Imagine you’re the precocious son of an old school racer who got a few cups of coffee in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Like father, like son- you have the racing bug too. Perhaps a little prematurely, you get a shot at the big time.
You show flashes of potential, but all does not always go well. A rough, but respected says you’re a “dart without feathers.” Over time, you improve a little, and you win the Coke Zero 400 at the birthplace of speed- Daytona International Speedway. You race for what is at the time one of NASCAR’s top teams, and yet, while your teammates challenge for championships, you lag behind. Eventually, your sponsor cuts back on their sponsorship, and you lose your ride.
This is the story of David Ragan. Actually, that’s just a part of it, but it follows what could easily be the story line for a movie.
Ragan finds work with Front Row Motorsports- not a “start and park,” but more of survivor. In sport where cash is king, the team has champagne dreams on a near beer budget. Since 2013, he has quietly labored in the 34 car, a victory in the Aaron’s 499 providing a moment of glory in an otherwise silent sojourn.
Fast forward to 2015- one of NASCAR’s top stars suffers a compound fracture on one leg, and a broken mid-foot on the other. Ragan’s phone rings; it’s Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s been tabbed- with permission from Front Row- to race in the 18 temporarily vacated by the recovering Kyle Busch.
Wait- there’s more to the story. Two of his new stable mates- Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards- once raced with Ragan at Roush Fenway Racing. The move gave Kenseth a new lease on racing life. What’s more, the 29-year old makes his JGR debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his home state of Georgia.
Maybe the idea of David Ragan winning at his “hometown” track in his first race with Joe Gibbs is crazy talk. Just remember- Kevin Harvick won his first Cup race (at Atlanta no less) three weeks after succeeding the late Dale Earnhardt. Racing in place of an injured Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray won his second Cup start at Charlotte.
It’s not like he’s been turning wrenches at Joe’s Garage for the last three years. Ragan has continued racing, and has more than exceeded much less lofty expectations at Front Row. When you take all factors into consideration, the notion of selecting Ragan over an untested rookie or veteran whose best days are behind him makes a lot more sense.
How will it all go? Where will the road lead from here? Only time will tell. Ragan will have time to make the most of the opportunity, as no doubt, Busch will be out of commission for some time. David Ragan will once again have a chance to ply his trade in top flight equipment. If this isn’t a movie script in the making, it sure adds intrigue to the 2015 season and gives prominence to a driver whose flown beneath the radar for some time now.