With the dust having settled from NASCAR’s eight-hour rain-soaked race at Talladega Superspeedway, teams are scrambling to ensure they have the best available car when it rolls of the trailer in a few days at Darlington Raceway. Despite the shocking 1-2 finish, Front Row Motorsports must now come down to earth, and realize that one successful run cannot pay the bills.
Drivers David Ragan, David Gilliland and Josh Wise made the team almost $708,000 this weekend, with Ragan and Gilliland claiming the two top steps on the podium, their first two top-10s of the season. Front Row Motorsports, in its entire existence, has only experienced six top-10s.
The generation six car was meant to even the playing field in NASCAR and be cheaper to produce overall, benefiting smaller teams in more ways than one. So far this year, that has been absolutely true, even before Front Row usurped Victory Lane.
Both of Front Row’s drivers Ragan and Gilliland find themselves in a similar situation. They are at a point in their careers where they could fail to meet the expectations placed in front of them when they began driving in the Sprint Cup Series.
Ragan, of course, took over for Mark Martin and was given all of the resources available at Roush-Fenway Racing to be successful. Yet, after six years, all Ragan had to show for his results was one win, at Daytona International Speedway, and a memorable gaffe that prevented him from contending for the Daytona 500.
Meanwhile, Gilliland was able to take a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Kentucky Motor Speedway to propel himself into a ride for Robert Yates Racing. Yates Racing dissolved after Gilliland’s inability to find victory lane, and 2009 driver Paul Menard took his sponsorship to Richard Childress Racing.
Yet, Yates remains a major force in the Sprint Cup Series. They provide engines for Front Row Motorsports, and do a majority of the technical work for Ford Racing. They are the backbone of a still-developing organization.
Team owner Bob Jenkins has employed a non-traditional strategy for his team, but since starting in 2005, he was waiting for a result such as this. Once amassing a plethora of drivers ranging from Hermie Sadler to Chad Chaffin, Jenkins was able to sign Ragan, Gilliland and Wise, partnering them with committed sponsors to run three full-time cars beginning in 2012.
Considering the team is in its second full year, to see results like this may be shocking to most, but they’re exactly what Jenkins expected. Commitment from all fronts is what is needed for this next stage of Front Row Motorsports.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a lot of stable partners, people who believe in our approach and are seeing year-to-year improvements as a result of that approach.”
This is the quote from a man on a mission. Jenkins has a long-term vision to be successful in Sprint Cup, and these words are of an owner who stands by his drivers, regardless of championship standings.
After minimal preseason expectation and regardless of where they finish in this year’s standings, the foundation has been laid for a rising team, and it is up to embattled drivers Ragan and Gilliland to lead the team into uncharted territory, translating new-found confidence into unheralded success.
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