David Ragan has listed three things that he wants to accomplish in his second season at Front Row Motorsports. He hopes achieving them will lead to the team’s first victory in the Sprint Cup Series and perhaps a difference of 5-to-10 spots in the final standings.
Ragan specified eliminating half of his DNFs from a year ago as the biggest area in which he could personally improve. Three of his five non-finishes from last season were for accidents. Ragan also mentioned qualifying and improving on his team’s strengths as areas for improvement next season.
“I can spot us one or maybe two DNFs that will happen naturally during the course of the year,” Ragan told SB Nation on Thursday. “If we can eliminate those by half – maybe one or two – we’re in a much-better spot in the standings."
On his desire to qualify better, Ragan said he believes starting closer to the front will prevent his team from having to play catch-up. In 36 starts last season, Ragan’s average qualifying position was 27.0. An improved qualifying effort will also result in better pit stall selections, one of the more underrated factors of success in the Sprint Cup Series.
Ragan is not testing at Daytona this week. Front Row has decided to send just one driver to the test – Josh Wise – something that has the Georgia-native even more excited for the season to start. He and teammate David Gilliland are flying to Daytona later today to take part in fan events and NASCAR meetings but he won’t turn laps at the Speedway until February.
Despite sending just one team to test at Daytona, Ragan is confident about Front Row’s strategy. While Daytona is the most important race of the season, resources are limited and most of the team remains at the shop preparing for next week's Charlotte test.
“The Superspeedway races are the big equalizer of our season,” Ragan said. “With the draft, we’re restricted – we’re handicap if we’re not running in the draft. Teams that would otherwise lack speed are equal here. David and I have been in good cars over the years but we’ve seen that some teams don’t take plate racing seriously. They go in with the attitude that ‘we’re going to lose points’ and ‘we’re going to be in a wreck’ and they take a more conservative approach.
“Our team has been really aggressive both on the track and in the garage and we’re willing to do the little things to try to win a plate race.”
Ragan confirmed what Thursday’s test session and the lack of pack drafting pretty much put on display – the session was more about testing the new car rather than preparing for race conditions.
“The new car has a lot of new parts that has to be put through its paces,” Ragan said. “The test allows them to go through the motions. There is the possibility of parts malfunctions early in the season when you’re dealing with so many new parts and this test allows us to see what we need to address before the start of the season.”