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. GP2 champ Jolyon Palmer quick in first F1 test despite engine/technical woes

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Qualifying Getty Images

    Palmer logs only 37 laps for Force India in Abu Dhabi, but places fourth on the time sheets.

  2. Caterham banks a 100-lap day with Will Stevens Tuesday in Abu Dhabi

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    StevensAD1 Getty Images

    Caterham not only stays for test, but banks 100-plus laps on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.

  3. Sainz makes strides, gains, in second Red Bull run

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    SainzAD1 Getty Images

    Carlos Sainz Jr. has a good day with Red Bull, as he stakes claim for Toro Rosso seat in 2015.

  4. After losing title duel, it’s back to business for Nico Rosberg

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    Nico Rosberg AP

    Rosberg pounds out 114 laps – the most of any driver – in Day 1 of testing in Abu Dhabi.

  5. As ever, there’s more talent in wings than available IndyCar seats

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    James Hinchcliffe AP

    IndyCar’s available pool of talent, as always, is larger than the number of remaining seats.

  6. Red Bull GRC champs Olsbergs MSE out for more hardware in World RX finale

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    FIAWRXChamp

    The Ford squad enters this week’s World RX finale down four points in their fight for the team championship.

  7. McLaren taking methodical approach in first real Honda running this week

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    VandoorneAD1 Getty Images

    McLaren-Honda gets out, with ideally more to come on Wednesday.

  8. Bottas leads as McLaren-Honda delayed on first day of Abu Dhabi test

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:36 AM EST

    BottasAD1 Getty Images

    One Mercedes team on top, one former Mercedes team gets install laps only.

  9. From 2013 to 2014, F1’s standings have featured a significant shakeup

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    ADstart AP

    Go inside the numbers of this year’s final F1 points standings.

  10. IndyCar: Davide Valsecchi confirms SPM December test

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:40 AM EST

    ValsecchiMoscow Getty Images

    Ex-Lotus reserve will have his first IndyCar test in December.

  11. Steve Letarte reflects on Hendrick Motorsports career in “exit interview” (VIDEO)

    Nov 24, 2014, 6:26 PM EST

    Pocono 400 Getty Images

    The future NASCAR on NBC analyst talks about how Rick Hendrick and his partnerships with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have impacted his life.

  12. NASCAR: Austin Dillon to run “majority” of 2015 XFINITY Series season

    Nov 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Dillon will run the No. 33 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series in addition to continuing his full-time duties in Sprint Cup.

  13. Mark Webber’s 1st WEC season to end in a very familiar place

    Nov 24, 2014, 4:49 PM EST

    AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE Getty Images

    The former F1 racer won two Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, but he’s about to see the legendary track in a whole new light.

  14. NASCAR: “Fresh From Florida” group re-ups with Richard Petty Motorsports

    Nov 24, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

    Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports

    Next season, the campaign will serve as primary sponsor for Aric Almirola’s No. 43 at Atlanta in March and Darlington in May.

  15. Sebastien Loeb will make rally return this January in Monte Carlo

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:33 PM EST

    AUTO-WTCC-MOROCCO Getty Images

    The nine-time World Rally Champion is now a full-time touring car racer, but will help kick off the 2015 WRC campaign for Citroen.

  16. RHR Borg-Warner set for December 3 unveil

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Photo courtesy Steve Shunck Photo courtesy Steve Shunck

    Hunter-Reay’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy set for December 3 reveal.

  17. #ThingsOdellCouldCatch: Sebastien Bourdais’ 2013 IndyCar trophy at Toronto (PHOTO/VIDEO)

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    IndyCar Toronto Auto Racing AP

    IndyCar gets in on the Odell Beckham Jr. meme game, and it’s a good one.

  18. Two racing tie-ins occurred at last night’s AMAs

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Sage500 Getty Images

    Patrick Dempsey presenting and Brantley Gilbert winning makes for two racing tie-ins in a music show.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Kahne (2109)
  2. J. Gordon (1754)
  3. J. McMurray (1752)
  4. A. Almirola (1743)
  5. J. Johnson (1643)