Saturday's Coke Zero 400 marks the one year anniversary of David Ragan's first and only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, and Ragan couldn't be more energized to defend his title at Daytona International Speedway.
But this year, driving for the underfunded Front Row Motorsports, Ragan is just 28th in the standings with only one top-10 finish – a seventh-place result at Talladega.
While the numbers don't look especially positive, Ragan believes he's maximized the potential of his current equipment and said Front Row is on the verge of a breakthrough in the season's second half.
"I think July could be real telling for the future of this team," said Ragan, speaking prior to a third-place finish in the World Crown 300, a Late Model race in Georgia. "We got some things we're about to implement and we know what we have to do. Bob (Jenkins, team owner) knows what he has to do, and he's prepared to further invest in this team, and we're looking to improve five to eight positions by next season."
Ragan committed to a one-year contract before the season. Will his optimism translate to an extension?
"If there are some other opportunities that come along, I'll listen," Ragan said. "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 getting them to the next level. I feel like we're on the verge of catching the tail end of the top half of the field.
"We're close, but this is going to take some additional sponsorship commitments and ownership support, because we're not satisfied running where we are right now. So we'll either make progress or we'll entertain other opportunities."
Ragan in his first year driving for Front Row after spending five years at Roush Fenway Racing. As a result, he's familiar with what's happening over there now with Matt Kenseth leaving as a free agent at to sign with another team.
After going through the process last year, Ragan noticed some similarities between his own experience and what happened with Kenseth.
Team owner Jack Roush admitted at Kentucky that if he had been as diligent on the business side as he was on the engineering end, he would have re-signed Kenseth months ago. Ragan seemed to agree.
"Most owners are involved with the financial side more than the engineering side," Ragan said. "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 end, I think he might have had a better chance of keeping that group together."