David Ragan on the details of replacing Kyle Busch: ‘It can be a good thing for everyone’


HAMPTON, Ga. – David Ragan is helping make the best of an unfortunate situation for Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing but believes it’s a positive regardless for Front Row Motorsports.

Ragan began driving Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in a test session Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. As Busch recovers from the compound fracture in his right leg suffered in an Xfinity Series crash at Daytona International Speedway, Ragan will be the substitute for several races.

Though the team hasn’t released a schedule (and Ragan said Thursday there is “no hard timetable”), sources have told NASCAR Talk the plan is to keep Ragan in the car for nine races through the May 9 race at Kansas Speedway (and then turn the car over to JGR developmental driver and Camping World Truck Series winner Erik Jones).

Ragan said he was approached Monday afternoon by JGR after the team learned he wasn’t committed for an entire season in Front Row’s No. 34 Ford, which still is seeking sponsorship.

“I told them I’d have interest if we can get all the parties to mutually agree on a package that benefits us all,” he said. “This is an unfortunate situation that their guy is injured. I’m grateful to get in one of the premier rides in the sport. I can see where I stand in my career. It’s been a few years since I’ve been with one of the larger teams.”

Ragan, 29, raced full-time for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-11, winning at Daytona (summer race) in his last season with RFR and notching a best points finish of 13th in ‘08. He has spent the past three seasons at Front Row, scoring an upset victory at Talladega in May ’13.

Ragan expects to return to Front Row whenever his interim situation ends at JGR, but he said team owner Bob Jenkins and general manager Jerry Freeze were a little surprised by the pitch.

Ragan said the deal wouldn’t have worked if he had a fully sponsored season at Front Row, and sponsor CSX (which has an eight-race deal) helped move some of its races to accommodate his JGR races. (It also helped that Ford had no objections to a move to Toyota, though the manufacturer would have been limited in its ability to block it given Front Row’s status as a customer team that doesn’t enjoy the support of Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing or Richard Petty Motorsports.)  “I had to look at my career and my opportunities,” Ragan said. “I couldn’t let it pass. I’m very fortunate they were open to the idea. They are happy for me to be in a situation with quality people and a quality team.

“The stars just aligned right, and I think it can be a good thing for everyone. I’m going to work hard to be a good teammate and a good driver. I’ll only be better when I get back in the 34 car. And when Kyle’s back, he’s the man. Our sport is better with him. NASCAR needs Kyle Busch.”

Ragan said Front Row’s underdog team (which also fields Fusions for Cole Whitt and David Gilliland) might gain some ancillary benefits through increased exposure that could generate sponsor interest.

“There’s a new fan base I’ll touch,” he said.

Ragan experienced new methods Thursday with JGR’s four-car powerhouse having access to more technology for data acquisition during the test (which permitted computers and telemetry unlike typical NASCAR practices).

“They have a lot of smart people,” Ragan said. “It opens a lot more doors. You can learn a lot more over the course of a weekend.”

He also has some powerful allies in Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. As former teammates at Roush, Edwards and Kenseth both vouched for Ragan’s ability.

“When his name was brought up, a lot like when they brought up Matt Crafton (who subbed for Busch in the Daytona 500), I thought, ‘Man, that’s a great guy to be in that race car,’” Edwards said. “So, yeah, my vote was to put David in the car and the way I understand it, everybody felt the same way.”

Said Ragan of Edwards and Kenseth: “I had a good relationship with them. I don’t think I’d be in the No. 18 Camry without their help.”

Now that he is, the focus turns to maximizing his results. The Unadilla, Ga., native will make his JGR debut in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at a hometown track where he has raced since childhood, and his expectations are high. He didn’t dismiss the possibility of scoring a win – which would create an unusual situation in which he could make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and run for the championship over the final 10 races while being in a Front Row car.

“It is different when you are driving for a different team, and you realize the second half of the season, you’re going to be running with another group of cars,” he said. “It may be a situation where you get a win and could get into the Chase, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.

“That’s a great scenario that if it played out, would be a lot of fun and something cool to talk about.”

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.