David Ragan

NASCAR: David Ragan to ride with KFC partnership at Daytona 500

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David Ragan and KFC are back together for the Daytona 500, after having a debut run at Talladega Superspeedway last year in the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports.

Together in the 57th Daytona 500, KFC and Ragan will celebrate 75 years of Original Recipe chicken, made from the world-famous recipe created by the Colonel and still used by KFC cooks across its 4,300 U.S.-based restaurants.

“It’s great to have KFC back on our No. 34 for another superspeedway race,” Ragan said in a release. “We had fun with the partnership last year, we got them lots of attention running up front, and we look forward to doing that again in Daytona. It is a great feeling to be backed by such an iconic American brand like KFC, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of cooking the world’s best-tasting chicken.”

Front Row team owner Bob Jenkins is a KFC franchisee.

Ragan and FRM are among the top spoilers at super speedway events; the pair won the 2013 Talladega spring race and Ragan was in position to win the 2011 Daytona 500 before a lane violation on a late race restart, then driving for Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR: Jay Guy named crew chief for Annett at HScott Motorsports

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Jay Guy shifts from Front Row Motorsports to HScott Motorsports, and will serve as crew chief for Michael Annett’s No. 46 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Guy is a veteran crew chief at the Sprint Cup level, with more than 250 starts dating back to 2003. He has spent the last four years with Front Row Motorsports and helped guide David Ragan to victory at the spring Talladega race in May 2013.

Prior to that, he’s worked with Team Penske and Furniture Row Racing.

“I’m looking forward to working with Michael,” Guy said. “I see a lot of potential in him as a young Sprint Cup driver and I think our personalities will gel really well. With the resources Harry has provided for us here at HScott Motorsports, I expect our team to have solid finishes this season.”

Added Annett, “Jay did a great job helping build a foundation at his previous team. We’re building a new team here at HScott Motorsports and his experience in the process should be a huge help. I look forward to getting on the track at Daytona and forging a relationship with him.”

NASCAR: John Hunter Nemechek, XFINITY champ Chase Elliott win at SpeedFest

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Rico Abreu made his stock car debut Saturday night at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, but that wasn’t the only place NASCAR’s future was on display this weekend.

Four hours or so to the northwest in Cordele, Georgia, a group of NASCAR drivers that included XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, Sprint Cup veteran David Ragan, and Camping World Truck Series competitor John Hunter Nemechek took part in SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway.

Sunday was the event’s big day, featuring a late model doubleheader on the 3/8-mile oval – a 125-lap Pro Late Model race followed by a 200-lap Super Late Model race. And Nemechek (pictured) almost won them both.

In the PLM feature, the 17-year-old son of former Sprint Cup driver Joe Nemechek passed Harrison Burton (son of another former Cup driver and current NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton) for the lead just before the 60-lap mark.

Nemechek would cede the lead to Bubba Pollard later on, but off a restart with 15 laps to go, he reclaimed the top spot and went on to win over Pollard, Burton, Chris Dilbeck, and Korey Ruble.

A short break then led to the 200-lap SLM event, with Elliott and Ragan joining in. Elliott, Pollard, and Nemechek emerged as the main contenders but with just a handful of laps left, things got hairy.

Following a restart with eight laps to go, Pollard and Nemechek dueled for the lead with four laps left when contact between the two sent Pollard around.

With Pollard’s bid for victory now finished, officials from the CRA sanctioning body did the same to Nemechek’s when it sent him to the rear for causing the caution.

That put Elliott in the lead with four to go, and he would not give it up. Elliott out-hustled Kyle Grissom to the stripe, with both followed by Ragan in third, Burton in fourth, and Scotty Ellis in fifth. Pollard and Nemechek recovered for ninth and 10th, respectively.

While Elliott celebrated, Pollard and Nemechek were left to talk it out regarding their costly tangle. Popular Speed.com’s Matt Weaver has the pics:

Elliott told Speed51.com that he had to replace a right front tire after the intermission at the halfway point, which put him and his crew in a tough spot.

“We only had one set of tires, and we had a lot of laps on the practice tires we needed to strap on [to replace the flat],” he explained. “So we swapped the good fresh tire onto the right front and put the old one on the right rear.”

Elliott added that while he would have preferred to win “straight up,” he didn’t think he’d catch Pollard and Nemechek without their incident.

“I found something there in the last few laps, but they were still getting away a little,” he said. “I would have liked to have it go green the whole way so I didn’t have to have an excuse, but we’ll take it.”

NASCAR: Front Row expands to three full-time cars, adds Cole Whitt

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Cole Whitt’s NASCAR career has taken him from the Red Bull driver ladder to Swan, then BK Racing last year and now to Front Row Motorsports for 2015.

Whitt, who’s still only 23 despite the career odyssey, will enter his second full-time season in FRM’s third full-time entry, the No. 35 Ford, alongside David Ragan and David Gilliland.

It’s a good resolution after a misplaced tweet about Whitt’s 2015 plans earlier this offseason by Anthony Marlowe, who later apologized about the situation in an exclusive interview with my MotorSportsTalk colleague Jerry Bonkowski.

Sponsorship for Whitt will come from Speed Stick for 10 races, including the season-opening Daytona 500. Randy Cox will also join the Front Row team to continue his relationship with Whitt as crew chief.

“I’m really excited and grateful for the opportunity to go racing with Front Row Motorsports and continue my relationship with Speed Stick,” Whitt said.

“Bob Jenkins is a smart businessman and has grown his team the right way over the years, and I’m really looking forward to being a part of that growth. The 2014 season was great for me as a driver. We had some important personal victories and some areas where we’ll want to improve.”

The No. 35 ran selected rounds of the 2014 Sprint Cup schedule with several different drivers, but struggled to find footing after failing to qualify in several of the opening races.

Whitt, too, endured a trying year as Swan Racing went under, and his entry was fused into BK Racing for the balance of the season. He started all 36 races, and posted a best finish of 15th in the fall Talladega race with two other top-20 finishes. He ended 31st in the points standings.

Ideally, the race-winning FRM squad – traditionally a strong performer at the restrictor-plate races where Ragan has won before – should propel Whitt a bit further forward in 2015.

Report: Donnie Wingo will be new crew chief for David Gilliland at Front Row

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Long-time Sprint Cup crew chief Donnie Wingo will have a new team and driver to work with in 2015.

Motorsport.com’s Lee Spencer reports that Wingo, who most recently worked with the Wood Brothers, will become crew chief for David Gilliland and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports program.

Gilliland finished 30th in the Sprint Cup points standings in 2014. He finished the year with interim crew chief Jay Guy following the release of Frank Kerr in October.

“It’s a little different opportunity than what I’ve had lately, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Wingo told Spencer. “I’m looking forward to working with David. I think he has a lot of talent.

“He’s been great at restrictor plate track and road courses, two areas where I’ve had success in the past. We need to work on the intermediate package a bit, but I’m looking forward to help building the program.”

With the Wood Brothers, Wingo guided Trevor Bayne (now at Roush Fenway Racing) and the No. 21 Ford Fusion in its part-time schedule over the last four years.

In a total of 12 Cup starts in 2014, Bayne’s best finishes were a pair of 19th-place results at Texas and Michigan. Their biggest accomplishment together was Bayne’s shock victory in the 2011 Daytona 500, which was only his second career Cup start.

Besides Bayne, Wingo has shepherded other current Sprint Cup racers like Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, and David Ragan – who happens to currently race for Front Row as Gilliland’s teammate. Wingo and Ragan were paired up at Roush Fenway Racing for much of the 2010 season.