by NASCAR, but Jeremy Mayfield continues his racing comeback this weekend at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

  8. Red Bull drivers excluded from qualifying in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Ricciardo and Vettel to start from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi.

  9. Button ready to enjoy what could be his final grand prix

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    With his family and friends in Abu Dhabi, Button is simply enjoying the moment.

  10. McLaren likely to keep Vandoorne in GP2 next year

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic © Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic

    The 22-year-old is not set to move up to F1 despite an incredible rookie season in GP2.

  11. Bottas and Williams cast in Abu Dhabi spoiler role from second row

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:15 AM EST

    BottasADp3 Getty Images

    Valtteri Bottas and Williams best of the rest once again in Abu Dhabi qualifying.

  12. O’Connell confident Caterham can find a buyer

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Practice Getty Images

    The administrator put in charge of the ailing F1 team believes that a buyer can be found in the next couple of weeks.

  13. Vettel frustrated to have Ferrari test blocked by Red Bull

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI-PRESSER Getty Images

    “The technical people were panicking a little bit, being afraid that I would take some secrets.”

  14. Force India confirms Sergio Perez on multi-year deal

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:13 AM EST

    Sergio Perez AP

    The Mexican driver will remain with Force India for 2015 alongside Nico Hulkenberg.

  15. Mattiacci impressed by Vettel’s passion for Ferrari

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    It was confirmed on Thursday that the four time F1 world champion would be joining Ferrari for the 2015 season, replacing Fernando Alonso.

  16. Hamilton short on words, high on focus after P2 qualifying in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:47 AM EST

    HamADP2 AP

    P2 not ideal for Lewis Hamilton, but the focus remains strong heading into Sunday.

  17. Rosberg: “It’s only one very small step”

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    RosbergADpole Getty Images

    Nico Rosberg gets the pole, but still has to convert tomorrow – something he hasn’t done as much this year.

  18. Nico Rosberg rallies to pole position in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:06 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    German driver claims his 11th pole position of the season.

  19. WATCH LIVE: Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying on NBCSN from 8a ET

    Nov 22, 2014, 7:45 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying Getty Images

    The final fight for pole position takes place in Abu Dhabi today, with all of the action on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8a ET.

  20. GP2 champion Palmer admits F1 chances are slim

    Nov 22, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Qualifying Getty Images

    The British racer will test for Force India next week, but thinks he chances of getting a full-time seat are slim.

Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Johnson (1849)
  2. J. Gordon (1827)
  3. J. Logano (1724)
  4. D. Hamlin (1707)
  5. K. Harvick (1697)
  1. R. Newman (1682)
  2. T. Stewart (1460)
  3. K. Larson (1309)
  4. M. Kenseth (1279)
  5. J. McMurray (1270)