A David pushes a David to score a win for one of NASCAR’s “little guys.” How many people here get Front Row mixed up with Furniture Row? You mean David Ragan is still racing? Who’s that’s “Gilligan” guy that’s his teammate? And just who the heck is Bob Jenkins?
NASCAR Nation, meet Front Row Motorsports! Ok, they’re not quite THAT obscure, but thanks to their thrilling victory at Talladega, this week we have a fresh batch of story lines, and we learn some sweet stuff about a bunch of racers and a race owner who get far less attention than they should. To my friend who chastised me for saying people would forget David Gilliland just days after he scolded Danica Patrick and told her to shut up and race: this is how you get remembered. You win. Gilliland may not have received the champion’s trophy for the Aaron’s 499, but you better believe Ragan’s fans won’t forget him, and neither will all the fans who cheer for the underdog.
People deride racing at Talladega as “the lottery” (as driver Mark Martin so eloquently put it), and others opine that restrictor plate racing isn’t “real racing.” You can sure tell racers like Ryan Newman have developed a visceral dislike for what often occurs at NASCAR’s biggest track. Seeing it through his eyes, I understand.
Short of tearing the place down, or reconfiguring the track, there’s no easy fix. You could take the banking out, but I suspect critics won’t like the racing they get. You could take the plates off, but it’s way too easy to forget why those plates are on in the first place. Even with the plates, fans have gotten hurt. Do you seriously want to risk they will get killed by a 33-hundred pound missile with a driver inside? It’s not worth it.
Personally, I think NASCAR benefits from the variety of configurations. Short tracks, road courses, the funky ovals, and heck, even the tricky triangle require a variety of set-ups and skills.
The closing laps at Talladega put us on the edge our seats. Darn near anyone on the lead lap has a shot on the winning laps. Enter Front Row Motorsports. Say what you will, but little Davey Ragan has shown a demonstrated ability to win on plate tracks. “Obviously some day we want to be an organization that can go and compete for wins on a weekly basis, but we’re not there yet, so to be able to come to these type of tracks, we definitely put a lot of preparation into — and a lot of emphasis on our speedway program and today we had two very fast race cars and we were able to come home one-two” said runner-up Gilliland.
I love races like this because it gives me a platform to give the likes of David Ragan and David Gilliland a shout out. It’s nice to know there’s are places like the plate tracks and the road courses where the Front Rows of the world have a shot. Say what you will, but if you have at least two guys racing a prescribed distance where the guy who gets their first win- that’s still a REAL race, I don’t care if it’s a foot race with two old men speed walking with canes.
In all reality, under dogs, real under dogs, almost never win championships. With that reality in mind, it’s nice to see David have his day. Here’s hoping we can say it’s not too greedy to hope there’s a few more out there for the guys that as Front Row owner Bob Jenkins said “do the most with the least.”
Jim McCoy is an award-winning TV and radio sports reporter and radio play-by-play announcer from the Medford, Oregon area, as a father of three and a husband of one. Among his greatest sports passions is NASCAR, where the passion is real and so are the fans.
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