Not Fully Following the David Ragan Strategy

David RaganWhen I originally saw the rumor yesterday that David Ragan would be subbing in for Kyle Busch in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18, I immediately dismissed it. Ragan already has a successful and stable ride at Front Row Motorsports. Why would Ragan risk a full-time ride for a part-time fill-in in the same series? We obviously don’t have all the information yet.

David Ragan makes sense for JGR. He’s got plenty of experience in the Sprint Cup Series, and takes care of his equipment and has the ability to contend — especially on the restrictor plate tracks. He’s sponsor friendly, so no issues there for M&Ms/Mars or other associate sponsors.

For Ragan, filling in for JGR is a great opportunity — for most any driver — TRD-backed engines/cars and a top-level four-car team. David Ragan will be definitely be moving up a step in quality of equipment and organzination by going to JGR, but as far as we know, it is a part-time roll. When Kyle Busch returns, there is no spot for a fifth driver. That’s not an option.

Ragan obviously had to get permission from Front Row Motorsports, getting out of his contract. FRM themselves just expanded for 2015 into three cars/teams. To make a change one race into 2015 seems problematic, unless it was already underway or there were some sort of irreconcilable differences between Ragan and Front Row Motorsports.

In the off-season, there were rumors that Ragan was going to leave, possibly to take over the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Ford. But that job ended up going to Sam Hornish, Jr., and Ragan and his FRM sponsors for the No. 34 of FRM were announced for 2015 as if it were any other year.

So what changed? Was it true that Ragan was on the way out at Front Row already, and he saw the part-time opportunity with a bigger and better team as a resume builder in hopes of something bigger down the road?

The only scenario I can think of if within the TRD/Toyota camp is that Ragan is hoping when the Kyle Busch subbing ends, that he’ll be in the running to help the other TRD team of Michael Waltrip Racing bring back a third full-time car.

But the timing for that doesn’t make sense for mid-season. Is it possible that Kyle Busch is out all season, having Ragan be the No. 18 driver for all of 2015. Then Ragan has all season to build up his results, shop deals and set something up for 2016?

There’s definitely some information we haven’t been privy to at this point. There has to be some bigger picture stuff that will be brought to light as the weeks (or the season) unfold.

6 thoughts on “Not Fully Following the David Ragan Strategy

  • February 25, 2015 at 1:32 pm
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    There’s a good chance Kyle will miss the whole season so your last guess may be your best guess.

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  • February 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm
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    I suspect that JGR offered some type of financial compensation to FRM for FRM (and Ford) to allow David Ragan to go help out a Toyota team for six weeks and then let him return to FRM. However, Ragan might also be able to pick up some info and other stuff from JGR that can be beneficial to FRM. Maybe FRM is considering a switch to Toyotas in the future and there might be a technical alliance with JGR. Only time will tell how this eventually shakes out.

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  • February 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm
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    Also saw at Frontstretch ( http://frontstretch.com/2015/02/25/nascar-mailbox-daytona-atlanta-and-the-busch-brothers/ ) where as part of the deal between teams and NASCAR, any wins David Ragan might get while in the 18 will go towards the 34 getting in the chase. IF Ragan wins a CUP race in the 18, the 18 team and Ragan will get credit for the win(s) but the 34 will get any chase spot the win(s) earn. Could be that was the dealmaker for FRM – a perceived better shot at the Chase or more probably the certainty that if their driver won while on loan that FRM would get the chase berth.

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  • February 25, 2015 at 10:24 pm
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    I can clear thing up. The resources of the 18 team are much greater than that available from the 34 team. When the offer became available for David to drive for such a high profile team, He and JGR got with FRM and worked a deal where David took a leave of absence to drive the 18 with full intentions to return to the 34 car. As stated in the emails above there are benefits from all concerned parties and when Kyle returns to the 18 David fully intends to return the 34 car. A win-win for all parties with no hidden agendas.

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  • February 25, 2015 at 10:28 pm
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    I like Bob’s theory. The chase berth is the DRIVER’s, not the teams. So if Ragan wins a race in the 18, he is in the chase no matter what car he is in at the time, assuming he meets other qualifications like attempting all races, etc., so FRM can back door a car into the chase if Kyle comes back.

    BUT, my feeling is Kyle’s leg is worse than they are letting on. Three days in the local hospital, and then he left not in a wheel chair, but flat on his back strapped to a gurney, and then not home, but to a Charlotte hospital. I suspect the team thinks he may be out for most if not all of he season. Which means they need a fill in driver that is chase eligible. Which rules out all drivers that are earning points in another series like Erik Jones or Matt Crafton, and also rules out any driver who did not compete at Daytona like Mark Martin. Since Ragan drove at Daytona and placed well, that keeps the 18 chase eligible if Kyle does not make it back. Which is a very valuable commodity to a top tier team like Gibbs, and absolutely required for a top tier sponsor like M&M’s. They will not spend their money and exposure on at team which is not chase eligible. Ragan is certainly the best “available” driver that ran Daytona and is earning Sprint cup points.

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