What’s next for David Ragan after MWR? Driver hopes new connections produce options


The connections made this season by David Ragan might have been as important as the cars he has driven to showcase his talent.

With Michael Waltrip Racing shutting its doors after the Sprint Cup season, Ragan’s NASCAR future is far from certain. He has made a solid impression in qualifying the No. 55 Toyota, earning top-five starting spots in three of the past seven races, but a 12th at Daytona International Speedway has been his best finish since joining MWR three months ago.

It’s been a transient season for Ragan, who started the season-opening Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports and followed with a nine-race stint in place of injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing.

There are benefits to bouncing around, though, for a driver whose movement was limited for much of his career (with Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-11 and Front Row from 2012-14).

“I’ve met some new people with these opportunities that I didn’t know six months ago, or a year ago,” he told NASCAR Talk in a Saturday interview before the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “In the NASCAR world, a lot of it is who you know, who has a connection here or there.”

“I got to work with (No. 18 crew chief) Adam Stevens. Coach Gibbs, a legend in the sports world. I got to know some of the people at (sponsors) M&Ms Mars and Interstate Batteries. And got to work with Michael and the Aaron’s team. Some of the Toyota people, I didn’t know. I’d only driven for Ford my entire career. To open that door and see how that works to run their racing program, it’s been eye opening, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve made some good friends. Some guys who were practically neighbors, and I didn’t really know who they were. Definitely, I made some friends I’ll have for life.”

He also has been exposed to new technology, crediting extra time spent in Toyota Racing Development’s simulator with helping fine-tune his setups to arrive at the track better prepared (and in better position to qualify well).

Ragan said there are no regrets about leaving Front Row (where he won at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013) because he wasn’t guaranteed sponsorship for a full season.

“If it had been a full-time deal, then I would have signed up for that at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I wouldn’t have left. But at the time, I didn’t know, and it allowed me to do something different.

“I’m a lot smarter driver than I was six months ago because I got to work with some really smart people who have a lot of resources at their disposal. It’s helped me be a better driver for whatever that next situation may bring.”

Ragan would like to remain in the Sprint Cup Series but said he would consider a competitive ride in the Xfinity or Camping World Truck series.

“Where I’m at in my career, it’s more about being competitive than just making a paycheck or being a Sprint Cup driver,” said Ragan, who has two Cup wins and has driven full time in the series since 2007. “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m 35th in qualifying, and you finish 30th every week. That’s no fun. It’s a way to make a living and stay involved, and it’s better than the alternative of nothing, but I don’t want to be in that position.

“So I’ll try really hard to try to find something competitive in one of the top three series where I feel like I can go out and win some races and race for a championship.”

A key could be bringing sponsorship. Aaron’s, which backs the No. 55, hasn’t decided on its 2016 plans but said “NASCAR will be an important part of our future” in a release last week.

Would the Atlanta-based company be interested in staying with a driver from Unadilla, Ga.?

“There may be a chance,” Ragan said. “I’m sure they’ve got a lot of things they’ve got to go through and a process that involves looking at their program and what kind of money they spend and where.

“I hope I have a good chance to make my case and to be with them in the future. They’re a great company. They’ve been around NASCAR for a long time.”

Ragan, who turns 30 in December, is hoping to stick around for a while, too. He hopes that posting solid results alongside championship-caliber teammates such as Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer will help make his case.

“Hopefully, it’s that David Ragan is a good driver and good spokesperson who takes care of his equipment and can get out of a race car what one of the best drivers can,” he said. “I’ve had some of the best teammates in the garage. I’ve held my own and did well and have done a good job being a teammate. Hopefully that will take notice around the garage.

“Having that right program that is funded (with) good employees, good manufacturing support and a good driver. You have to have everything come together. Hopefully I can be a part of one of those puzzles somewhere.”

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.