Jefferson, Ga. – David Ragan, the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Racing Ford, sat down with NASCAR Ranting and Raving for an interview just prior to qualifying for the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park. Ragan offered his opinion on a variety of topics, including returning to the Coke Zero 400 one year after winning his first race, Roush Fenway’s marketing policies, and short track late model racing.
The complete conversation can be found below:
NRR: First, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to us. It's definitely cooler today than it was all weekend at Kentucky. Was that the hottest weekend you've ever competed in?
DR: It was close, but the hottest was definitely the Labor Day Auto Club Speedway race in 2008. It was consistently 110-to-115 all weekend, even at night.
NRR: You're the defending Coke Zero 400 race winner, but a lot has changed since then. This may seem like a loaded question, but what’s the biggest change you’ve experienced since last year?
DR: Well, the obvious change is moving from a well-funded four-car team to a more-underfunded three-car team. Front Row has only gone full-time team in the last five years and they've made a lot of progress. We've been able to create some revenue this year, and we're working as hard as we can. But I really believe that we're just now starting to see the rewards.
NRR: Do you feel like you've been able to maximize the value of your car?
DR: We've really maximized our performance from the start of the season to now. We're starting to see more top-10s and more top-15s and we were able to run the All-Star Race. We're 29th in points and that's with getting caught up in so many mistakes and accidents and I think, all things considered, that's the most this car is capable of.
I think July could be really telling for the future of this team. We've got some things we're about to implement and we know what we have to do. Our team owner, Bob Jenkins knows what he has to do, and he's prepared to further invest in this team, and we're looking at 2013 to improve five-to-eight positions in the standings on a week-to-week basis.
NRR: Does this mean that you're committed to, or at least willing, to return to Front Row next year?
DR: If there are other opportunities, I'll entertain them. I feel like this is my future in the sport on the line, so I'll listen to every offer. But I'm definitely committed to Front Row and I'm committed to getting them to the next level. I feel like we're right on the verge of catching the tail-end of the top teams. If you look at the running order every week, we're right there with Ganassi, Furniture Row, and A.J. Allmendinger -- the tail end of the top teams.
This is going to take some more sponsorship commitments because we're not satisfied running where we are. So we'll either make progress or we'll entertain other opportunities.
NRR: You’re coming back to Daytona where you’re the defending race winner. Is this a race you have marked on your calendar to perhaps win or show what your team is capable of?
DR: We definitely circled the two road courses, plate races and the eight short track races on our calendar. These are races where they driver has the ability to make more of a difference and we can really rise above the competition. Crazy things happen, like what we saw at Martinsville and a good team can really capitalize on those situations.
The rest of the interview can be found after the jump!NRR: Let's go back to your former team at Roush-Fenway Racing - it seems that in recent years, Jack hasn't been able to retain his drivers. This goes back to Jeff Burton in 2004 and then Mark, yourself, and now Matt.
Jack himself said this past weekend at Kentucky that he wouldn't have lost as many drivers if he had been as diligent on the sponsorship side as he was the mechanical and engineering side.
So my question to you: "Is something broken in the Roush Fenway front office?"
DR: Most owners are involved with the financial side more than the engineering side. We're talking about guys like Hendrick and Gibbs; Childress is more technical. Jack is on top of everything on the engineering and technical side. If Jack spent more time on the business, I think he might have had a better chance to keep some guys.
People forget that they lost (former president) Geoff Smith right as the economy fell apart and right as several contracts were set to expire, and it took some time for new president Steve Newmark to find his footing. He was hired and immediately tossed into the perfect storm.
NRR: You were Kenseth’s teammate for five years. Do you have any idea what sort of things he was looking for when deciding where to sign?
DR: I can only read into what the media writes. I know that Matt is very competitive. He's looking for a long-term deal and wants to be at a place where he can win championships. I can't see him driving for an inferior, or start-up team.
NRR: Now for the fun questions, how much fun is this short track late model program?
DR: This is my hobby. Some guys have boats or take trips overseas, but I enjoy short track racing. There may come a day when I'm married and have kids, and I won't be able to do this anymore. But I'm still young, I have a lot of energy and I love doing this. I could be on the lake but I'm here because it is fun.
I dreamed about running a lot of these races when I was younger but couldn't because I was too young or our family didn't have the money. I want to thank my cousin, Brett Ragan, for putting this program together. He's the car chief for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and really knows how to tune one of these late models. We have a lot of fun out here and we're going to race as much as we can right now.
NRR: Where else are you going to race this year?
DR: We plan to run at least two more late model races this year, the CRA Watermelon Fest and the Snowball Derby, which is one-week before my wedding, so hopefully we don't suffer any rainouts or delays.
NRR: Congratulations on that and good luck tonight and at Daytona.
I want to thank David Ragan for his time and pass this message from Front Row Motorsports along to our readers:
We do have some sponsorship elements happening this weekend too. David Ragan will be running the 8-Hour Alert Ford for the first time this season. 8-Hour Alert is a brand from MHP, a season-long sponsor of Front Row Motorsports and their pit crew.
They are running a contest to meet David Ragan. Fans can go to, meetdavidragan.com to enter.