To date, the legacy of David Ragan’s NASCAR career has been his ability to last. He’s handled nearly impossible expectations as the first-choice replacement at Roush Fenway Racing after Mark Martin’s first retirement in 2006, and then navigated the disappointing results that followed in a way that’s still allowed him to remain behind the wheel for every race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2007.
Ragan’s 2018 season in the Front Row Motorsports No. 38 looked a lot like his previous four. There were zero wins, and he earned one top-10 finish, at Talladega Superspeedway.
“By no means are we happy with our performance every single week,” Ragan says. “There’s some areas we can improve on and do better.”
A bright spot for Ragan last season came in his average finish. At 22.9, Ragan delivered his best average finishing position since 2011. It was nearly three spots higher than FRM teammate Michael McDowell’s average run.
The bright spots where Ragan believes his team and the FRM organization can capitalize this season come in the form of new rules and an additional teammate in Matt Tifft. NASCAR will cut engine power and greatly boost downforce at many races in the Cup series. It’s a move that has created apprehension as many drivers are worried about the lack of testing before the rules go into action, and they have concerns that the changes will create too much parity at the expense of authentic competitive advantage.
Most of the concerns over the new rules come from the top of NASCAR’s pecking order. FRM and Ragan, trying to reach that status, see an opportunity.
“We’ve got a new slate, a lot of new things are going to happen next year,” Ragan said when Tifft’s role with the team was announced. “We don’t really know how the racing is going to be until we get to Atlanta or Auto Club Speedway or Las Vegas. Matt’s really coming in at a good time, because we’re all learning what the new downforce package challenges are going to be, what makes our Ford Mustangs good, what we need to improve on them. I think collectively, we’re all going to work pretty hard on those first four, five, six weeks in trying to get ready.”
Tifft’s arrival as a third full-time driver on the FRM lineup should boost the whole program, Ragan says. FRM is owned by Bob Jenkins.
“Having Matt Tifft join us just kind of solidifies our program into being more competitive, to having better employees, better racecars and an extra car on the racetrack that gives us another opportunity to win a race or get a top 5 or top 10,” Ragan says. “Bob’s done a nice job growing this team in the vision that he’s had. I’ve enjoyed being a small part of that.”
Tifft joins the team after two full-time Xfinity Series seasons and brings a welcome perspective, Ragan says.
“It’s always refreshing and good when you can bring in new people from different organizations and backgrounds to let you know things you’re doing good, things you’re doing bad and to try to improve on them,” he says. “By adding Michael [McDowell] over the last offseason, I think he gave us a much-needed spark on both cars to be aggressive and go out and get as much as we can.”