*2012 Ride:* No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
*2012 Primary Sponsors:* Scorpion Truck Bed Liners, Scorpion Window Films, Scorpion Coatings, Al’s Liners, Glory Foods, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s, Distraction.gov, Client-One Securities, Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, MHP/8-Hour Alert, Green 1, Where’s Waldo, CertainTeed/31-W Insulation, Environmental, Rick Santorum for President
*2012 Owner:* Bob Jenkins
*2012 Crew Chief:* Jay Guy
*Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 2 top 10s, 5 DNFs, 0 poles, 28th in points.
*Best Finish:* 4th (Talladega – October).
*Average Finish:* 27.0.
*2012 Team Ranking: 1st* of 2. Front Row Motorsports has their work out for them with that name, still struggling to find proper sponsorship since their inception in 2005. While they make the most of what they have – the 2012 season saw Ragan and Gilliland combine for one top-five, two top-10, four top-15 and eight top-20 finishes, plus an average finish of 27th – it’s a far cry from the eye-popping stats that define the multi-car organizations they chase. David Ragan was responsible for the top fives and tens, which gives him the edge over Gilliland but both would like to be much better than that.
*High Point:* A last-lap top 5 at Talladega is nothing to sneeze at, even as Tony Stewart is sailing skyward over 20 cars. You can’t put together a better plate package than a Roush Yates-powered anything in the Cup Series, and their record this year speaks for itself. Ragan, who was damaged in that October wreckfest but emerged with enough speed to finish fourth, continued to show strength at plate tracks this season; his lone win at the Cup level came at one (Daytona) in July, 2011.
*Low Point:* Any track not located in Alabama. No other finishes better than 20th came for Ragan outside of the 2.66-mile speed drome. That 43rd-place finish at the Daytona 500, a track this driver can be competitive at didn’t help, either. But at least Front Row can say they still left there with more points than Jimmie Johnson!
*Summary:* The Front Row Motorsports team is a result of the top 35 rule in the Cup Series, guaranteeing those spots to owners who compete each week as well as a testament to the difficulty of building a Cup team from scratch these days. While FRM may use the same Blue Oval chassis, on paper as Carl Edwards or The King, there is still an absence of resources and technology sharing for this tandem effort. Stewart-Haas Racing, it is most certainly not.
This two-car organization (plus start-and-parker Josh Wise) gets by with sponsorship largely through team owner Bob Jenkins’ franchise involvement with Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s; in other words, what limited money he can scrounge out of his own pocket without going broke. Purses certainly help matters some; the No. 34 and 38 teams combined to take in just under $7 million in winnings for 2012. But most top teams bring in at least three times that amount, in outside backing and it requires about $25 million a year in total to field a competitive car. Any more questions why FRM’s a step behind?
*Off-Track News:* David Ragan got a nice Christmas present this past month in the form of a wife. He married his girlfriend Jacquelyn Butler, who’s no stranger to racing competition either — she won the Better Half Dash at Charlotte last year.
*2013 Outlook:* The new Gen6 car will debut next year and Front Row Motorsports will be a part of that. No, not as much as, say Roger Penske’s teams will be, but expect some mule-work for the satellite, Roush Fenway-affiliated group. They’re not a start and park operation by definition, but outside of the plate tracks — or a strong showing at someplace very large and wide open — they will continue to play the role that they’re equipped for.
Ragan will be back with the team, in 2013 along with crew chief Jay Guy. Brought over after the flagship No. 6 of Roush Fenway Racing was mothballed following the 2011 season, the equipment is clearly a level below. That puts a limit on just how good he can be in 2013, a Chase no-no even if every restrictor plate break goes his way.
*2011 Frontstretch.com Grade:* C+.
*2012 Grade:* C. Ragan won a race last year with one of the largest motorsports organizations on the planet, and now races for Hush Puppies and Meximelts. If only we raced at plate tracks more than four times a year, he’d actually have a pretty competitive piece.
*Little Known David Ragan Fact:* Ragan owns a Ford dealership in Perry, Georgia – David Ragan Ford.
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