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Ragan Signs with Front Row for 2012 Cup
David Ragan, who has five years experience in the Sprint Cup Series, will drive Front Row Motorsports' No. 34 Ford for the 2012 season.
Ragan, 26, will race the car number used all of last season by California veteran David Gilliland, who'll be his 2012 teammate in the No. 38 Ford fielded by Front Row owner Bob Jenkins.
"We've had meetings with potential sponsors that will be onboard throughout the year, a sponsor that's been in the series some," Ragan said. "It's a good program for me. This offseason, going in I knew that there was going to be some change and I've gotten an education on how the process really works a little better.
"I've been fortunate the last five years -- really my whole career -- that I've had sponsors locked-in the next season, in September-October-November so I've never had to go through this process. So I've really learned a lot more about the sport than just sitting behind the wheel and driving."
For Daytona Speedweeks both Front Row cars are locked-into the Daytona 500 starting field by finishing 2011 in the top 35 in the owners' points. Former Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil raced the No. 38 back into the top 35 near the end of last season.
"The Front Row program has been a team that's gotten better the last three or four years, obviously," said Ragan, who owns a Ford dealership in South Georgia. "They've got some Ford support that means a lot to me and I think there's a lot of positive things that can come of it. If we can improve their position a little bit we can be a good, solid team on the Sprint Cup circuit, week in and week out.
"If I can go there and help improve their program 10, 15 spots and maybe try to get them their first win as a team that would be huge."
Ragan's car will be tended by crew chief Jay Guy, who last year primarily worked on the No. 38 Ford with Kvapil or part-time Front Row driver J.J. Yeley. Gilliland's crew chief will be engineer Derrick Finley, who last year led Front Row's third car when it was entered.
Front Row general manager Jerry Freeze said that car, which used No. 55 last season, would have to be renumbered since the No. 55 has been assigned to Michael Waltrip Racing. FRM's No. 55 made 18 attempts in 2011 and qualified for 15 races, nine by Yeley.
"If we can fill some sponsorship on the two primary cars I don't see that third car running a lot," Ragan said. "Obviously [in 2011] that helped generate some revenue and it put another car on the track for an R&D car that was helping the other two efforts.
"We're a two-car team and that's what we want to take our pride in and try to get that two-car team to the top-20, top-25 in points and if the third car can help us some, that's when they're going to use it."
Ragan won in both Cup and Nationwide for Roush Fenway Racing in his seven seasons with the organization, where he made 293 starts across the Truck (19), Nationwide (92) and Cup series (182).
In 2009 he had two victories and 15 top-10 finishes in 19 Nationwide starts working primarily with 2011 Nationwide champion crew chief Mike Kelley. Ragan also won the July Cup race at Daytona in 2011 after being in position to win the season-opening Daytona 500 before making an illegal lane change on a restart that resulted in a penalty.
But it seemed the son of Georgia car dealer and part-time Cup Series racer Ken Ragan never quite achieved the potential that owner Jack Roush held for him. When RFR hit a sponsor shortfall after the 2011 season, there was no longer room for Ragan. Ragan weighed opportunities across all three NASCAR national series before making the decision to go with Front Row.
"I'm happy [because] I really wanted to stay in the Cup Series," Ragan said. "I didn't want to put myself in the position where I had to run a limited schedule or a start-and-park car. That's when I looked at some Nationwide opportunities and I even looked at some Truck opportunities.
"But when I talked to Jerry and I met Bob Jenkins, I saw the dedication that those guys had. I think their relationship with Ford and having two cars locked-in and going to their shop and seeing their employees and seeing that those guys are for real, I feel like it's a good opportunity for me to help their program stay in the Cup Series."