At New Hampshire Motor Speedway, I got the chance to talk to Talladega race winner, David Ragan. In the interview, we talked about the progression of Front Row Motorsports, his sponsors, his future and even a little about fans that claimed to be related to him but weren’t! Here’s the complete interview; enjoy!
First off, I want to talk to you real quick about that incredible win at Talladega. Was that one bigger than your first one with Roush just because of the circumstances surrounding it?
Every win in the Sprint Cup Series is big but the win for Front Row probably meant more than the other. Every win is very special in any of the top three series of NASCAR. To get the first win for the organization is big and to overcome all the challenges we faced (to get there). A 1-2 finish makes it even more special; that was definitely a team effort and it was a big day for myself as well as our car owner Bob Jenkins and the whole team.
You’ve had the rare opportunity to both race and win for a top level organization as well as one of the smaller teams; one most would call underfunded so what’s the major differences from a driver’s standpoint?
The biggest thing from the larger, more established teams vs. a smaller, growing team is just resources. The larger teams have been in the sport for 25+ years and got a lot more money, a lot more sponsors and a lot more employees so that’s something we fight on a daily basis. We fight to create more revenue and get more partners for Front Row and it’s a slow process but we’ve been very successful in making it happen.
Do you have aspirations to return to a top level team or are you happy here trying to help Front Row grow and build?
Well my aspirations are to win more races and compete for championships and I’m only 27 years old. I feel like I got a long time left in this sport and if that’s going to be growing Front Row Motorsports and getting them to a be able to be competitive consistently and win multiple races; that would be great. But if a opportunity comes up with a larger team that puts me back immediately into a more competitive program, then that’s something I have to look at too but I am very happy at Front Row and helping them grow and get better…that would be a great story to tell.
Do you feel more pressure racing for a team like Front Row because being competitive means everything to them; it’s about survival but with a bigger team, you are just expected to do well?
There’s pressure in every situation whether you’re trying to make the race and you’re going to finish 43rd or if you’re trying to win a race and go for the championship. There’s a lot of pressure in every situation; it just comes from different directions.
This team is definitely making progress…I don’t know if you knew this but Front Row Motorsports was listed as No.800 on Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest growing companies last year. What are you guys doing that other small teams that seem to be stuck in a rut aren’t?
Well I think that we got a good attitude and we work hard and we got Bob Jenkins who is an entrepreneur, a smart business man. We all got a good attitude when we come to work each day and we’ve leveraged ourselves to some really good partners with CSX, Love’s Travel Stops, Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts, and Farm Rich. You got three or four companies there that that are solid companies. The more we can develop those relationships, the better off we’ll be.
That kind of leads me to my next question…where do all these sponsors come from? It seems like every week, you or Gilliland have a new or different sponsor on the car. Where are you getting all these sponsors?
I don’t know; that’s a good question there. They come from all around. We got ourselves a marketing team that works hard and we can provide a good package for a company that has been burnt out by spending too much money with larger teams or companies that are fairly new to the sport and want to grow and get involved. I think we got a unique situation and that makes us fortunate enough to have some of the partners that we do have and the ones we’re able to get.
Front Row has been noticeably faster in 2013. You’ve been awesome in qualifying recently and both you and David Gilliland seem to be running in the top 20 a lot more often; where’s the speed coming from?
It’s a combination of the things we’ve talked about. Just working harder, trying to build better racecars and getting more confidence with our team and having a better notebook with this Gen-6 car and beeing able to test a few more times this year so it hasn’t been one particular thing. It’s been an awry of five or six small things that’s helped us get to this next point and that’s where we need to focus to get even better. Just need to keep working on a lot of small things; I don’t think we’re going to have one grand-slam that jumps us to the top 10 but a lot of little, small items will eventually get us there.
How soon before you think Front Row is capable of winning races at places other than plate tracks?
In the right situation, we could have a shot to do it this year in the final ten races. Hopefully, there’s not a lot of rule changes for 2014 and we can build some better racecars and we can learn from our 2013 experiences. It’s coming and hopefully, sooner rather than later.
When you’re not at the track racing and when you’re not with your family; what is it you like to do?
Well, you just about explained every day of my life. I do the NASCAR racing about 40 weeks a year and I go do some short track racing with my Late Models a couple weekends a year…the other five or six weekends a year, I’m with my family and spending some time at our Ford dealership down in Perry, Georgia. It keeps us busy.
Well, we have a lot of crazy fan encounters. I’ve met guys that have their name, David Ragan spelled the same way and people who claim they’re your cousin but they’re really not and people that want you to sign “unique” stuff. There’s a lot of crazy/passionate NASCAR fans out there and it’s hard to just pick one because they’res a lot of them.