By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, AL) – David Ragan's Sprint Cup Series victory at Talladega in the April race for Front Row Motorsports has other underfunded teams wondering, "why not us?"
Front Row Motorsports began in 2004 when Yum! Foods franchisee Bob Jenkins started a race team. It would not score its first victory until earlier this season when Ragan and David Gilliland led a one-two team effort in a frantic green-white-checkered finish that ran into the early twilight hours.
The nature of restrictor plate racing with the draft has allowed teams that ordinarily do not run up front to steal a victory — and Ragan was the first to score the Talladega upset with the new sixth-generation car.
"We feel like we are at more of a level playing field when the draft is in play and everyone is in the same pack," Ragan said. "We put more emphasis on the short tracks and road courses where we can be more competitive as a team.
"The tracks we struggle at are the 1.5 mile tracks were it takes a lot of resources to figure out your aero platform and how you are riding on your bump stops and research and design to kind of trick the system… and that is somewhere we fall short at."
A similar situation applies to Tommy Baldwin Racing where drivers Dave Blaney and J.J. Yeley have experienced their most success this season at Daytona and Talladega. Blaney has a 28.3 average finish this season but has scored finishes of 17th, 16th, and 31st on the ultra-high banks.
The results have been even better for Yeley as he has scored finishes of 10th, 31st and 13th this season between the two tracks.
Blaney says Tommy Baldwin doesn't place an increased financial importance on Daytona and Talladega but that they style of racing does naturally provide an opportunity for he and his teammate to score a victory four times each season.
"These restrictor plate races definitely even things up," Blaney said. "There is no doubt that this is really our best chance to compete for a win. We've come close with Tommy's car a couple of times, run up front and scored some top-10s… but the challenge here is getting to the end and seeing what happens."
His teammate concurs.
"I think we've proven that we have a good speedway program," Yeley said. "And having (Earnhardt Childress Engines) is the biggest key to that… We're able to massage on our speedway cars. I think we've proven in the spring race that we can stay in the lead back and put ourselves in a position to at least earn the opportunity."
Like Front Row Motorsports, which has earned additional sponsorship and funding as a result of their Talladega victory, Tommy Baldwin Racing has a lot to gain in potentially winning a race too.
"They showed that anything can happen," Yeley concluded. "I really think we have a better program than they do but when you go speedway racing, it takes a certain kind of circumstance… It would be huge for me to get my first win, Tommy Baldwin Racing's first win — I think we've been close.
"It would be epic for our team, our sponsors and those that we're trying to get on board while also solidifying our place in the NASCAR world that we can be competitive."