Can Front Row Motorsports and Other Minor NASCAR Teams Break Through at Talladega?
Since 2005, Bob Jenkins, (not the broadcaster) has attempted to create a successful NASCAR team with limited funding. Jenkins owns approximately 160 restaurants between Taco Bell, A&W and Long John Silver’s and used the money he made from those ventures to create a NASCAR team.
Front Row Motorsports hasn’t been very successful since they entered the series. However, things are beginning to turn around for the biggest small team in NASCAR. They ran their first full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season back in 2009 with John Andretti, even though they weren’t competitive on most occasions. Now, the team has three full-time cars in NASCAR’s elite series and they’re bringing a mediocre amount of success to the Front Row Motorsports team for the first time.
David Gilliland is the veteran of the team while David Ragan is the most successful. Josh Wise is the young gun of the team, even though he’s three years older than Ragan. Last season, Wise was mainly a start-and-park driver as he was using set-ups for the team to just test out each weekend. This year, he’s been able to show that he can race competitively when given the chance. He’s had three decent runs this year where he’s been able to run inside of the top-30 for the majority of the race, which is plenty more than what the team did a few years ago when they were a one car operation.
Though the team still isn’t properly funded as most of their sponsorship money comes from Jenkins’ pocket, Front Row Motorsports is having their best season to date. They’ve been able to sign on several new sponsors, which have definitely helped their team. Each of their three cars have been able to run inside of the top-30 each week which is something they struggled to do last season. At Richmond, Ragan was able to finish 20th, which is one of his best short track finishes since he joined the team last season.
This weekend, the series hits the super speedway track of Talladega. The team has had success on the super speedways in the past and so have their drivers. Gilliland recorded the team’s first top-five finish at the super speedway of Daytona back in the 2011 Daytona 500 and ninth at this race in the same year. Last season, Ragan finished seventh in this event and fourth in the second Talladega race. Even with their lack of funding, it seems like the Front Row Motorsports crew makes sure to circle the super speedway tracks on the schedule each year. For some reason, the team’s able to put things together with their Roush-Yates engine packages to be successful at these tracks.
It’s very possible that the team can come out with the win during this weekend’s Aaron’s 499. With the old way of restrictor plate racing back, the team should be able to keep pace with the higher funded teams which have newer and better parts, but will be evened out this weekend.
Front Row Motorsports isn’t the only small team that has a chance to win this weekend though. Teams such as NEMCO Motorsports, Swan Racing, Germain Racing, FAS Lane Racing, etc. have a chance to win. That’s what is so great about racing at Talladega. If drivers can avoid the ‘big one’ and stay with the draft until the end of the race, they have a shot to be the first one to arrive at the checkered flag.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.