When 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.