David Ragan will not make his first Truck Series start since 2006 Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway after all.
The Unadilla, Georgia native had entered to compete for DGR-Crosley in the event at his home track, but because NASCAR has cancelled qualifying, only 40 trucks will compete in the race from a field of 47 entries.
The 40 entries are set by owner points, and drivers including Ragan, Norm Benning and NASCAR On NBC analyst Parker Kligerman were with teams that did not have enough points to make the race.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed that it didn’t work out for me to run the Select Blinds Ford F-150 at Atlanta this weekend,” Ragan said in a statement released on Twitter. “I understand in these unique circumstances that NASCAR must set the field before the weekend and not have any qualifying.
“We felt like DGR-Crosley would bring a truck capable of winning the race and so it’s frustrating not to get the chance to make any laps, or show what kind of speed we would have, but I respect NASCAR’s process and we look forward to coming back to race when things get back to normal and we can have some practice and qualifying.”
Ragan, 34, stepped away from full-time racing after last season. He made one start earlier this year, finishing fourth for Rick Ware Racing in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Former NASCAR Cup driver David Ragan will come out of retirement to race in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway on April 18.
The 34-year-old Ragan will drive the No. 17 Ford F-150 for DGR-Crosley, the team announced Wednesday. The truck will be sponsored by Select Blinds.
The race marks the first time Trucks have raced at the ¾-mile track since 2005. It also will be Ragan’s first time in a truck since 2006.
Even though he has stepped away from full-time racing, Ragan is still keeping busy, including moving into a development role with Ford Performance, where he assists teams with simulator work and is also part of the development team for the NextGen car that will debut in 2021.
“I’m really looking forward to racing one of DGR-Crosley’s F-150’s at Richmond,” Ragan said in a media release. “I’ve been friends with David (team co-owner David Gilliland) for a long time, and I see how much work he’s putting into this team and the success they’ve had early on.
“They have a shop full of great people and I’m glad that we could make all this happen.”
Ragan has over 30 combined Cup, Xfinity and Truck series starts at Richmond. Next month’s race will be his second start of the year, having finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500 driving for Rick Ware Racing.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced in the Truck Series, and I’m incredibly thankful to Select Blinds for supporting me and allowing me to do this,” Ragan said. “This is what I wanted to do when I decided to stop racing full-time at the end of last season; I want to race in different series, with different teams.
“Obviously, we want to be competitive, and I have no doubt that DGR-Crosley will bring me a great truck. Richmond has always been one of my favorite tracks that we race at; hopefully, we can get the folks from Select Blinds another good finish this year and put on a good show for the fans.”
Eighty-three days after Kyle Busch celebrated his second Cup championship, the garage opens today at Daytona International Speedway.
And with it will be the sense of renewal and unbridled optimism that often pervades during the offseason and Daytona Speedweeks.
Such feelings are evident in drivers who think this is their year to win the Daytona 500 and with smaller teams that count on the race’s big payday to help fund their operations for the coming weeks. Hope also will be strong with those among the many driver and crew chief changes made since last year.
With all the good feelings entering Daytona Speedweeks, here are five storylines to watch:
1. When will Kyle Busch’s Daytona 500 drought end?
While Kyle Busch has won a summer Cup race at Daytona, three qualifying races, a Busch Clash, a summer Xfinity race, a Truck race, and an ARCA race, he’s never won the Daytona 500 in 14 previous attempts.
If it is any solace for Busch and his fans, Hall of Famer David Pearson didn’t win his lone Daytona 500 until his 15th attempt.
Others who needed more years before winning their first Daytona 500 were: Kurt Busch (in his 16th start), Darrell Waltrip (17th start), Buddy Baker (18th start) and Dale Earnhardt (20th start).
Of course, some Hall of Fame drivers never won a Daytona 500. Mark Martin failed to win the race in 29 starts. Rusty Wallace didn’t win in 23 starts. Tony Stewart, inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend in a class that included Baker, did not win the Daytona 500 in 17 starts.
With Toyota the presumptive favorite again this season — based on few rule changes and Toyota’s 19 wins in 36 points races last year — will this be the year that Busch wins the Daytona 500?
But as Brad Keselowski recently said: “We want to be great. We want to win championships. You’ve got to recognize that winning races is still a significant accomplishment in this sport. It’s great competition week in and week out, so winning is good but also emphasize that greatness is the championship. We didn’t win it. It means we’ve got work to do.”
Daytona marks the debut of the new combinations. Keselowski is paired with crew chief Jeremy Bullins. Joey Logano is teamed with crew chief Paul Wolfe, who led Keselowski to a championship in 2012. Ryan Blaney is working with Todd Gordon, who guided Logano to the Cup title in 2018.
Crew chief strategy often is limited at Daytona because of the need for cars within the same manufacturer to work together (i.e. pit at the same time), but Speedweeks can be valuable for new driver/crew chief pairings with communication. After Daytona, Cup teams race seven consecutive weekends before the Easter break in April. If the communication falters, the results may not be as good.
3. Will the chaos continue?
Last year’s Daytona 500 saw 36 of the 40 cars involved in a crash, according to NASCAR’s race report (Racing Insights, which supplies statistics to NBC Sports, had 37 cars involved in accidents).
“It’s incredible to me how many times we were able to crash in the last 10 laps,” Jamie McMurray said after last year’s race, his final Cup start.
“Brains come unglued,” Kyle Busch said after last year’s race. “That’s all it is.”
There were three cautions, including two red flags totaling nearly 40 minutes, in the last 17 laps. Those incidents collected 29 cars and forced the race to go seven laps beyond the scheduled distance.
Such destruction has become a trend. The past three Daytona 500s have seen an average of 32 cars involved in accidents.
Last year’s Daytona Speedweeks was especially tough on Cup car owners. A total of 60 cars were involved in accidents in practices, qualifying races, the Busch Clash and the Daytona 500. That was an increase of 16.7% from the previous Daytona Speedweeks.
As another Speedweeks begins, key questions are how many cars will be damaged, how will that impact teams and who can emerge from the chaos to win?
The 18-year-old makes her debut on Daytona International Speedway’s oval with today’s ARCA practice sessions. Of course, she was on track a couple of weeks ago in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
The biggest remaining piece to the puzzle that was the 2019-20 NASCAR silly season has been put into place with the confirmation that Daniel Suarez will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Gaunt Brothers Racing.
Suarez moves from Stewart-Haas Racing over to GBR to drive its No. 96 Toyota. This will be the first full-time Cup campaign for the team.
Here’s a recap of all the major headlines from silly season.
CONCORD, N.C. — Hailie Deegan‘s future with Ford started in style.
The 18-year-old began the next chapter of her career Tuesday at the Ford Performance Technical Center by slowly piloting a blue Ford Shelby 350 through a set of dark curtains before taking questions from the media.
The theatrics on her behalf are one of the reasons why, after a few years with Toyota, she’ll be be spending “a lot of birthdays” as a Ford development driver.
But it mostly came down to there not being enough rides for her in Toyota’s stable to properly propel her up the ladder.
“At the end of the day, Toyota, they introduced me to the NASCAR world … they pushed me into it, they gave me a really good base and that’s something I’m super thankful for,” Deegan said. “But at the end of the day, there’s so many Toyota drivers and there’s not many seats. I think we made the best decision for my career long-term.”
Deegan joins a development program that boasts Chase Briscoe as its founding driver.
“There’s going to be more of a focus,” Deegan said. “That’s something I was super adamant about. I want to be focused on, I want to have the attention over here to be a better driver and get developed and that’s something that stood out to me and I think that’s going to help my career.”
A three-time winner on what’s now the ARCA Menards Series West, Deegan will compete full-time with DGR-Crosley in the ARCA Menards Series while also competing in select IMSA races, beginning with the Jan. 24 Michelin Pilot Challenge endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.
The looming ARCA season won’t be Deegan’s first interaction with DGR-Crosley. She competed in one ARCA Menards Series East race with the team this year at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I got used to the team, I got to feel everyone out, see what I liked, didn’t like and there was a lot of things that I liked about them,” Deegan said. “I saw how hard their work ethic was. I really like how David, he was a racer. He understands it. He has a son (Todd Gilliland) that races, he knows the game of trying to build your kid into the ranks of NASCAR and running a team at the same time while still being a racer. That’s something I think is a really good combo that’s just going to help his team get better and better. Especially with how much Ford is supporting them, getting behind them.
“The resources they’re giving them is insane.”
Among those resources now at her disposal is Ford’s “marketing push.”
“That’s something I didn’t really have in the past with the team I was with and the manufacturer, that’s something (Ford wants) to push more,” Deegan said. “Push more stuff that’s away from racing, that’s ‘OK, let’s gets you in a Mustang, lets get you in a truck and let’s do some cool videos and stuff like that’ and that’s something I’m big into. I love social media. I love doing stuff like that and that’s definitely a push they want to connect us with.”
All this is work towards one goal: reaching the NASCAR Cup Series.
Both Deegan and Ford Performance Motorsports’ global director, Mark Rushbrook, preached the importance of Deegan moving up each step on the stock car racing ladder when she’s ready.
“We want to make sure, and Hailie wants to make sure, her team wants to make sure, she progresses to those levels when she’s ready to ensure success at each step,” Rushbrook said.
While Ford didn’t announce an expected plan for her progression, Deegan’s father, action sports star Brian Deegan, hopes the opportunity arises for her to “dabble” in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at some point this year.
“I think she needs that,” Brian Deegan said. “She wants to race Eldora for sure, just because it’s a dirt race.”
He even mapped out the ideal structure for his daughter over the next few years.
“It would be ARCA (in 2020), 2021 trucks, 2022 trucks, 23′, 24′ (in) Xfinity is kind of what we’re hoping and laying out, is kind of our goal for her to have that path and then get to Cup,” Brian Deegan said. “By then I think she should have enough experience on everything to be ready, to be competitive.”
Hailie Deegan admitted it’s been difficult to see her fellow competitors from the ARCA East and West Series get a shot at the Truck Series before she does.
“It’s been really hard, just going to ISM (Raceway) at Phoenix (in November,)” she said. “It was so hard for me because my teammate (Derek Kraus at Bill McAnally Racing), he was racing in the truck race and I was sitting there on pit road and I was like, ‘Man, if he can do it, I want to do it.’ Seeing all my friends reach trucks, that’s something hard for me to kind of hold back on, ‘Ok let’s race ARCA, let’s gain experience, let’s get better before I go there.'”